Italy (day 3) – Florence
Tuesday, 23 July 2013
Our first visit of the day is the Uffizi Gallery. There was a very long queue and the hot weather (35 degrees) wasn’t making it any better. Since today is our last day in Florence (tomorrow we’re going to Venice), we decided to join the queue and wait for our turn. After a few minutes, somebody approached us. She looked like a tourguide. She had extra tickets and she was willing to sell it to us slightly higher than the standard rate. It was too good to be true. I was in no mood to queue so I was more than happy to pay the few extra Euros. After paying, she gave us the tickets and we headed straight for the entrance. I think we managed to save 15-20 minutes of waiting in the queue!
The Uffizi Gallery was built by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 for Cosimo I de’ Medici. It was the office of Florentine magistrates at the time.
After our tour at the Uffizi Gallery, we walked past Ponte Vecchio and had lunch at Ristorante Celestino (website) in Piazza Santa Felicita. It’s a small piazza on the way to Pitti Palace. The waiter was friendly, and we managed to get seats near the water sprinkle fan. It was a sizzling hot day and we needed the fan to cool off!
After lunch, we headed south until we reach Pitti Palace. It was a massive palace complex. The palace was built in 1458 by the Florentine banker Luca Pitti. Later in 1549 it was bought by the Medici family and became the main residence of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
The famous Boboli Gardens is located within the palace compounds. You’ll need to purchase an additional ticket to enter the gardens. I wanted to explore the garden but my wife wasn’t interested. So from there, we walked back towards Ponte Vecchio.
We crossed Ponte Vecchio and headed east. I wanted to explore the eastern part of the old city, especially the areas near Piazza Santa Croce.
At the piazza, we visited Basilica of Santa Croce. The basilica was rebuilt on 12 May 1294 on top of an old church. It is interesting to note that there is a huge Dante monument situated just next to it.
We headed west from Santa Croce and passed by Borgo dei Greci. On that street, we noticed there were a lot of tourist in front of a leather shop called Peruzzi. We also noticed that all of the tourists were Chinese. Feeling intrigued, we went inside Peruzzi to see what was going on.
Peruzzi was a mad house. Hundreds of Chinese tourists packed in medium sized shop, rushing to buy Italian leather. Even the Italian staff spoke Chinese. I couldn’t help to think that this place feels like a tourist trap.
In the evening, we walked to Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station to purchase our tickets to Venice. Our plan is to go to Venice tomorrow for 3 days before heading back to Malaysia. I wanted to try out the new Italo Treno train (website). From reading reviews online, it’s slightly expensive from the standard trains, but it offers more facilities. Can’t wait for our train tomorrow!