My 4th travel and photo report and it is about Florence, Italy. It is a long one. Plenty of photos and experiences 🙂 We had a really great time in Florence. Despite the city was fully packed with tourists, we did get around very well. Thanks to our host, Gabrielle from Pension La Scala. A man that will stay in my memory forever. 🙂
The city of Florence.
We arrived by train (FrecchiaRossa high speed train) from Milano. The train station is located in the city center on walking distance of many hotels, restaurants and most of the important tourist attractions like the Duomo and Pont Vecchio. First: a note about the train: if you have read my post about Milano, you can read that we were quite frustrated. Finally, we made it on the Frecchiarossa and the train is a breeze. The train really goes 300 km/h, not all the time but most of the time its doing 250+ km/h. The ride from Milan to Florence took us about 2 hours. And the 10 euro p.p. surcharge over our Interrail Global passes was worth the money.
The city: Florence is an art city. You can see it from the moment you arrive. The capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, is home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. One of its most iconic sights is the Duomo, a cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome engineered by Brunelleschi and a bell tower by Giotto. The Galleria dell’Accademia displays Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture. The Uffizi Gallery exhibits Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and da Vinci’s “Annunciation.” The city looks more like an open air museum.
The city offers numerous painting and art galleries. Also near and around the many tourist hotspots, you can find people who create and sell their artwork on the spot. Especially round the Duomo many commercial painters offer their work on the street. The inner city of Florence offers a lot of shopping from budget to high end.
Florence attracts a high proportion of international travellers to Italy. The city is an active centre of art and culture, and organises periodical exhibitions and art festivals. Take for example the summer, when music, cinema, dance and theatre pour out onto the streets and into the squares. There are several outdoor cinemas to be found in Florence, one in the grounds of an old villa where the film is projected onto a screen on the facade of ta villa. Nearly all the squares are open in the summer months providing entertainment every evening along with refreshment and spectacular views of the surrounding buildings.
We visited Florence in September 2016. And it was packed. I mean packed. Full. What we heard is that June and July are better months to visit Florence. September is the month that many students come back from holidays and schools starting. What we also experienced is that everywhere we went, not only Florence, it was packed with Americans. A lot of them.
Walk. It’s the best way to discover the city. And if you can, go early. Round sunrise. Beautiful light, empty streets, great opportunities for photos. A nice way to discover Florence is to start walking with a map. No, no smartphone map, just a paper map. Instead of of looking at your phone all the time, you can see and experience the beauty of the city. The endless amount of small streets, one more nice, more beautiful, more atmosphere than the other. The numerous old buildings, the famous tourist sites like Duomo and Pont Vecchio. You will see numerous small trattoria’s, cafe’s, restaurants offering the best food and drinks of Italy. And all of them are so nicely styled. Many shops in other countries can learn something of how they style things in Florence.
At the train station, many busses stop there as well. For some parts of town, like Piazzale Michelangelo, it is better to take a bus up there and walk back if you like. A little story how we got there: we took a taxi up there for 20 euro’s. And back we took the bus (line 12) for 1,20 euro. 🙂 The bus ride back was nice (though he drove brutal, but that is what they do), we saw parts of the city that we haven’t seen before.
Once you start walking you notice how big the city is and how much there is to see. If you stop to make photos often, walking can be quite tiring. It is wise to find out how and where to take a bus to certain places. And were to get bus tickets…. Haha. Yes, bus tickets. You see busses but not one bus stop have a machine to sell tickets. Instead: you have to buy your bus ticket at the nearest Tabacchi (a shop that sells cigarettes, lottery, etc.) or, as we found out, at a parking meter. Make sure you have the exact amount of money. You also can get a ticket on the bus, but it costs more (80 cents more) and the drivers don’t have change. Another thing: make sure you get your bus ticket upfront. In Florence there are Tabacchi’s everywhere, but on the countryside not. And they close in the afternoon (from 13.00 to 16.00pm). Also they don’t have an unlimited stock of tickets, so it can be that a ticket selling point doesn’t have tickets anymore.
Traffic is a killer. Really. It really surprises me that there are not to many accidents. The way people drive there, amazing ! And the busses ! They go through the small streets !
Some say that Florence is more expensive. Our experience is that, for example, Como is way more expensive than Florence. In both accommodation and food. The choice is just way bigger. There are very nice little restaurants that offer a 2 course menu with a side dish for a fixed price ( 14 euro a person). They have a menu from which you can choose and combine a first course, second course and a side dish and that for 14 euro’s… are you reading this Switzerland ???
The Tuscany area around Florence is also nice to discover. My next posts will be about the surrounding area. Greve in Chianti by bus… and Siena. Stay tuned. 🙂
Photography: shooting sunset.
Due to the landscape/cityscape the city offers a great scenery for shooting sunsets. Wide angle lenses give you a good result. Anything from 12 to 24mm.
Any of the bridges. Piazzale Michelangelo, you don’t actually see the sunset but you see the cityscape and the coloured sky. Any place at the riverside between the bridges Ponte Amerigo Vespucci and Ponte alla Carraia. All photos below are shot from these locations.
Photography: Night shots.
Same as above. The bridges offer a great location to capture the scenery. For a night shot of the city, I think that the Piazzale Michelangelo would be the best. Bring a 70-200mm and a 24-70mm. With gradient ND. Around the city there are some elevated points offering a better location. Remember that you a further away from the city and need a long lens to capture the scenery. A very sturdy tripod is a must.
Note: It can be very busy at the bridges and also at Piazzale Michelangelo. The area at the bridges is very tight, so people bump into you and your gear. On my way to one of the bridges I have seen some buildings that you can enter, but not sure if you need to pay to get in or to get on one of the elevated terraces. But you can check it out 🙂
More info about Florence.
The links below provide some more info about Florence. And of course on the web you can find (nearly) anything you need to know about Florence.
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