Another late start. The snearkers didn’t hit concrete till 11 am. I hoped my luck would be better today when it came to crowds, but I knew I was kidding myself. I headed up the street to the Accademia Gallery where Michelangelo’s David statue is on display. As soon as I turn the corner, my optimism evaporates. It’s an endless line of people.
If you want a surefire way of knowing the entrance lines are going to take forever in Italy, it is the swarm of tour guides circling the tourist asking them if they want to skip the line. Every step you take another one takes a shot at getting you to sign up for their tour. Some pretend to be helpful to get you to stop and talk to them. They are a nuisance.
I decided to try another sight to see if I would have better luck. I head to the Duomo Gallery which to my surprise doesn’t have a line. The lady at the counter tells me they don’t sell tickets there and I’d have to go to the main ticket booth. I said “Rick Steves said you sell tickets here, so you must be mistaken.” Or at least that’s what I thought in my head as I was on my walk to the ticket counters two blocks away. Which, as luck would have it, also had a long line out the door. *insert swear words here*
I’m a glutton for punishment, so I decided to give the Uffizi a try. And guess what? Yup, long, long, lines there too. I was about ready to throw my Firenze card in the river and book the next plane out. Instead I decided to buy a liter of water and hike up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. It is a viewpoint across the river that is supposed to give the best views of Florence.
The hike takes you through the un-touristy part of the city across the river. It’s about a 30 minute hike uphill which includes a never ending set of stairs. I’m not sure exactly how many steps there are, I lost count at a bazillion.
It’s a good workout and the views at the top are worth it. For those that like the easy way, you can also take a taxi or bus to the top and save the sweating and potential coronary. The view is the same either way.
I take in the view, snap a few photos, and grab lunch at a nearby cafe overlooking Florence. My optimism improves as I sit and enjoy the warm weather.
I head back into town and decide to be productive and do some laundry. Life on the road isn’t all glamour. By the time I’m finished up it’s 3 pm and I’m ready to give the sights another try. The guide books said crowds should be lighter in the late afternoon.
I turn the corner by the Accademia Gallery and…no line. I walk up, flash the Firenze card and I’m right in. They should tell you to wait till the afternoon when you buy the darn thing.
The Accademia Gallery
I check out the statue of David. It is impressive and much larger than I imagined. I took the rest of the small tour around the gallery, but there really wasn’t anything else of interest. David is the big draw here. I would have spent more time waiting in line than in the gallery had I decided to wait it out in the morning crowds.
The Uffizi Museum
Next up was the Uffizi. And guess what? There were no lines here either and I walk right in. The museum has an amazing collection of Renaissance art that even a heathen like me can appreciate. I spend an hour or two touring the galleries looking at paintings and sculpture of some of the masters.
It’s here that I finalize my thesis that the smart phone camera and selfie are two of the worst things to happen to tourism and sightseeing. They are in close running for the top spot with those flag waving group tours that clog everything up. As I arrived at “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli, it was surrounded by people taking multiple pictures, selfies, and “look at me” photos, then walking off. They never even look at the painting, except through the screen on there camera.
I noticed it all over my travels. People are more interested in getting their picture next to something, than looking at it or experiencing it. I don’t understand that. Sure, I like to take pictures, but it’s about the experience first. Seeing it with my own eyes, then documenting it for memories. That being said, I got a picture of Venus too. If you can’t beat ’em…
The self guided tour ends near a deck right next to the clock tower on the Old Palace next door. I guess being on time wasn’t an issue back then, the clock only has an hour hand.
The Duomo Museum
The final stop was the Duomo Museum. This isn’t as well known or as touted as the first two museums, but I thought it was pretty darn cool. It has a large collection of sculptures that used to be in or on the various buildings – the Cathedral, the Baptistery, and the Bell Tower. The presentation of the artifacts is top notch.
That’s about all from Florence. It had some cool sightseeing but it was very crowded. I saw everything I wanted to see, plus a few extras. I was ready to move on to the next location – Rome.