We spent eight days in Florence - it could have been a year.
It is awe inspiring in its spleandor, artworks and beauty. On
the first day we cycled to the Duomo and found that even in June
it was crowded with tourists. We saw a lady unlocking her bike
and Nili asked her "Dov'e la pista di bicicletta?" and
she answered "Speak English - I'm from California - I've
only been in Florence 15 years". She gave us lots of ideas,
where to go, what to do - "If you want to see Florence without
tourists come at 6:00 am - join the locals for a caffellatte and
a cornetto naturale and enjoy." We did just that, and enjoyed
- which is why most of the photos shown are devoid of tourists.
Even mighty Neptune and his bodyguard at the Piazza della Signoria
could relax a while from the crowds and contemplate Nili with
her strange "bici". Notice David, the Palazzo Vecchio,
and the Uffizi Galleries in the background.
Around the corner from the Piazza della Signoria is the Mercato Nouvo, where Nili was almost devoured by a wild boar! (only kidding).
Florence is an intricate city with many beautiful courtyards and piazzas - we were fortunate to have come across a delightful out of print book in the library called "Florencewalks" by Anne Holler without which we would not have come across the lovely wall monument to JFK in the tiny hidden Piazza del Giglio. In the limited time we were there with our "bici" we concentrated on things to see from the outside - luckily whenever we were lost there was always someone to point the way. For example, who would have known that the entrance to the University of Florida office was through the small hatch in the unmarked green door? Luckily there was a horse ring that we could hitch our "bici" to.
Of all the spectacular buildings of Florence, the Duomo must take first prize. Built of green and white marble it dwarfs everything in the area. We arrived as they opened and were among the first ones to climb the many hundreds of narrow steps to the copula - the upper deck outside the copula gave a wonderful birds eye view of Florence, and the inside of the copula gave us a very graphic rendering of the peaceful delights of heaven contrasted by the tortures of hell - definitely not the place to land up in... The beautiful bronze doors of the Badia (Baptistry) adjacent to the Duomo can only be truly appreciated in the early morning when not surrounded by hoards of tourists.
We made four day trips outside Florence. Fiesole is a lovely village up on a hill about five miles from the center of Florence, commanding beautiful views of Florence. It was not to easy to ride up the steep hill, in fact we had to walk our "bici" up the last mile, but ah..., the gelati at the top ... and the exhilarating ride back...
Siena and Lucca are both delightful places to visit. Both are accessible by train about an hour from Florence, and in Italy most of the trains have special compartments to take the "bici". Siena is built around a very large shell like piazza, and Lucca is surrounded by contiguous large wall which has a wide bike path on the top. Thus we could completely circumnavigate the old town.
Finally we decided to ride our bikes the 55 miles from Florence
to Pisa, to see the leaning tower. It seemed like an easy ride
down the Arno river valley, and we chose to go early Sunday morning
to avoid traffic. We were wrong on both counts. A strong headwind
accompanied us the entire route, so even though we left at 7:00
am we finally arrived at 3:00 pm. Many people choose Sunday to
drive to Pisa, and for much of the ride we were accompanied by
hundreds of bicycle racers in training all cheering us on as they
sailed by. The first view of the leaning tower
is breathtaking! We came one day after the official ceremony of
the saving of the tower, in which it has been stabilized for eternity
at the angle that it was in 1700. The tower is part of a complex
of beautiful white marble buildings set on large lush green lawns.
Notice the picnic bag on Nili's "bici". We had stocked up on various types of delicious focaccia the day before in Siena, just in case we would find everything closed on route on Sunday morning - we were glad we did, but everything was in fact open. We returned by train to Florence, and managed to arrive back at our convent before curfew - a wonderful finale to a wonderful "bici" vacation.