It’s hard not to zig-zag across Italy, left a bit for this…right a bit for that, it’s a struggle to get it all in, but that’s what we need to do if we were to get to see all the treasures in Italy. Greece, seemed to be easier on the MoHo tourist, bit more spaced apart and in a convenient circle, a tourist trail around the outside, mostly. Planning to view Italy’s finest fortunes takes a bit more imagination, it would be easy to double-back on yourself several times, but we try not to break that ‘Golden Rule’ (Just in case I spark a wave of emails from the more observant reader- we have often broken the golden rule…we just don’t admit to it), but we try not to break it. Here in Italy it would be easy to shunt left to the coast for a while, hop into the middle for a bit, then scoot over to the right hand side for a while longer, but we don’t have time get it all in & would be futile to try, so we’ve just got to look at what we can get in.
One place we couldn’t miss on our way up the boot of Italy was Florence. Like Seville in Spain, Florence is one of those places that gets mentioned by most MoHo travellers we meet with fondness and as a “must see”. We knew we wanted to spend the best part of a week in Florence, around Easter, so rolling up to a campsite at €28 pn (seems to be about the going rate) was just not going to happen, we had to find a free, safe spot, preferably with water. There is a huge car park listed in ‘Camping-car-infos’ just to the north of the city, a short ride into Florence and more importantly…free. It served us perfectly for 4 nights, then the football team next door wanted the car park back for a big game they had planned, so we had to move a little farther away. We were getting a little tired of the teenagers on 2-stroke 125cc off-road bikes screaming up & down practicing wheelies in the car park for 3 hours every night anyway, but it all quietened down by 11pm. So another quieter FREE car park was found. It turns out the outskirts of Florence are littered with MoHo’s and campervans, so no one seems to pay them any attention.
A few days before we set off for Florence, the water pump failed, Just when we thought we’d got it sorted, life throws you a ‘curve-ball’, a ‘spanner-in-the-works’ just to keep it interesting… lift the tap & all you get is a lifting an lowering tone ‘BZZZZZzzz’. The fuse feeding it finally fails and that’s the end of water on tap. Luckily enough we were at a free sosta (a MoHo service point, complete with electricity, whoo-hoo!) with a drinking water tap, so the only restriction is a shower. Via the power of the ‘tinter-web’, I managed to find a large MoHo dealer just to the south of Florence, we were incredibly lucky they had a compatible pump. A bit of jiggery-pokery, €80 lighter, the new pump was in and wet stuff was once more being forced out of the taps. Time to concentrate on Florence.
To be honest, other than it’s reputation as a ‘beautiful city’, I didn’t know many of the details about attractions in Florence. A quick Google/Wiki scan informed us of the basics, bell-tower, Cathedral, Baptistery, a famous bridge, heaps interesting churches and the birthplace of renaissance art. We’re not into ‘Painting’ art in a big way, that is to say, there are a few paintings we like, but renaissance is defiantly not our chosen genre. Angie likes watercolours of flowers and the countryside in summer, me, allsorts really but especially stuff like Gerald Scarfe…each to their own. All the other attractions sounded great, so time (again) to deploy the secret weapon (Frankie the Scoo-ped) and we hit the city.
One of the best things about having a scoo-ped is, you’re injected directly into wherever you want to be. So we set the controls for the heart of Florence and scoot down several one way roads, hopefully in the correct direction, straight into the heart of it all. The Cathedral area is pedestrianized zone, the surrounding streets rammed with small cars & scoo-peds, but we managed to squeeze in, only one street away. It’s early morning, the Tuesday before Easter & the place is brimming with likeminded tourists. I can’t remember the last time we saw this many people in one place before, possible last Easter in Seville? Tourist information confirmed that the queue for visiting the Cupola Dome (access to the Cathedral internal painted dome & outside) stretched till Tuesday of the following week, good job we weren’t too fussed about that, we’ll settle for a trip up the bell tower. An all-in ticket @ €15 covering the main attractions seemed good value , the Baptistery, the museum and the bell tower at 82m (414 steps…phew!). The Cathedral itself, free entry a plain affair with sporadic opening periods, the crypt downstairs with even stranger opening times, we never did manage to get in get in, never mind, we’ve been in enough Crypts to know we’re not missing much.
The bell-tower on the other hand is well worth the climb, its a the thigh-busting slog to the top, through an ever narrowing, claustrophobia inducing stairwell. There’s only one way up and down, such fun watching two ‘large people’ pass,… the view from the top is repayment enough.
It’s not till you get up here that you begin to realise what a feet of engineering this dome really is, dominating the skyline and visible from just about everywhere in Florence. Filippo Brunelleschi not only designed the dome and supervised its build, but also designed the hoists and cranes to assemble it, then it took a mere 50 years to stick it all up there. No mean feat back in 1420, some of the pieces weighing 3 tons and most of the lifting equipment made of wood. The Cathedral itself is still one of the largest Christian buildings in the world, taking a staggering 150 years to complete, rattling through 5 different architects and a couple of Popes. It’s amazing how much commitment they had back then, investing in a project that would take 2 or 3 life times to complete. Amazing structures, engineering & mathematical masterpieces, requiring much of the city’s resources, erected in the name of religion.
For 6 days we zoomed into Florence on Frankie, visiting different bits, we even stumbled upon an Irish bar, it’s a very nice city to stroll around in the sunshine.
Easter Sunday “The main Event”, a 500 year old cart is drawn by two white bulls into the main Cathedral area, lead by local football teams dressed in classical costume, where it’s ignited via a mechanical pigeon sent shooting out of the Cathedral. The actual story of the source of ignition is too ridiculous to repeat, but it makes for a dramatic spectacle.
Charlie’s Sleepover spots:
Panoramico Campsite, Fisole: North of Florence, €28, 1 night. n43.806943 e11.306092. Undulating, steepest site we’ve ever been to.
Florence, free car park, 4 nights. n43.780230 e11.28418. Noisy in early evening, quieting later. Water in the park.
Florence 2nd free car park, 2 nights. n43.7775 e11.30370. Quiet. Free.
Still half the weekend left…make the most of it. Enjoy XX Wayne.