giovedì 22 novembre 2012

Queueing with the Carabinieri in Florence

When Understanding Frenchman and I went to Italy back in October, the 27 hours we spent in Florence were something of an afterthought. Our main plan was to see friends in Milan and Bologna, and Florence just happened not to be too far from our planned itinerary.

Turns out, though, that it's not really a place you should try to visit as an afterthought. Or in 27 hours. Because in Florence, to visit just about any place when you haven't reserved days in advance tends to involve spending several hours standing in a queue. Also, you have to pay (a lot) to visit absolutely anything, including churches, so wandering in and out of places just to see if they're interesting isn't really an option.

The most impressive waiting we saw was when we lined up for half an hour in front of the Uffizi to book a slot to visit the following day. The massed queue was managed by the carabinieri, (one of Italy's many police forces), but that didn't stop some brazen souls from jumping it. Once inside, we were informed that all the times up to three o'clock were already full and, with a train to catch at 5pm, we were forced to give up. I was also sad not to climb up to the cupola of the cathedral or the bell tower, but again the queues were so long that both times we tried, we would never actually have got to the front of it before either the place closed or we had to be somewhere else.

Nevertheless, we managed to have a good time, mostly by strolling around and admiring all the gorgeous architecture from the outside:

View of the Duomo from La Rinascente department store. A sneaky look at the view from their tiny terrace is FREE!

Ponte Vecchio. Also free, but better enjoyed from a distance, especially if crowds scare you.
Santa Croce church, with a massive piece of public art in the piazza.

The Campanile. I would have loved to climb it, but even just getting this shot made me happy because it's so tall, it was hard to fit it all in!
We also visited the interior of the Duomo, which is free, and where the highlight is definitely the cupola, which everyone stands underneath straining their necks to see this amazing work of art:
 You just look up, and up and up!

 Eternal fires of hell
I particularly liked this cheeky skeleton.

 In such a touristy city, I was surprised by the friendly service in nearly all the places we ate, particularly from our lunchtime pizza seller who made the effort to check that the temperature of our slices was just right, and the charming waiter in the little trattoria on Borgo Pinti. And on our last walk back to the hotel after dinner, we came across a mime artist doing an old fashioned performance that kept us and the rest of the audience amused for at least half an hour... and there was no queueing involved!

1 commento:

Katja_DLaM ha detto...

Oof. I hear you on the queues. Luckily, the first time I went to Florence, I'd got in touch with an American friend who lives there and she gave me the heads up about booking everything in advance, so we got into the Uffizi at least. We queued for the Accademia, though. Man, that was long. More interesting than the Uffizi, though, I thought.

I think the thing I most liked about Florence (apart from the Scoppio del Carro - we were there at Easter) was Piazzala Michelangelo, up above the city. It's a heck of a walk to get there, but it's worth it - you have views right across the city, as well as out to the surrounding countryside. Totally lush.