Weekend in Florence

On Friday drove to Florence for the weekend. Had been planning to do it for 3 years as our friend Peter lives there and another friend Desi lives near Florence.

Rain had been forecast for Friday and Saturday but the met office got it wrong again – we had fantastic weather. Having been to Florence before we only went to a few “tourist sites”. The one we definitely wanted to see again was the Medici Palace which has a chapel frescoed by Gozzoli – illustrating the Procession of the Magi.

medici chapel courtyard medici palace

The palace is never crowded and there is no queing to see the masterpiece and like all masterpieces it never disappoints. Wandering round the palace we walked into an enclosed courtyard which had great vases of orange trees all in blossom. The scent was incredible – almost worth the entrance fee. It was also a great contrast to the botanic gardens which we went to later. They were a complete disappointment. Hedges unclipped, beds full of weeds and certainly not worth the 6 euros entrance fee.

In the past we haven’t eaten well in Florence. This time it was different as we had been recommended an osteria by friends in San Giorgio and Peter knew of some places popular with local people. In both places we arrived about 8.00 and were surrounded by other tourists. But by 9.00 the clientele had changed and the Italians had begun to arrive. 

On Sunday we went out to visit Desi and Lorenzo who have a lovely house in the country. She put on a splendid lunch and we then sat in the garden for the afternoon chatting with them and other guests.

desi’s house Desi’s garden

The all thought that Florence had changed drastically and rapidly over the last few years. Small craft shops have been closed as taxes have increase. The central market full of shops and stalls run by West and North Africans.  They all felt it was grubbier and less elegant than before. Walking round Florence it was difficult not to agree with them. It seems that no money is being spend on maintaining buildings and everything is rather down at heel. Our hotel was just outside the historic centre and some of the 19th century villas had been “done up”. It was an indication of how beautiful Florence could be.

On Monday we decided to return from Florence via Perugia as we had heard of a large garden centre near Chiusi. We were not disappointed. Had a vast stock, covers a vast area. you tell them the plants you want to see and they then drive you around in an electric golf cart, stopping at appropriate places to select your plants. For the really wealthy they even have an area for parking a helicopter. We bought our plants and drove off in our Clio 1.2.

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