Saturday morning and we were off like greyhounds (or whippets) out of the trap. We decided the only way to beat the crowds was to get out early. Surely no other tourists would be out at 9am?!
We started with a coffee and then headed to the Duomo to get in early. Good plan, except it wasn’t open. And so we decided we’d go up the Campanile (the bell tower) as it was open and there wasn’t a queue.
|The Duomo, Florence|
I was pretty sure there’d be a lift (there was in Milan) but it seemed Florence was more traditional and so 84.7 metres later up a very narrow staircase (or four) and we emerged on the roof of the Campanile overlooking the red roofs of Florence.
It was a breathtaking view, the history of Florence immediately visible and relatively unchanged over centuries.
|View of the dome from the Campanile|
Descending from the top, four hundred and fourteen steps later, we emerged back at the base of the cathedral and after a second coffee, joined the queue of early bird tourists to go inside.
The inside of the Duomo was strangely austere compared to the almost gaudy marble-covered exterior. Devoid of decoration with the exception of a beautifully painted dome, it was a dichotomy of design.
From the Duomo we walked around the rest of Florence but all roads seemed to end back at the Duomo as we repeatedly found ourselves back at the great marble icon.
After the fourth or fifth time, we decided we needed to get off the tourist track and venture beyond the immediate centre. With map in hand we explored every piazza and sculpture and then went in search of a non-touristy restaurant for dinner.
Perhaps the greatest challenge of all!