The Pig Yard

Florence and Venice - May 2009

Florence - A short taxi ride to our hotel and we were in time to unpack and head out on a short walk to find the high spots of the city and everything it had to offer. We were surprised by the temperature - 28 degrees and it took some time to acclimatise, particularly when all we wanted to do was walk and soak up the atmosphere. We were constantly amazed at how the Italians are full of style and panache but happy to leave litter and allow their dogs to shit on the pavement, We even witnessed one person pick up their dog's mess with a plastic bag and then throw the bag on the floor.

Useful links are: Galileo exhibition; Uffizi gallery; General Information

One afternoon we walked up to Michelangelo piazza to get a view across the city.

From here we could see the Arno river with the Ponte Vecchio crossing it and the dome of the cathedral.

  The roof top views are incredible with wonderful red ochre pantiles and various shaped domes.

The architecture of the city is truly beautiful and we revelled in it all.

  "il Duomo" is the marble fronted cathedral.

We spent some time sitting on the steps of the cathedral people watching. The antics of the unlicensed traders playing cat and mouse with the Carabinieri who drove slowly by forcing the traders to pack up only to unpack and continue selling once they passed. It would have been so easy to arrest them but it didn't appear to be the intention - that would have created work.

Jane was delighted that the bicycle was evident in large numbers and  perfect for the narrow, flat roads of the city.

There was an array of styles, colours and ages - both cycles and cyclists.

There was a profusion of Smart cars, Jane could not believe the number but with the lack of parking spaces it was the obvious choice.

  Equal on popularity is the moped. Of course being Italian they had to be parked with style - all front wheels pointing in the same direction with the odd, small car wedged in-between.

Car parking seemed to be an interesting affair. We watched a van driver who somehow had managed to shoehorn his car into a gap exactly the length of the vehicle only to drive out by bumping the car in front and the one behind until there was enough space to get out. It made us laugh.

  The Ponte Vecchio is a fascinating bridge with shops hanging onto the outside of the bridge, clinging on for dear life with props holding them in place.

The river Arno is an important part of the city and was also an interesting place for the wildlife that had made it home. We saw several herons as well as large and small egrets on the banks of the river, oblivious to the hoards of weekend visitors in Florence.

The Ponte Vecchio at night was magical and very romantic.

We walked alongside the river in the warm evenings having eaten a pleasant meal and drunk very warm Chianti  that was full of flavours.

  Her and him looking like tourists on the middle of the Ponte Vecchio.

The river in the background looks decidedly green but in fact it was surprisingly clean and clear. Large fish were easily visible.

  The sight of otters in the river during the day and within half a mile of the city centre was a real highligh, we had never seen otters in the wild before.

Jane spotted the first one swimming up stream and after following it for some time it came across two other otters - magic.

After some persuading from Jane, Steve agreed to go up Giotto's Campanile. Steve doesn't like heights or exercise hence she met some resistance but even Stvev agreed it was well worth it.

Here we are half way up and despite the heat we look fresh and ready for the final climb to the top.

  We looked down on Republic Square and the last covered area on the right is where we ate in the evenings - heaven.

One evening we sat listening to a young women singing from the opera 'Aida' under the cloistered area at the top right of the picture - brilliant.

  From the top of Giotto's Campanile we could look across at the people who had climbed to the top of the cathedral dome.

Competitive as ever we were concerned that they were higher than us. We found when we visited the Uffizi gallery roof that the campanile was satisfyingly the highest.

Venice - from our Florence hotel it was a short walk to the railway station and a long wait for our train to arrive. We had seats booked and after 2 hours we arrived in Florence. Walking off the platform we were once again met by a courier who walked with us to catch a water taxi to our hotel. This was tourism the easy way. We spent 4 days wandering the lanes and canals and not once did we see anyone wearing life jackets. It seems the Italians have a healthy disdain for health and safety rules. If our police, postal workers, fire crews, etc. didn't wear life jackets in these circumstances they would be fired.
After a short trip along the grand canal we reached the waterfront over looking the lagoon and right in front of us was our hotel - Savoia & Jolanda. It was a perfect place and every morning we had breakfast overlooking the lagoon - beautiful.   Unfortunately we didn't have this view from our bedroom window - we overlooked an alleyway with another hotel only 3 metres away.

We did have this view whilst eating breakfast.

  Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute from the Grand Canal. Truly incredible architecture and visible just across from our hotel.

we walked over a bridge to get to it and the view up into the dome was incredible.

St Mark's Square with the campanile. The structure collapsed in the early 1900s and was rebuilt.

We didn't bother going up firstly because it was by lift and secondly there was always a long queue.

  The Rialto bridge is spectacular. We crossed the bridge on a number of times and Jane even bought something from a shop there but it was always very crowded.   Bridge of Sighs was a disappointment because it was shrouded by hoardings whilst renovation work was being undertaken on the buildings on either side.
Jane invariably had a camcorder or camera pressed to her eye wherever we went but there was so much to see, photograph or video.   A typical scene from the water level with colourful bollards and water everywhere.

It was great not to have any wheeled transport and we relied mainly on foot power to get us around the city.

  This is the local mail man on Murano island collecting parcels from the many glass factories to be found there.

Although there were many places advertising that there was glass blowing taking place we couldn't find any active.

These are some glass sculptures in a window of a very expensive shop. The paint brushes were several thousand Euros each.

Outside our reach, for certain.

  We were really lucky because there was a series of catamaran races over the weekend. With the backdrop of the basilica across the lagoon it was beautiful.

We spent some time trying to figure out the race course because it wasn't straightforward.

  And finally we left Venice on a water taxi. The driver was in a hurry and after leaving the peace of the canals he opened it up and raced to get to the airport.

It was an exhilarating journey which we both enjoyed.