Florence's Top Tunes:
Abba - Take a Chance
Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
Bon Jovi - Blaze of Glory
The train journey to Florence was pretty quick (just under an hour) & we were treated to some lovely scenery along the way! The Tuscan countryside shone brightly as our train made its way through Empoli and into Florence. At one point I tried to catch a bit of the countryside on video with my Flip camera but was interrupted by a tunnel. When that tunnel came to a end, I got my camera out again only for another tunnel to stand in my way. This gave Catherine quite a chuckle and I, a beaten man, put the camera away.
We got off the train and headed in the direction of Santa Maria del Fiore; The Duomo. We could see it from quite a distance and as we got closer realised just how impressive a building it really is, it is immense! So big is it in fact, that it's actually impossible to get all of it into a photo unless you have a ariel view. Apparently the Dome, completed in 1436 and built by Brunelleschi, was built in the hope that it would dwarf the great buildings of ancient Greece and Rome and without the workers using scaffolding and when you see it you can't help but wonder how they did it. It's 463 steps to the top. The inside of the cathedral, to me personally, was nowhere near as impressive as the exterior and we didn't spend long in there as we wanted to go to the top of the dome. Keeping in mind the amount of steps to get to the top of the dome, Catherine being pregnant and the fact that the Campanile Tower was closer and with fewer steps, we went up there instead. The Campanile at 276ft is only 20ft shorter than the Dome anyway. It was €6 each and an absolute bargain as far as I'm concerned. We had to stop fairly often for Catherine to rest and catch her breath but it wasn't a problem as it's understandable given her condition and there were plenty of platforms with amazing views to behold as she did so. None as impressive as when we made our way up the final set of stairs and out onto the observation deck. The view was incredible. I could make out the Arno River, Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza della Signoria and the Tuscan hills beyond. Catherine had a good laugh at me when the wind kept blowing my shirt up to reveal my mid-drift, she even got a sneaky photo in there! We both really enjoyed it up there and I was very proud of Catherine for braving the climb to the top.
Her physical exertions had made her want to sit down and get a bite to eat so we headed to Piazza del Repubblica, an impressive square with a Roman-style triumphal arch that celebrates Florence's short 6 year stint as Italy's capital between 1865 - 1871. Just off the square was a Hard Rock Cafe. I had some reservations about eating there as I'm in Italy with some of the finest food the world knows around me but I still like the HRC and I knew Catherine would enjoy it so we went in. It was nicely laid out and the staff were very friendly. I had a nice chat with a waiter who was trying to find out if Bournemouth was near both Brighton and Kent. I could of just said yes but I didn't want to lie to the guy. The music, as always, didn't let us down (Abba aside). Catherine had her favourite, Chicken Haystack Salad and I had a HR Burger. Both were delicious and before we left Catherine added a Florence HRC pin to her collection.
Ponte Vecchio was our next port of call. The bridge was designed in 1345 and is the oldest bridge in Florence. It was also the only bridge in the city to avoid being blown up during World War II. It used to house workshops for Butchers and Blacksmiths but now mostly specialises in new and antique Jewellery. It was nice to walk across and the river views were cool too. We stopped there for a while to relax and people watch. There were quite a few people rowing down the river including one man who couldn't get his boat to face the right way much to Catherine's delight.
We made our way to Piazza della Signoria after that and, once again, were impressed with our surroundings. Florence had definitely won us around. We saw the Neptune Fountain, the Loggia dei Lanzi which is lined with ancient Roman statues and the Palazzo Vecchio which has been at the heart of Florentine politics since the 14th century. Michelangelo's statue of David used to be here also but has since been moved to the Academia museum and replaced by a replica, still impressive though. We had a bit of time to kill before catching the 5pm train back to Pisa and the baby's demands to adhere to so we went in for a bit to look around. The interior was very impressive, so much so it made me fall up some steps much to Catherine's joy, she does enjoy watching me almost/or fall over. None more so than one time in Bournemouth Gardens when I attempted to kick a football back in the direction from which it came and swiftly landed on my arse. As impressive as all the artwork was, we really didn't understand much of it. We did like the statue of Putto which is a statue of a young boy holding a baby dolphin but my favourite bit was a quick, silly video I did where I filmed through a hole Catherine walking down some stairs and pulling a silly face, genius!
We left with plenty of time to get to the station and came across a Disney Store. We went in quickly and looked at the baby grows, they were cute as were a pair of baby flip flops Catherine found but she wants to wait til we've had the 20 week scan before buying clothes.
We got to the train station, found our train and watched the sunset from our train window before arriving back in Pisa.