We took an early morning flight from London Stansted airport to Pisa from where we caught a train into Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station. It’s easy to transfer from Pisa airport to the train as the railway station is just outside the Arrivals Hall. Rail tickets are cheap in Italy and there is no need to book in advance. The journey into Florence takes less than an hour and soon we were entering the apartment we’d booked for the next few days which was a stones throw from the cathedral.
Our accommodation, the Palazzo dei Ciompi apartment was located in an historic 19th century building. We were fortunate to have a large, private roof terrace as the building only seemed to have two, so this would be nice to sit out on during our stay.
Soon we were ready to start exploring and our first stop was the Duomo (cathedral) with its magnificent 15th century terracotta tiled cupola, believed to be the largest masonry dome in the world. There was a short queue to enter the cathedral but this moved quickly, entrance to the main church is free but other areas such as the Belltower are chargeable. After admiring the stunning interior we headed off to the nearby Piazza della Signoria (the main square) dominated by the splendid Palazzo Vecchio (town hall). The square is large and full of life, we enjoyed afternoon tea in one of the cafes surrounding the square, sitting awhile sipping our drinks and people watching.
Continuing, we arrived at the picturesque Ponte Vecchio, the oldest of the bridges that cross the River Arno. The original wooden bridge was washed away in floods and its replacement was built in 1345.
It’s lined with tourist shops and was crowded with sightseers but viewed from a little further along the river it’s a delight.