Where's Frankie?

Don’t mess with the big boys

Monday 14th November

It seems like ages since we last blogged, our MiFi dongle broke and we’ve had to wait until we got to a large town to get it sorted. 

Thursday we arrived in Siena, we only went there because we had heard of it and didn’t really know anything about it. We still don’t. As we arrived it started raining non stop for the rest of the day, through the night and Friday morning. We were parked in a mixed parking area which is basically a car park where the locals store their motorhomes between weekends. It wasn’t great and the sosta 300 yards away had been subjected to lots of motorhome break ins. If the weather had been better we would have got the bus into the city centre and looked around but instead we took the easy option and moved on to Greve in Chianti, a lovely free sosta on the outskirts of a small town which had a laundrette. Actually, it had three so Friday afternoon was spent watching the smalls spinning around. It’s not all fun in Frankie you know.

Saturday morning we went into town for the market and nearly escaped without buying anything. I forgot to say that overnight it was freezing cold and we had ice on top of the solar panel in the morning but Saturday itself was lovely t-shirt and shorts weather. Since it was so quiet (and free) we spent three nights in Greve…

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I spent my time working on my ship, HM Bark Endeavour…

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And Lucy spent her time cross stitching.

One of the reasons for staying in Greve for three days was that our next stop is to be Florence and since there were “political disturbances” there last weekend and everywhere is closed on Monday there was little point in arriving too early. We left Greve by 10am and we were parked in our sosta in Florence by 10.30am, we hadn’t realised that we were only 12 miles away. I had to do a bit of aggressive driving since Stella insisted on taking us through Florence and I am pretty pleased with myself. Normally, because we aren’t in a rush, I let people out, let them push in and do whatever they want and you never, ever get any acknowledgement that you’ve helped them on their way.

In Florence things got a little hectic. We had to change lots of lanes at a time, we had to swerve and push and Frankie and I got really excited about it. We left all the other motorists behind wondering what that big white blur was that had just pushed and shoved it’s way through and got to where he wanted to. The only near casualty was an old boy on his bike who didn’t hear all the horns blasting behind us in frustration. (And the young couple with a push chair, and the girl on the moped and …)

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By 11am we were walking, I’ve never seen Lucy so excited before. When I first invented the idea of getting a motorhome and touring Europe the first thing Lucy said was “Florence” and she has said it nearly everyday since and here we are. Above is the Port Romano, part of the old Roman city walls

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Carrying on down the road we get to the Palazzo Pitti. Eight museums are contained within the walls of this palace first built in 1530 and expanded in the 17th century by the Medici family. Inside are works by Titian, Rubens, Carravagio and Raphael.

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And after a mile (or three if you’ve got short legs like Lucy) we get to the Ponte Vecchio. Before going over I wanted to get a shot from the side.

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This is the only reason I let Lucy come to Florence, I like bridges.

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And I do like this one. Might get some more photos on the way back. Today is only meant to be an orientation day, it’s all very well looking through the guides but we really need to have a good look around and then work out where we’re going tomorrow.

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This is on the list, the Uffizi gallery. You have to buy tickets for designated time slots and because it is Monday…. you know the rest!

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Back on the Ponte Vecchio and it must be my lucky day, jewellery shops to the left and right. What could be so lucky about that you ask? Let me just say that Lucy is well aware of our financial status and she can also see all the zeros on the end of all the prices. She may have expensive tastes but she has a Ratner budget and she knows it.

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You only have to ask, there are dozens more Ponte Vecchio photos.

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Our first view of the Palazzo Vecchio, part counci hall, part fortress and part prison. From here it looks like something that was designed after a heavy session, almost defying gravity.

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From the front, all of the dimensions are based on the Golden Section of the Greeks which I believe is a ration of 1:1.6 or thereabouts.

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Carved into the wall is this self portrait of….  I’ve read about it somewhere, can I find it now? Lets go for Michelangelo, he was commissioned to decorate one of the rooms here but was summoned to the Vatican to do a bit of ceiling work and Leonardo was meant to do the opposite wall to Michelangelo but his experimental fresco didn’t work out as planned.

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Inside the Palace it all looks great but entry is €18 each, will it be in our itinerary tomorrow? 

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Moving along and our first glimpse of The Campanile, Italys most elegant bell tower standing at 280 feet high. It was begun in 1334 by Giotto (another name that I just dropped into the conversation) and after his death taken on by Pisano with help from Donatello. It’s amazing how many well known names have been and worked in this city.

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First things first. Opposite the Camponile is the Baptistry, thought to date from the sixth or seventh century and the oldest building in Florence.

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Pisano created the bronze doors in the south but the East doors were the subject of a competition organised by the merchants guild. Brunelleschi and Ghiberti were shortlisted and the latter won the day. Brunelleschi was distraught but resolved to create something even better. You’ll have to wait two photos for what he did next.

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You’ll be getting a few views of this place, it is huge and surrounding buildings are too close to get everything in. To the left is the Baptistry, on the right is the Camponile, the building itself is The Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore. Started in 1294 it was all but complete by 1418, all it needed was the finishing touch and this is where Brunelleschi comes in.

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Brunelleschis dome, nothing like this had ever been attempted before. The span was 42m starting from 54m above floor level. the designers knew what they wanted but no one had any idea of how to build it. Brunelleschi decided to do a bit of reading on architecture and engineering and managed to come up with a brilliant self supporting structure that didn’t need any supports whilst under construction.

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Inside the Duomo it was fairly plain but the painting inside the dome was very good. Photography is strictly banned so this is a sneaky camera man shot but it didn’t take long to realise that everyone else was taking photos and the camera police were having a tea break (or siesta).

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Mr brazen camera man laying on his back in the middle of the cathedral and no one takes a blind bit of notice.

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The opposite wall with some nice mosaics and a clock with only one hand.

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Eventually I managed to get a full height photo of the Campanile. 

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Walking around, most of the streets are pedestrianised but even streets open to vehicles were very quiet, we chanced upon the Basilica of San Lorenzo, originally consecrated in 393 it was the first cathedral in Florence but was rebuilt int he 11th century and restructured by our old friend Bunelleschi in 1418.

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I’m still struggling to get everything in, it’s close but without that drone that Lucy keeps promising to buy me this is about as good as it will get.

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Everywhere we went there were crowds of scooters.

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And then someone found the ice cream shop. My ice cream certainly makes up for the little cornet that Lucy bought me in Orvieto but having struggled to eat my way through it all I really don’t want another ice cream for a month or two. Lucy is still smiling because at this point she didn’t know what the bill was. (€18 – ouch).

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Outside the Mercato del Porcellino sits this very fine wild boar. Everyone else was posing and rubbing it’s nose and the only way I could get a photo without some random stranger in it was to let Lucy push her way to the front of the queue and let rub. We don’t know what for but I’m sure it will bring us luck – fingers crossed.

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As promised, more photos of the Ponte Vecchio, this time with sunlight being reflected off nearby windows.

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We have to cross again tomorrow, if you’re lucky there will be more bridge photos then.

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Along the banks of the Arno, someone trying to get an extra few square feet of living area.

We like Florence, everything was in easy walking distance, very few cars, stunning buildings, clean, happy and relaxed. I would put it right at the top of my list of favourite cities to be honest, we’ve just got to decide which bits we go and study more carefully tomorrow.

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Just as we were about to enter our sosta for the evening we get this view – looks like there will be a happy shepherd somewhere.

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