We left Bologna for Florence full of plans for our cruise to Greece and the Greek Isles, never imagining that it wouldn’t happen.

One of the many beautiful gates we saw

We made one very big mistake by getting on to the wrong train. We were waiting on the platform for the train to Florence with the tickets bearing our seat numbers. As it was a high-speed train, we had to book seats and when one does that with a Eurail Pass there is usually a cost to them. We saw the train come into the station, made sure we got into the correct carriage and sought out our seats, only to find them occupied. By the time that we realised that we  had got on to the train going directly to Rome and the people in ‘our’ seats were really in their seats it was too late. Very embarrassing. Fortunately, the train conductor was very understanding and found us seats on this train and arranged for us to catch a train with our current seat bookings back to Florence.

Having arrived safely in Florence and with good directions having been given, we found our hotel quite easily, just a 10min walk from the station. It was in a 15th Century building and so did not have a lift and the stairs were quite steep. It was worth climb as the welcome was friendly and the facilities excellent. Breakfast was very good with a wide variety of foods.

We decided to use the hop on/hop off bus once again for our day in Florence as it was conveniently situated at the station and our hotel was a fair distance from the centre of town itself. It was a bit of a disappointment, though, as the sound to describe the places and buildings being passed was rather poor and quite limited. Certainly not of the quality to which we were accustomed in other cities and countries. Also, we soon discovered that the stops were usually far from the attraction suggested for a visit.

We got off at the first stop as we had passed an attractive-looking park which had been recommended by the commentator. We wanted to take a closer look and this was when we first discovered how far the stop was from the park. We decided not to walk all the way back to the park but as we wandered around the area until the next bus arrived, we saw the beautiful gardens and a cute fountain of one of the many villas. Florence was definitely the most aesthetically beautiful cities that we visited. Parked near the stop was a small car which my husband was quite pleased to see. It didn’t look particularly interesting to me, but he has since informed me that it was a Ligier, which was a F1 racing team from 1976-1996.

Fountain in the garden of a villa
The Ligier car

On the way to the next stop, we passed a cemetery on a hill above the road and were informed that the author and poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. We also passed a park with a very delicate looking fountain.

Rather unkempt cemetery where Elizabeth Barrett-Browning is buried

The next stop at which we alighted was that of a large church set well back from the road. Once again, the bus stopped a long way down the busy, narrow road from the Church making the walk back something of a test. We got there safely, stopping at one of the many gift stalls to purchase a ceramic thimble for a friend. In front of the church a stage and seating were being erected. This seemed to be a common activity in the cities of Italy as we had seen this in Rome, Bari, Bologna and Florence.

As we approached the church, which we learnt was the Basilica Santa Croce, we admired its beautiful façade of polychrome marble. The Basilica was built during the late 13th Century at the behest of St Francis of Assisi for the Franciscan monks. It is the burial place of many of the those known as the great and good of Florence, including Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli and Gallileo. There is a Sarcophgus for Dante, who was a Florentine and was exiled from there, so it is empty. What they do have for him is a large statue on one corner of the building. As was the case at so many other places, there was a long queue waiting to enter the Basilica and having only 1 day in Florence and, we were told, one needs a minimum of 2 hours to truly appreciate the church.

Basilica Santa Croce
Statue of Dante

From the Basilica we were taken to Michelangelo Piazzalo (Square), high on a hill above the town. This was the best stop of all even though it was very busy. The views over Florence were spectacular with the Arno River flowing through the centre of town. The oldest bridge in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio, is clearly visible from the square.

View showing the Arno River and Ponte Vecchio Bridge
View over the city

Also, seen across the river from the square is the Cathedral of Florence, the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore. It was built in the late 13th Century but its very large and distinctive dome was only added 200 years later and it was only when this was completed that the Duomo was consecrated.

Dominating the square itself, is a copy Michelangelo’s original marble statue of David which stands 17ft or just over 5m tall was sculpted in the mid-15th Century.  It was originally commissioned to be placed, with other Biblical prophets, high up on the Cathedral but it was considered too incredible to be so high up that it was placed outside, in Piazza della Sigoria. In 1873, it was moved to the Galleria dell’Academia as it was showing signs of cracking. Two copies were made in bronze, one to replace the original and the other placed in Michelangelo Square.

Statue of David

Beside the Square is Giardino dell Iris or Iris Garden and through donations this garden has over 1500 species of Iris. The Iris has been the symbol of Florence for more than 1000 years.

View of part of the Iris Garden

From the Square we decided to follow another a couple down some stairs to the lower road as we understood that they went through a park. The stairs were steep and there were sections of only bank, no stairs and there was definitely not a park in the regular sense of the word. At the very bottom where we came to the road we found some beautiful villas which we admired while waiting for the bus which took us back to the station.

The steps we descended

During the evening before I had been reading a book on the San Lorenzo family and learnt that there was a very popular outdoor market bearing their name. We were surprised to learn that the bus did not stop there on the way.

Part of the San Lorenzo Market

On our way back to the bus stop, from the Basilica, we remembered that, before we could board the ship to Greece, we had to produce a negative Covid test certificate no more than 48 hours old. We both felt fit and well and considered being tested no more than a formality. We came across a pharmacy which was doing Rapid Antigen Tests and had ours done. To our absolute shock and. disbelief, we were told that we were both positive. To cut a long story short, on electronically submitting the results that evening as requested, we received an instant response, “Boarding denied.” This resulted in our contacting our travel agent back home who, incredibly managed to get us a flight back to SA the following evening.

A very disappointing end to a wonderful day in the beautiful city of Florence.

Oleanders were in flower all over Italy