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Palatial Florence

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For the entire 15th century the Medici family of Florence was the wealthiest dynasty in the world and their legacy can be seen in many of the imposing buildings including the Uffizi gallery and the Pitti Palace. Each of these palatial monuments contain a mind-blowing collection of the world's most valuable art and artifacts and visitors with limited time who attempt a double act in a day end up with spinning heads and sore feet. We have been before so knew the score. We planned carefully and had a programme starting at the Uffizi with Botticelli's Birth of Venus...

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Although we had booked in advance and had a timed entry ticket we constantly found ourselves at the back of the pack. The building itself is a work of art but difficult to appreciate through the crowds...

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And then a miracle occurred. An evacuation drill in the middle of our visit meant that everyone had to temporarily leave. We left, but timed our leaving so that we could be first to return. And what a difference...

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This is how Venus should be viewed...

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We also had clear views of all the other masterpieces until the crowds caught up...

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We were wise enough not to attempt the double act and the following day we crossed the River Arno to visit the Medici's enormous Pitti Palace. The Ponte Vecchio is still standing despite the enormous weight of all the gold in the dozens of jewellery shops that line either side of this medieval bridge...

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Anyone with a few days to spare could probably take in a good proportion of the treasures in the Pitti Palace, but would need another day or so just to appreciate the architecture and the magnificent ceilings...

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Florence was briefly the capital of a unified Italy from 1865 to 1870 and this was the opulent throne room in the Pitti Palace...

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Some sobering information before you book flights to Florence. Unlike London where all national galleries and museums are free, a combined Uffizi/Pitti Palace ticket normally costs $110 Cdn. for a couple and two small black coffees in the gallery cafe cost $17. However, just outside the Pitti Palace you can get a couple of small ham and cheese bagels and two coffees for only $39. Cdn. (In Uzbekistan we paid about $2.50 each for complete lunch).

However, not everything in Florence is ridiculously expensive. We are staying in a beautiful historic hotel in the Piazza Vittoria in the very centre of the city, the Pensione Pendini, where the beds are incredibly comfortable and the staff exceptionally attentive. This is Carlo Borghigiani, the manager, who not only welcomed all guests to breakfast each morning but insisted on making us a delicious Florentine breakfast of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes...

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From Carlo, the longtime manager, we learned that the 45 room hotel has been open since 1876 and in May of 1938 it was the centre of attention when the motorcade carrying Hitler and Mussolini swept across the Piazza in front of the hotel and passed through the giant archway overlooked by the elegant lounge...

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The streets and sights of Florence are heaving with tourists but the Pensione Pendini is an oasis of calm and we loved our time here.

Posted by Hawkson 00:43 Archived in Italy

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Comments

Oh I would love to visit the PItti Palace and have a coffee at the Ponte Vecchio and look at the jewellery there. Not that I would ever admit to that.

by Janet

Never tire of photos and the history of Florence. The history, rich colours, art works draw me in every time. The hotel must be an oasis away from the crowds.

by Sue Fitzwilson

Certainly not an English breakfast but trust you had a cup of potent Italian coffee with it (and maybe a biscotti chaser).
Amazing how you find these wonderful (bargain?) accommodations.

by R and B

Wonderful memories of the Uffizi. Nice to be reminded of the Pensione Pendini. Stayed there on two occasions. Weirdly an America ex CIA agent befriended at breakfast predicted Trump’s election some many months later! Found the historic photos lining the main hallway of the hotel and piazza really interesting.

by Tom

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