For the past several years, my Chinese New Year holidays have been spent in Europe as a way of taking advantage of the low-season there and avoiding the high-season chaos in Asia. This year was no different as I headed off to Florence, Italy – with a day trip by train to nearby Siena thrown in for good measure.
I think that the only real downside to traveling Europe in February is the weather – mostly wet this year. Even then, I prefer that to the crowds of tourists that would be swarming like mosquitoes during the summer break. Not to mention the high temperatures. May as well stay in Hong Kong for that.
Florence is a much smaller city than Rome, so that makes it very walk-able. As you can imagine, the central part and anywhere that has a major tourist attraction is going to be jam-packed. Even during the low season of February I was surprised how busy the city was. I can only guess at the craziness of summer.
There are several must-see galleries and museums in the city. Obviously the Galleria dell’Accadmia, with Michelangelo’s “David” is a huge draw but to be honest, not the most impressive of all that Florence has to offer. The Uffizi gallery is marvelous. There are so many exhibits that I decided to squeeze in a second visit. The Bargello is fantastic for statuary, many done by masters. The Palatine gallery and the Pitti gallery are certainly worth a look if you want to see the opulence of the Medici family. I skipped the Boboli gardens primarily due to the time of year – not much to see in February.
Siena was pleasant once the weather improved. When I arrived, it was hailing. Thankfully that only lasted for about 30 minutes, but the wind that forced the closure of several high-level viewpoints lasted all day.
I could go on about Florence in more detail, but I suppose the photos will give a better idea.
Honestly, it doesn’t get more traditionally Italian than a red Vespa.
Hanging out with Venus at the Uffizi Gallery.
Like many galleries that were once palaces, it’s not just the pieces on display that are works of art, the buildings themselves are in their own right as well. This, one of the ceiling panels in the Uffizi Gallery.
The facade of the Uffizi Gallery across the Arno River. The second floor shows the Vasari Corridor that links the Uffizi Gallery to the Palazzo Pitti. Once used by the Medici family, it is now a private gallery hung with self-portraits of many of the masters. Reservations are needed in order to visit.
Street art is alive and well in Florence. This is a combination piece by Blub of another street artist, Clet.
Street art by Johnny Boy.
One of the more evident street artists in Florence is Clet Abraham, or just Clet. Using stickers, he changes many of the street signs around the city. Makes for quite an interesting treasure hunt. He also has a shop in the Oltrarno area where you can buy stickers and other of his art works.
Corridor in Siena.
Enjoying a book in the sunshine. Piazza del Campo, Siena.
The Piazza del Campo in Siena. It is divided into 9 even sections, symbolizing the Council of Nine, which was responsible for governing the city.
A bit of a classic Italian scene, though a bit of a modern touch: a Fiat parked in a Piazza.
From the view point of Siena’s Duomo, the bell tower of the Palazzo Pubblico (town hall). Sadly, due to the wind on this particular day, the viewpoint in the tower was closed.
The Ponte Vecchio. Built in 1345, it is the oldest bridge in Florence. It is lined with goldsmith and jewellery shops.
A school outing. Only one child in the group caught me taking the photo. For whatever reason, the group of boys on the left were remarkably interested in the pigeons.
The carousel in Piazza della Repubblica.
On one of the few sunny days during my trip, people were eager to get out an enjoy it.
It takes a lot of work to get the perfect selfie (God, how I hate that word).
I don’t know what the call was about, but her hands were extremely animated during the call.
Some exquisite marbles at the Bargello Gallery. If you have a thing for sculpture, that’s the gallery to go to. Extremely short opening hours however. Just so you know.
Damn you Perseus! Medusa was just minding her own business until you came along. One of the many statues that surround the Piazza della Signoria. This bronze done by Cellini in 1554.
Another of the statues around Piazza della Signoria. This marble by Bandinelli (1533) of Hercules beating up on the centaur Cacus. As a Sagittarius, I’m not at all pleased with Hercules at this point.
Detail of an absolutely amazing globe set up in the Galileo Museum. The entire piece probably stands close to 3 meters tall.
Lighting a candle inside the Duomo.
View from part-way up the bell tower (Campanille) of the Duomo.
A bit of a different view of the Duomo and part of Florence.
Florence and the dome of the basillica. Designed by Brunelleschi in 1436, it was, and still is, an engineering marvel.
As seen from Piazza della Michelangelo.
The oldest known version of Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. Dated to around the middle of the 14th Century. Seen at the Casa di Dante Museum.
The courtyard of the Bargello Museum. Short opening hours (closes around 1:00 pm) but well worth the effort to go, especially if statuary interests you.