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Steph’s Travel Diary

Friday, 09 May 2008

Location: Florence, Italy

MapAfter arriving in Florence from Venice, we had a bit of an experience with our accommodation! When we arrived at the B&B, I said that we had a reservation and handed the owner the confirmation printout that I had. He looked very confused and said that the place was already full. He had already charged my credit card for the room, and emailed me to confirm, but he did not remember any of this! We think he had been able to get a higher price from someone else, so had double booked our room - not cool! He told us that his "friend" had a place around the corner, that we could stay there the first night, then come back to where we were supposed to be for the last two nights, we did not seem to have much choice, so we went to the other place.
Luckily we were not staying in the room for long, we went out exploring to see some of the sights of Florence, but we had discovered the Italian way of doing things!

The next day we went on a walking tour, where we saw some old houses of rich merchants, the new market (moved from the site of the old roman market in the 1800s), the Ponte Vecchio, with the elevated walkway used by the Medici family, then through the courtyard of the Uffizi past statues of Galileo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo. Next came the government building, with the copy of David where he used to be, and the outside of the Duomo. We got a good feeling for some of the history of the city on the tour, and we were not finished yet, we had also booked a tour of the Accademia to see David without lining up! So we went past all the people waiting for hours, straight in to see the statue. It was as amazing as everyone says, and it felt incredible to acutally be there in front of it.

In the afternoon, we went across the Ponte Vecchio to visit the Boboli Gardens, behind the Pitti Palace which was used by the Medicis. The gardens were amazing, and we took the opportunity to relax under a tree for a while, then discovered a rose garden with a view out over the countryside which looked just like a postcard of Tuscany - rolling hills and Cypress trees everywhere. We had to get back to the B&B, so that we could get the keys to the room we should have had all along!! We did not want to leave it too late to give this guy another chance to sell our room to another person....After that, we watched the sunset from a high point over the river, where there is another copy of David, this time in bronze! Man that guy really gets around.

For our last day in Florence, we went on a bus tour in the country, which lasted the whole day, from 8:30 in the morning until 8:30 at night. We went to Siena first, where we had a tour and then sat in the shell-shaped square where they hold this horse race called the Palio. It is a competition between the different wards of the town, and it sounds pretty crazy, the jockeys can use their whips on each other as well as the horses! We also found out that the new James Bond movie was being filmed here a few days before, so we just missed seeing it - we will be looking out for the scene when we see the movie though. Next we went to a wine estate near San Gimignano, where we had a great lunch in a house perched on a hill surrounded by vines and olive groves - heaven! Unfortunately we could not wander around, but we will definitely be coming back here some time. We went in to the town of San Gimignano, where we had some gelati which the guide had recommended, and which lived up to his speil - the pistachio in particular actually tasted just like real pistachios!! We are becoming quite the gelati experts, and this was definitely the best so far. We had a drive through the Tuscan countryside on the way to Pisa, where we stopped for some silly photos holding up the tower, and a bit of a sit down, before heading back to Florence. What a day!