Emily - Florence was beautiful and scenic with elaborate museums and churches. We bought a guide book and re-discovered Renaissance Florence - we toured the famed Duomo, checked out the jewellery stores on the Ponte Vecchio, visited the Ufitizi Museum and ate same fantastic geltati! Tuscany provided the perfect backdrop for scenic photos so we took the opportunity to visit a couple of lookouts to take in the architectural beauty that is Florence.
We also managed to do a couple of day trips to Pisa and Siena. In Siena we visited the church that houses St.Katherine's head and finger as well as visiting another Duomo and the Piazza del Compo where Jez and I had a gelati. In Pisa we took plenty of happy snaps of the leaning tower and marvelled at the street hawkers selling rolex watches for sixty euros...............supposedly they provide a letter of authenticIty but I'm still not sold :P
Jeremy - We decided not to worry about seeing the Academia Gallery as Emily had already been and the main attraction was copied all over the City. I had already seen the Statue of David at the shopping centre on the gold coast anyway
The street hawkers were actually really funny to watch. It is illegal for them to sell the copies of big name brands and there are signs all over warning tourists not to buy copied products but it's hardly enforced. They play this comical drama (similar to that dive from the italian striker in the last world cup that cost us a world cup final) that involves the hawkers laying out their wears on a white sheet at tourist bottle necks around the central streets. The sunglasses sales men have engineered cardboard boxes that can be folded up and stashed under an arm at a moments notice while the handbag salesmen can wrap up the sheet and be off in a flash. There are also belts, pictures of famous artworks, silly flying light thingys and even strange dancing cardboard characters (a clever use of magnets). The strange thing is that there seems to be an unwritten rule that when the police pass the salesmen, they all pick up their wares and run around to the next street corner. While the police simple pass buy in their car, not bothering to give chase, and then the salesmen return. Its like a mutual agreement to play a game for the benefit of the tourists and concerned locals. One can't help feeling that there is a "special" agreement.
It follows that one must now dispel the myth that florence is a romantic city. The cobbled streets are a nightmare to travellers, there are thousands tourists and lines for everything, the river is muddy and looks like an oversize irrigation canal and its expensive. That said i'm afraid my experience was a little distorted by the continuing appearance of little bites. I spent most of the time there trying to work out if is was still getting bitten or the evidence was slow to materialise. In the end I threw out my sleep sheet and the problem was solved. By the way bed bugs come in one of two colours clear or red, I'm still not sure why Kathmandu sells only red coloured sleep sheets....
Emily - I disagree with Jez, I thought Florence was quite romantic! And think our pictures speak for themselves
Also speaking of relics (St.Katherine's head) we visited the crypts under the Medici private church that held the tomb of Donatello (the ninja turtle with the stick) and found an expansive collection of tiny bits and pieces of hundreds of different saints and holy people. All placed in elaborate display cases and labelled with the persons name. My understanding is that the more of these relics collected the more legitimacy the church/basilica had and so they went all out! Not to be out done by the relics the architects and builders of the regions churches/ basilicas did an amazing job. Particular favourites were the Dumo in Florence and Siena...
The Santa Maria del Fiori Cathederal (Dumo) Florence
Perseus with the head of Medusa, on the right in bronze
A local enjoying the river
Outside the Medici crypts with relics
Florence skyline from Piazzale Michelangelo (with its own "David" copy)
The little Italian
At Pisa's famous leaning tree
"Il Campo" Siena