What makes Florence so special?

The cathedral in Florence

Florence! Firenze! The highly praised cradle of renaissance - what one has heard and read about this city!

Ido unloads us in the city centre after he has paid the bus-tax of 230 €. It is ten o'clock. The compulsory local guide waits for us at the unload-spot behind San Marco, and our shepherds lead us to the San Lorenzo church for a culture-injection in the Medicis' chapel.

There are marble statues by Michelangelo and shrines with decorated bones. Michelangelo must have made the sculptures before he had ever seen a naked woman, because the stony girls have abdomens like male athletes and their breasts are so far apart they almost point sideways.

The pompous chapel is being restored and the scaffolds are black pipes with golden joints - I have never seen such impressive scaffolds! TG delivers his speech sotto voce, and then we have 20 minutes on our own to admire the place. I hastily admire the rest room and exit to the piazza outside where there are live people with a normal anatomy.

We pass the cathedral with the impressive dome, Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio before we are released. We have passed countless tourists and hawkers and have been very alert, because TG has warned us that there are more pickpockets here than in Rome or Palermo. I believe him: there are really many tourists here and they offer the perfect hunting ground for pickpockets.

On our own

Helle and I immediately turn our backs on the city centre - we want to escape the crowd and soon find a café with reasonable prices. We get espressi standing at the bar and two take away panini for 5.6 €. Later Nina from Norway tells us that at the café they visited a Baily (sitting at a table) was 11 €. Sore feet can be expensive.

We eat our sandwiches at Piazza Reppublica where an excellent classical guitarist entertains. We have absolutely no intentions to wait for hours in a line to see a museum no matter how excellent the art may be. We just want to kill time and get some impressions in a pleasant way.

Piazza Pieri Maggiore in Florence

So at random we pass the cathedral walking east. Streets and houses are dull and there is certainly no atmosphere here, but suddenly we are on a cosy square, Piazza Pieri Maggiore.

Here is a café and they should not be blamed for serving sushi. There is also a vegetable store and a butcher and the square is teeming with local life.

We settle outside the café and get espressi and water. It is nice to sit and watch life pass by. Locals shop in the vegetable store or at the butcher's behind it. A couple of policemen talk peacefully with a driver who uses his arms a lot, and people pass by with shopping bags on their way home to lunch. A couple of very gay Italian gays sit down at the next table for refreshments.

I write a postcard, and we pay a visit to the renaissance cellars and the not so clean toilet. There is a limit to how much coffee and water one can drink, so we leave and get on.

The cosy atmosphere continues for a short while with useful shops, but then it stops abruptly; everything gets dull again and we walk aimlessly until we find an Internet café where we can check email and get news from home.

There is an expensive water hole at Piazza San Marco not far from the pick-up point. We sit down expecting to kill time in comfort, but alas they close after just 10 minutes.

Pidgeons and sparrows in Florence

So we retire to the island in the middle of the square, where people rest on benches. Tousled pidgeons and sparrows hang out here living from the occasional crumb. Finally Ido arrives with the bus at half past four.

Florence is a big city and there are probably nice oases where you do not get ripped off, but we did not find them. To us the city was monumental in every way: monumentally dull, monumentally expensive and monumentally crowded by tourists.

For those willing to wait for hours to get inside the famous museums it is probably a treasure throve, but to us it was as exciting as last week's weather forecast, and had we known, we would have preferred to explore Montecatini Terme.

Tonight Boston's menu is pasta and pork chops a la Milanese. Helle has chosen fish instead. We had to choose this morning at breakfast. The pasta is all right, but the rest is lousy. With her fish Helle gets chips - 8 soggy specimens.

The dessert is some kind of dry cake from the freezer with crème or ice. I see nobody eat it. We regret bitterly that we did not find a place on our own.

Down on the corner we have a cup of coffee and something for comfort and enjoy the merry company of Solveig and Nina.