On our second of three days in Florence, we had originally planned to take a day trip to the beautiful hill-top town of Siena. It is one of my favorite small towns in Italy and I really wanted to show it to my parents. Here are some pictures from 2005:
But with the heat wave, we started to question the wisdom of this. Even if we got on a reasonably early bus, it would be over 90ºF by the time we got there, and highs were supposed to be closer to 100ºF. Without an apartment or hotel room to escape the heat, we were a bit concerned for our health.
Reluctantly, we crossed Siena off our itinerary and decided to focus on the markets of Florence instead. I briefly looked at the Uffizi reservation website, but same-day tickets were sold out and I had no desire to wait in a several hour line to get in.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Today, we slept in until 8:00am. Jet lag was basically gone and all of us were able to sleep to a normal time again. Even so, this was about as late as we wanted to wake up. With the intense heat, our pattern was to try and get up early, see something interesting, get a long lunch, then rest in our air conditioned accommodations until we were ready to brave the late afternoon or early evening heat again.
John made us some breakfast of eggs, fruit, and cereal. While Italian breakfasts of croissants and coffee are nice, none of us felt like seeking it out and were happy to make something from the grocery store. Plus, if you eat at a bakery, you only get reasonable prices if you stand up to eat. With low energy levels towards the end of the day, standing was not how we wanted to start our morning.
San Lorenzo Church
As we headed out, we passed quickly through the San Lorenzo market, making a note to come back later in the day. We did duck into the San Lorenzo Church, and admired all the artwork. These type of stops made me feel less bad about skipping the Uffizi.
We continued to the Duomo (Cathedral) and decided to see how long the line was to go in. As we walked, and walked, and walked, our estimate was that it would take about 2 hours to get in. As we stood in line for a few minutes, all of us agreed that the exterior was beautiful enough and we did not have a strong need to go in.
This decision was later affirmed when I talked to Jeremy and he reminded me that we were underwhelmed when we went in a decade ago and that it really wasn’t worth a long wait. It’s pretty on the inside, but after seeing St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and other churches around Italy, the wait really does seem a bit ridiculous and unnecessary.
My mom and I wanted to walk the exterior and examine it in more detail. The boys thought this was a horrible idea and talked their grandpa into taking them to a gelato shop. He readily agreed to that plan! So we parked them at a gelato shop table in the square and headed out.
As we walked around the exterior, my mom smelled smoke. Then we saw a police officer run by us! To our shock, one of the buildings near the ice cream shop had smoke pouring from the top.
Leaving my mom to make her own way, I ran back to where the boys were sitting. As of yet, they hadn’t seen the smoke. With the height of the building, it was really only visible from a distance.
After my mom caught up, we decided to head out before things got worse. Fortunately it ended up being a restaurant fire that was put out before it spread to any of the neighboring buildings. Sad for the restaurant, but at least it didn’t end like the Notre Dame.
On the way out, we stopped at one of the few public restrooms in Florence on the way. Make sure you note where all of these are on the map and take advantage of them as you pass them.
Ponte Vecchio Bridge
At this point, we decided to take a different street from the day before and head towards the Arno River. On the way, we passed a few art stands, then headed for the Ponte Vecchio bridge.
The bridge is lined on both sides by shops, so my parents were a bit surprised when they asked how much further the bridge was, and I told them that they were on the bridge. My mom and I admired the jewelry. John and my dad admired the Rolex watches.
Halfway down, there are some nice viewpoints.
The boys decided that they really wanted to eat on the square by the Uffizi. Given the heat, I was reluctant, but we found a place with some misters and decided to go with it. Given the location, the prices seemed quite reasonable, but after spending 4 euros for each water (with the heat, we were really thirsty), 4.50 euros for each soda, and 5 euros for each glass of wine, the bill was a little higher than I had hoped.
Drinks are always the gotcha in Italy. Tap water is hard to get and they rarely publish drink prices on the door menus, A large bottle of water is typically about the same price as a soda or a glass of wine. If you have water in your daypack, drink a bunch of it before you go in and you might save a little money.
If I am not looking for anything special, typically, I like to order from the tourist menu that includes an appetizer and/or desert, a main course, and a drink, but this restaurant didn’t have one, so everything was a la carte. I got the gnocchi pesto, which was quite good.
The mister was a bit spotty. John was sitting under a drip, and the far side of the table didn’t get much mist at all. Still, it was a nice view and we had a lot of fun.
The Walk to the Apartment
We decided to head back to the apartment. On the way, we stopped by the Mercato Nuovo and admired the different items for sale. Knowing that the San Lorenzo market was bigger, we decided just to look and if we didn’t find what we wanted later in the day, we could always come back.
As we continued, I decided to try a different bakery for my Ricciarelli cookies, but they ended up being dried out. Hopefully it was just a fluke. Everyone else was happy with their purchases.
San Lorenzo Market
My dad had little desire to wander with us at the San Lorenzo market, so he went back to the apartment to rest. My mom, the boys and I decided to look at all the delightful leather.
My mom and I found super cute purses, but one of the boys spoiled our bargaining and we ended up paying at least 5 euros more than I thought we should be able to get. “Mom, wasn’t that other purse at least 20 euros more? That seems like a good price to me! You should get it!” Umm, yeah.
Make sure you remind your kids to act disinterested and not to talk about prices that they heard at other stands. And tell them that if you walk away, it might just be a bargaining tactic that could get you a lower price. If you are right, they will call you back, if you are wrong, they will let you walk away. This is particularly important if you are buying something for the kids. You do not want them saying, “But mom, I really, really want this one, and only this one.”
And only talk about prices once you are ready to purchase. Once you have everything picked out, you are much more likely to get a better deal. Add-ons are only going to get the same price that you already agreed to. And have backup items. “Well, if I substitute this one, can I get a better price?”
James found a natural buffalo wallet that he really liked. The guy gave a demonstration on how you can use cream to get rid of any scratches on the leather.
Then, we decided that the boys needed new belts. First, we got a demonstration on the difference between genuine leather and cheap leather. The guy cut the buckles off to show us the inside. The genuine leather went all the way through, where the cheap leather was stuffed with some sort of fabric.
Next, he showed the boys how to resize the belts. He simply cut off the buckle of the one they wanted, fitted it to each of them, then reattached it and made sure it had the right number of holes to tighten/loosen the belt. Very fascinating.
We were all tired, so we decided to head back. It was 4pm and we decided that we were done for the day. John and I did go back out to the grocery store to pick up some juice, cocoa powder (the boys didn’t like the milk), and some fruit, but otherwise, all of us just wanted to spend the evening relaxing. The heat is really draining.
John had a few leftover ingredients from the night before, so this time he decided to make “ham and cheese bruschetta,” which was a fried slice of ham topped with a piece of tortilla, then covered with cheese. Quite good. With the amount of food we have been eating for lunch, we found that 1 tortilla split between all 5 of us was plenty. Plus we had our desserts.