Thursday, 18 August 2011


Our first afternoon stroll around Florence found us climbing to the top of another bell tower, an impressive structure probably designed to show that the Florentines can build a bigger and straighter tower than their Pisan rivals. All for show however, as there is no sign of the bell-rope or any electric ringers. What a magic view from the top though. The whole town laid out before us, surrounded by very picturesque hills in all directions.

Found a great 3 hour walking tour of Florence for our first morning conducted by a pint-sized but enthusiastic young Florentine woman. The cathedral was surprisingly plain and austere inside. It did, however have a 24 hour clock showing Roman numerals and running anticlockwise, on the rear wall. The main square of the town was more or less as built by the Romans, and the leather and fabric industries for which Florence is famous were on display in abundance in shops and roadside stalls.

Here for the first time since Iceland was an absence of Africans on every corner selling spatter balls, gaudy souvenirs and ugly handbags. Many actually had legal stalls selling possibly genuine Florentine products, including an impressive array of leather goods.

David stands proudly outside the entrance to City Hall, apparently deemed too good to be placed in its planned location atop the cathedral. He is flanked by a second sculpture by Bandinelli, nicknamed by the locals the “melon pile’, perhaps due to the excess of muscles. The real David has been moved to the museum, so we were looking at a replica. We visited the original the next day, along with many unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo. He is very impressive. Interesting that it was Goliath who was meant to be the big one.

Evidence of the various Guilds can be seen on their symbols, coats of arms, and on some of the statues around town. One such was the statue of St George slaying the dragon, effectively showing off the Armourer’s Guild chain mail, swords and lances.

We heard the fascinating story of the grain market which turned into a dual-use grain market/church complete with hooks in the ceiling. A miracle was apparently involved.

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