“You set an alarm?” “Yeah, I want to be out for some sunrise pics. You should come with.” “What time did you set the alarm for?” “Five.” “FIVE!?!? Why the hell would you set the alarm for five?” “Cause sunrise is at 06:34 and I’ll shower before I go. You’re not coming are you?” “Here, keep the phone on your side of the bed.”
This is how our second day in Florence actually ended.
I wake up at ten til five and turn off the alarm. A smallishly big part of me really wants to leave it on just so I can see that glimmer of confused rage in Steph’s eyes when Pearl Jam pulls her kicking and screaming from the land of nod, but for some reason civility has gotten the better of me on this morning. Weird. Hope I’m not getting sick.
Damn I love this time of the day; the air feels sharp and clean; light is soft and full of promise; and while a city never entirely loses its hum, its buzz of energy, it is for the moment relatively tranquil.
By this point I have a pretty good handle on navigating throughout Florence, at least the historic, touristy areas, and it’s an easy stroll down to the river. I see a few couples out and about, and in every case one partner is toting a DSLR camera around their neck. We exchange knowing glances – from one member in good standing of the pre-dawn photography club to the other – before carrying on to wherever the light is leading us.
I had contemplated walking back up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a broad view of the city at sunrise, but I’ve now decided that the scene from the Ponte alle Grazie is more than adequate. The waning gibbous moon is still setting over the buildings along the south bank of the Arno as the suns first rays are unleashed, super saturating the already vibrant warm tones and instantly heating the air. Behind me, on the other side of the bridge, an Italian fella sporting inline skates has stopped to watch and – I’m not even making this up – shout at the rising sun. He does a few spins in the street, flashes a huge, wild eyed grin, and skates off from the direction he first came.
Enjoying the peace and quiet, I take my time in making my way back to the hotel, stopping to take a few photos along the way. I find it quite amusing when a group of Americans cautiously approach and attempt to ask me – in a combination of broken Italian and pantomime – if I will photograph them in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. I’ll take this as a positive sign that I’m blending in and not looking too much like a foreign tourist.
Back and done with breakfast, this morning’s destination is another “must do” for Florence: the one, the only, the Uffizi. We don’t have our tickets yet but figure we’ll just take our chances showing up bright and early and hope for the best.
“Scusi. Grazi.” We sidle our way past the three guys (employees mind you) standing and smoking in front of the only entrance to the ticket office and make our way to the counter. The guy working seems less than enthusiastic about the prospect of serving customers this morning, but we manage to hand over some cash in exchange for a receipt and are back outside to join the line of folks waiting to actually get inside the museum. “Everyone else seems to have actual tickets. How come we just have a receipt? Damn.”
Sure enough, Mr. Personality Florence 2012 had neglected to give us the actual tickets we would need to get in. He does, however, redeem himself nicely by recognizing us when we return to the counter and apologizing as he hands over our tickets. Crisis averted.
It’s hard to over-embellish the grandeur and importance of the art on display within the Uffizi, especially within the Classical Greek/Roman and Italian Renaissance genres. Entire books have been written about several of the individual pieces on display, and for good reason; there is, for me at least, a palpable sense of awe being in the presence of such greatness. I feel truly touched.
No, really, I am physically being touched, at the moment by a giant Eastern European looking man who is pressed right up against me in an effort to better view a Botticelli. Or maybe he’s just trying to cop a feel, I’m actually not sure at this point. Time to move on.
We do a lot of moving on through the Uffizi; neither Steph nor I are particularly gifted with an abundance of patience when it comes to crowds (okay, it’s more me than her), especially the inconsiderate touristy types which are always at these “must see” attractions. Besides, as Steph puts it, “How many times did they need to paint Jesus (look at those fine European features) being crucified?” I guess when “The Church” is your benefactor/master, the answer is a whole lot.
Without plans for the rest of our last full day in Florence we wander, yet again, south across the Arno. At Steph’s suggestion we follow the signs for the short walk to the Palazzo Pitti and adjacent Boboli Gardens. I now fear the phrase “Remember that? That was my idea!” will forever haunt me.
The scene at the Palazzo Pitti is mercifully un-crowded and decidedly laid back. And by laid back I mean people are actually lying around on the ground, soaking up the afternoon sun in fine Latin fashion. To not join in the non-activity would just be rude, and Steph and I both pride ourselves on being polite people. It’s time to bask for a bit.
“It’s so nice here, we should have come sooner. This was my idea!” And so the haunting begins.
In all the research I did during the run up to our trip I don’t recall reading much – good, bad or otherwise – about the Boboli Gardens. I can only assume that in-the-know locals have waged an all-out guerilla internet purge campaign in an effort to keep this place all to themselves. To sum it up in a single, hyphenated and kinda made up word, the Boboli Gardens are fan-fuckin-tastic. If we ever find our way back to Florence we will definitely be spending a whole day here. Good call Steph!
Unfortunately they are prompt about kicking everybody out and closing the gardens at bang on 17:00. I can imagine the staff uncorking the wine and having a private wander through the gardens after us tourists have departed, or perhaps even a nightly Bacchanalia under the stars. I suppose, however, it’s much more likely they’re just tired at the end of the day and only want dinner and rest. We couldn’t agree more.
But if we happen to stumble upon a Bacchanalia on the way back to the room………..