9-10 July 2019
Florence is somewhere Kate had always wanted to visit. We have driven round it a couple of times on our way to somewhere else and always promised ourselves a nice cool autumn visit. But we had 3 days between seeing our friends in Volterra and meeting family in Lucca, so we booked into a campsite just outside the town and hoped it wouldn’t be too hot and too crowded. Okay – not so bright.
The campsite, on the banks of the Arno river, was a revelation – incredibly busy with a huge swimming pool, supermarket, restaurant and shuttle-bus service. Okay, so you were a bit crammed in but the facilities were excellent.
Next day we spent the afternoon and evening in the city. The shuttle-bus dropped us a 10 minute walk from the centre and the walk in gave us great views of the dome of the Duomo and the world-famous Ponte Vecchio.
The Galileo Museum is right on the river-bank next to the Uffizi gallery and we were really looking forward to it. We were not disappointed – in fact we were enthralled almost immediately despite that fact that even with a rather distracting App, we didn’t properly understand a lot of what we saw. There was Galileo’s telescopes and the lens with which he discovered the 4 moons of Jupiter. There were chronomeoters and astrolabes and jovilabes, some of the first ever microscopes, Michaelangelo’s compass set, bits of preserved Galileo (a finger and other little bits), wonderful medieval globes, and a huge armillary sphere with the earth at it’s centre (ie. a model of objects in the sky, consisting of a spherical framework of rings, centred on Earth or the Sun) made for the Medici Grand Duke Ferdinand I.
Lots of scientific and mechanical equipment including a lens grinder, a huge lens to start fire from the sun, a portable chemistry lab, and apparatus demonstrating some of the basic laws of physics.
We loitered around a guide who was explaining things in excellent English to a large group of bored students – we really appreciated her input even if they didn’t.
We had time before dinner so explored the famous and much photographed Ponte Vecchio. This medieval structure is the only bridge in Florence not blown up by the Germans when they retreated in 1944. It has always been loaded with shops-originally butchers, fishmonger and tanners – but the Medici Duke Ferdinand I objected to the smell and installed goldsmiths instead. Today jewellery shops still line both sides of the bridge which is constantly packed with people staring, spending and taking selfies. Nicer from a distance – for us anyway.
We had some restaurant recommendations from family who had visited recently so had booked into a little traditional osteria, L’Osteria di Giovanni. A very nice traditional osteria where we shared a delicious Lobster Linguine followed by suckling pig and rabbit rolled round cheese, proscuitto and courgette. A great way to finish our first day in Florence.