So, I spent a pleasant Thursday morning on the trains from Venezia Santa Lucia to Firenze Santa Maria Novella and then walked to my hotel. Very different set of views from this hotel room! It was also a much more interesting room, since it had an extra alcove/hallway that led to a terrace.

This is the view from the window by the bed, looking away from the center of town (which also means away from the wall a couple of feet away):
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And this is a shot from the terrace, looking toward central Florence (and with a bit of zoom):
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That’s the dome of Il Duomo, the famous cathedral that was one of the major reasons I’d wanted to go to Florence. I’d heard good things about Florence from lots of different people, but it was the ink-and-wash drawings that have been in our (my parents’) hallway for as long as I can remember–of Il Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, and a view of/from a hill town nearby–that were really the deciding factor.  I wanted to see them in person.  Anyway, I took more pictures of Il Duomo than I want to count right now, at various times. But that’s mostly because it’s an amazing work of art/architecture, with bonus points for being on the way to almost everywhere.

So. The room was nice, and available as soon as I got to town.  The next priority was finding a phone, since the hand-me-down iPhone I’d taken with me had stopped working the previous morning.  I got recommendations from the woman working at the hotel, found a phone, and brought it back to set up, along with Indian takeout for lunch. It was a wonderful break from European-style food, even without venturing beyond discrete (fried) things that had prices on them and that I could point to.

Once I had a line to the rest of the world again, I went out wandering. I figured I’d look a bit at the town in general and maybe at the outsides of Important Landmarks. One of the more interesting individual bits of Town In General was this street:

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Alas, there was only leatherwork, and some clothes shops, on the Street of the Art of Wool. I looked.

But there were lovely Important Landmarks:
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(Il Duomo, with its associated baptistery in the foreground, and the campanile/belltower on the right.)

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(the Ponte Vecchio, which is full of fancy-jewelry shops, shot with zoom from the next bridge over)

And architecture that was a bit different from that in Venice, and crowds of people. And, because much of central Florence is marked “area pedonale”, crowds of people walking in the streets (and not just on the narrow sidewalks) until one of the (infrequent) cars had to get past.

Dinner on Thursday was one of the best salads ever, with a “country” dressing that was a lot like the salad dressing I got in Paris (which was like the dressing a friend had served the day before I left, saying it was genuinely like the salad dressing she’d remembered from living in France). And the restaurant overlooked a market square, so there was plenty of people-watching.

On Friday, I had a lovely breakfast at the hotel.  It was much less fancy than the breakfast where I’d stayed in Venice, but oh! the coffee was fantastic.  Italian coffee (not espresso–made on the stove), with just enough milk: I got a small pitcher of coffee and a larger pitcher of milk, so I could add it myself.  And the flavored yogurt options reminded me of the ones I’d liked in the UK in 2000: sweetened enough that they were definitely not plain, but not dessertlike the way American flavored yogurts are.  (And I’ve never seen that kind of orange or plum yogurt here.)

And then I set out for the Uffizi, since I’d prebooked a ticket for 10am.  I got there rather earlier than I’d anticipated, since it was closer and easier to find than I’d been prepared for, so I exchanged my online booking verification for an actual ticket.  Then, I took pictures of most of the statues in the courtyard, since even they were quite impressive.  Here’s an example:
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Understandably, if unfortunately, they don’t allow photography inside the museum, but it’s full of amazing artwork. Including the ceilings in the hallways. There were at least a few tour groups there, which contributed to the ease with which I could tell where the especially famous paintings were. (“Oh, of course, that crowd is blocking this room because they’re all looking at The Birth of Venus.”) I have new appreciation for the skills of Titian and Botticelli. I also want to go back after I’ve had a chance to study appropriate bits of art history. Still, as much as I was impressed by some of the paintings, I think I was most impressed by the small exhibit of drawings, particularly a few by Leonardo da Vinci. One of the primary take-home messages of my time in Florence was that those artists I’ve heard of all my life really were impressively skilled. (Not that I’d doubted that…)

Impressive as the collection is (all those paintings I recognized, in one place!), the Uffizi is not a large museum, at least by the standards of someone who grew up going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (me). So I’d budgeted the whole day for the Uffizi and then found myself with no plans at around 1:30pm. I wandered a bit, had a blood-orange granita (I loved that blood orange (arancia rossa) was a standard flavor!), looked at the river…

And then I remembered that my cousin’s recommendation for a sight that wasn’t super-touristy was a cemetery. I found the one thing on my map that said it was a cemetery and decided to wander toward it. On the way, I stopped for gelato, and that was the best gelato I had in Italy. As I meandered up the hill, I found myself at the Piazzele Michelangiolo, which has a bronze reproduction of Michelangelo’s David. It’s not an especially exciting plaza, though, except that the views of the city (downtown, anyway, since it’s still within Florence) are nice. So I made the circuit of the edge, taking lots of pictures.

Which is when I saw some irises off below the piazzele level. I went to investigate further, at which point I discovered that there’s a whole Iris Garden. Something like 4-6 plants of each of several hundred varieties of iris, with a few other flowers and trees around the edges and between iris beds, to make the whole place prettier. But such variety in color and pattern!

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(As with everything else, I’m only posting a small fraction of the number of pictures I took. I like irises, and my dad collects them, so there were lots and lots and lots from this garden.)

After the iris garden (and buying more batteries for my camera), I continued up the hill toward the monastery and cemetery. More gorgeous architecture and mosaics, and some amazing (yes, I’m overusing “amazing”) views:

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At this point, I wandered back to my hotel, passing through the New Market:

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After a nap, I set out for dinner. Thanks to the nap, I had some energy afterward, so I wandered back to the New Market to mail some postcards. On the way there, I passed three different live bands, playing different kinds of music. And a lot of people playing with toy helicopter-spinny things (discs that shoot up in the air and spin) with lights along the edges. The crowds were thinner where there weren’t bands, though, so Il Porcellino wasn’t mobbed, and I could get close.

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Per a then-recent thread on Ravelry, I decided a nose-boop would be perfect. (Folklore says that rubbing Il Porcellino’s nose will guarantee your return to Florence.)

And, then, on the way back to the hotel, I decided to try a Belgian waffle with gelato, since the toasted waffles smelled so good whenever I passed them. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how much gelato I’d get. This is after I’d eaten a bit, when I realized that too much would melt for me to take a picture in my hotel room:

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That’s a hand-sized waffle with close to a pint of gelato. Tasty, but oh so much more than I’d thought I was going to get.

And, with that, I’ll stop for now.  I had planned to put all of Florence in one post, but I think this is long enough.

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