Florence hostel has fre internet :) but the PC is so old that there's no USB port so I still can't upload my Milan blog, or any photos :( so will blog about Florence, but must be quick, there's a queue.
R had to get up at 6.45 to make her plane, so I got up then too and had time to repack *sigh* before leaving, and caught an earlier train getting into Florence at about 12 pm. Journey wasn't too bad - yes the bags are exceptionally heavy, but you get used to it, kinda. Took taxis at both ends which set me back 20 euro but was totally worth it. Wish there was a magical taxi to take all 40 plus kilos of luggage up the 3 (six really) flights of stairs to the hostel. Got there in the end though!
It's raining now for the 4th or 5th time since I arrived - come on Italy, not living up to your implicit weather-related promises! We had a deal! So this afternoon it was exploring Florence in the intermittent rain. I decided just to head out from the hostel and randomly wander towards the centre and see what I would see. I always like just walking on my first day in a new city, to get my bearings and a sense of the place. First up I came across the Duomo, another huge cathedral with an amazing Brunelleschi dome covered in frescoes, and probably a million other important pieces of art that I can't recall any more already! Bad form! It's free and in the middle of town, so choked with tourists, naturally.
After that, I wandered in another direction, and, turning a corner, came across the church of Saint Maria Novella. Highly recommended. It's beautiful, and, perhaps more importantly, for the entrance fee of 2.50 euros, you purchase a little bit of sanctuary from the thronging masses. Sure, there were still a few tourists, but the atmosphere was so much calmer and more restful than the Duomo - no photos, just hushed voices and appreciation of the character of the place. And throw in art by the likes of Giotto, Alberti, Massacio and Ghira... forgotten the rest of his name for the moment (particularly amazing frescos anyway) and you really have something worth the entrance fee.
After that, I decided to cross over to the other side of the river. There were only a couple of things marked on the tourist map I had for the far side of the Arno, and so I reasoned that it would be a good spot to go for lunch. Had a lovely panino and glass of chianti for ust 2.50 euros (still can't believe how good and cheap food is here! Love it!) served by a lovely proprietor with whom I chatted in very very basic Italian. I'm surprised how much I can get by in Italian - I haven't studied up, I must admit, but with the few words I knew and my knowledge of French and (scanty) Latin, I do alright. Funny thing is that Russian words keep popping into my head though - I guess my brain knows it ain't English and it ain't French and it doesn't know quite what to do.
After that, I headed to the Brancacci chapel which is filled with an amazing fresco cycle by Massachio, mostly the life of St. Peter. Just incredible. Words can't describe it. You only get 15 minutes inside (after a 40 min explanatory film) and they flew by, but so worth it!
Okay, really gotta go, the 5 minutes I promised to those next in line has stretched to 10 already... Hope to have more photos for you soon. xx