Friday, 11 October 2013

Florence Bike Tour

I think that this was one of the highlights of my visit to Florence.  Florencetown has several types of tours available. The thing that appealed to me about the bike tour is that there was a maximum of 15 people per tour, a small amount compared to walking tours, where there are usually 25 people (or even more) per tour. It was a bargain too! I got a deal because there was the bicycle race in town… and paid $18 EU vs the regular $25 EU. There ended up being only 7 people on our tour, so it was great, feeling like you were having more of a private tour.
Our first stop was at the  Piazza Santa Croce, where our guide was describing the soccer game that is held on June 24th of every year… it sounds like a really great time to visit Florence, during the celebration of its patron saint, San Giovanni. You can find out more about it here.
Our guide also described the flood that happened in Florence, November 3rd and 4th, 1966. If you look at the picture below, you can see the marker just below the street sign by the window… that was the water level of the flood.  Remember the doors are at least 12 feet tall, so you can imagine the devastation that occurred then!
We went to the Piazza della Repubblica, where there is a 3 dimensional map of the old city, also a carousal ride, and the Florence version of the Arch de Triumph.
We went around the Duomo, and she told us some more about the history of what happened during the flood, especially with the doors of “paradise” of the Baptistery… the current ones on the building are a replica, the originals had to be restored as the flood had forced the panels off the doors (the originals are now in the museum).  She also told us of the significance of the Baptistery having 8 walls… Seven for each day of the week, and the eighth for paradise… and the Paradise door (facing the Church) is the one you would exit from the baptistery after your baptism, and be allowed to enter the Church.
Onward to the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, which is a stones throw from the railway station.
Then across the river, to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito, the Church where Michelangelo donated a wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ on the Cross (he carved when he was approx. 18 years old)… We went inside, no pictures allowed, but the beauty of the paintings and sculptures made it so worth the visit.  The plaza by the Church is apparently a great place to eat too.
Then onwards to Palazzo Pitti, that opens into the Boboli Gardens.
Back towards the Arno river, we crossed the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge, the only bridge in Florence that was not destroyed during World War 2. It also supports the Vasari Corridor, that went from the Medicci Residence to the Government Palace.  Jewelry stores line both sides of the Ponte Vecchio, although it was originally lined by butcher shops.
Our final stop was the Piazza della Signoria, with the Palazzo Vecchio (current town hall).
I managed to take pictures of the Palazzo Vecchio early in the morning before there were too many tourists around… a must do if you want to take good pictures!
These are just some of the statues that are in the open (covered) display to the right of the palazzo.
There was another tourist, who had worked and studied art, and was sketching during her visit. I was going to do that, but didn’t have the nerve to do art in front of strangers. Will have to practice lots before I do that! (Ok, its on my bucket list!)
I forget which plaza this was in, but there were some street performers, and the little boy was just having such a great time mimicking the violin and cello player - it was so fun to watch how enthusiastic he was! It was also evident at how much the musicians enjoyed him too!
Now before I forget, other places we rode by (but I didn’t take pictures) were the Academia Museum, the Artisan market (think leather), and the Bargello. We also enjoyed a gelato during a break about 1/2 way through our 2 1/2 hour tour!
Next time I think I will take the whole day bike tour… its $70 EU, but I think it would be worth it.
WOW! I can’t believe it, my final post on my vacation to Italy!  I’m sure there is lots I’ve forgotten to write about… but am so glad you’ve taken the journey with me here on my blog Winking smile.
On to planning my next big adventure!

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