We hired a car in Italy so we drove into Florence, parking on the outskirts of the city. The parking cost 25 euros for nine hours. We walked into the city, admiring the views of the Ponte Vecchio bridge from the banks of the river.
We had booked our tickets for the Uffizi museum in advance, but even with the express tickets, we still had to queue for 40 minutes in the pouring rain. Admission was 20.75 euros for an adult ticket. We eventually got in, but then had to queue again for the toilet. It was extremely busy and difficult to see the famous pictures because of the amount of people. I liked the Botticelli paintings and the sculptures. I also found the paintings by Goitto very interesting, particularly given their age. We spent around two hours in the Uffizi but could probably have done with more time.
Adjacent to the Uffizi is the Piazza della Signoria, the main square in Florence which also features an open-air sculpture gallery called the Loggia dei Lanzi. Overlooked by the impressive Palazzo Vecchio, the square featured in the film and book, Room with a View and was where the Bonfire of the Vanities took place in 1497. The instigator, Savonarola, was burned at the stake here in 1498.
In the square you can see a replica of Michaelangelo’s David and Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus (1534). Sadly, the Nettuno sculpture was undergoing restoration (in October 2018) but we did get the chance to see Perseo by Cellini (1554) and The Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna.
We then walked to the Duomo which is an incredibly ornate building. It took 150 years to finish and you can see why with the craftsmanship. It was much bigger and impressive than I imagined it would be, and I regretted not buying tickets to go inside. (It’s better to do this in advance to avoid the very long queues).
We went to a restaurant called Mister Pizza which served fantastic gluten-free pizza. They even have a separate kitchen for preparation and use different coloured plates for gluten-free meals!
Afterwards, we had a wander around the city and then headed towards the Ponte Vecchio bridge which has some very beautiful jewellery shops. I wanted to see the shop where Dickens and Stendhal bought their notebooks but it was incredibly expensive so I settled for a notebook from a much cheaper (and definitely more quirky!) stationers instead.
The whole of Florence is filled with architectural masterpieces and everywhere you look there are churches and sculptures to enjoy. Tickets to the main attractions are very expensive (particularly on a backpacker budget) and best bought in advance but it is fun just to walk around the city and soak in the atmosphere. It is, as they say, a living museum.