Florence is magnificent: old and beautiful and calm. We wandered from the Piazza Santa Croce to the Palazzo Vecchio, eyes wide open, soaking it all in. (A gorgeous interactive map of Florence is here, with all of the splendid tourist stops in full panorama)
This is my favorite shop of the entire journey: Il Papiro. "Our items are produced following methods and procedures in the best tradition of Italian craftsmanship. The marbleized papers are hand decorated using the XVII century technique "a la cuve". The books and the other products are made with the papers we produce and the best traditionals materials. Our stationery and card are printed with great care using different techniques, on watermarked papers and card stock of excellent quality."
So for 4,00 € a completely dazzled person can own a "Corteo dei Magi" di Benozzo Gozzoli, size cm. 70x100 for your very own!
It's on my office wall at home in Texas, now, still glowing.
Florence is ancient, but much of the old city is not as blatantly militaristic as Rome can be. Many more basillicas and palaces than forts or walls. And not geared toward tourists like Venice, which, despite its charm and uniqueness, IS basically a tourist town. Florence is full of shops and piazzas and walkways and buildings with real purpose, political or finanical or spiritual or artistic. Museums and concert halls and chaples and libraries, all interspersed between tiny businesses, everything clean and quiet and busy.
Walking through the Uffizi Gallery walkways. The gallery has been open to visitors by request since the sixteenth century.
On the steps of the National Library: "The library was founded in 1714 when scholar Antonio Magliabechi bequeathed his entire collection of books, encompassing approximately 30,000 volumes, to the city of Florence. By 1743, it was required that a copy of every work published in Tuscany be submitted to the library. Originally known as the Magliabechiana, the library was opened to the public in 1747. Its holdings were combined with those of the Biblioteca Palatina in 1861, and by 1885, the library had been renamed as the National Central Library of Florence, or the BNCF. Since 1870, the library has collected copies of all Italian publications.Since 1935, the collections have been housed in a building designed by Cesare Bazzani and V. Mazzei, located along the Arno River in the quarter of Santa Croce. Before this, they were found in various rooms belonging to the Uffizi Gallery."
The library is still part of the old city, and not too far from a carousel, next to a plaza with hot chestnuts, hot mulled wine and enormous hot pretzels for sell:
There was a holiday fair in full swing on the steps of the Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross), with stalls set up under red-and white striped canvas awnings, selling hot and tasty food as well as toys, handmade gifts and tea. A man was creating huge soap bubbles, by waving his warms with these magical sticks. The bubbles were several feet across, quivering and shimmering and floating up the entire five story height of the basillica before bursting.
Florence is astonishing.