Thursday 5 November 2015


A brief message from Madam and myself

If you missed the clue in the title of the song, the travel duds (that dress sees me sail through security every time, leatherman an all) should serve as a clue that yes, we're off again

Half term, and so to Firenze.

Not the former Divination teacher who turned into a centaur and saved the day when he carried Harry Potter away from Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest

But Florence

Not the female lead in the Magic Roundabout who hung around with a dog on wheels and a spaced out rabbit (Kids, you may need to look this one up)

But the city of Florence, yes that's it, that's where we went, got back a few days ago, still a bit jetlagged and yes Mr Zebedee it may well be "time for bed"

The City of Florence we shall attend to presently, but first we went to Pisa, to take in the Tower, Duomo and Baptistry . I had visited thirty four years before on a school trip, the Wright brothers had yet to come up with the idea of motorised fixed wing flight and we undertook a two day coach journey to Rome (where stones were thrown at our coach during a transport strike), Florence and Pisa, where we spent half a day running up and down the tower free of charge, unsupervised, with every tier open to the public, safe in the knowledge that the small chain strung between each pillar would prevent any child falling off. We had a picnic on the grass at the bottom, pretty much had the place to ourselves and played football for half an hour with the odd wayward shot bouncing off the Duomo.

It's a little different now.

It would warm the heart of Il Duce to see the number of people undertaking the old salute, for what now passes as the international jape of having your photo taken while pretending to hold the tower up.

We had a go ourselves, and it was a lot of fun, but we may need to work a little on the punch line and possibly pick the right building, although none of the three buildings would bear up to a plumb line, it's just the tower that gets all the wonky plaudits.

After some fabulous pasta in the evening we climbed the sunshine mountain for some shuteye before boarding a two tier train to Firenze,

An hour on a train that hit speeds well over a hundred mile an hour, for the princely sum of eight euros.

Winchester to Waterloo, a similar journey, price £35,

For shame UK Rail Network, For shame!

During my previous visit to Florence I had ignored all that the Medici had put on for us, opting instead to watch a fishing match on the Arno. Our apartment was on the river so I was fairly confident that I could find the old girl's banks. Fifteen minutes later found us on the banks of the Arno, and a further five minutes on found us embedded, deep cover in our apartment just off the end of the Ponte Vecchio.

Fishing first, and I'm sorry Mr Medici you may work a good statue or church but I don't think you appreciated what you had on your hands here.

Prior research on the internet had been undertaken, and on our first night in what the lady who sleeps on my left had earlier described as "one of the most romantic cities she had ever visited", I found myself in a bar at a table piled high with fly boxes and terminal tackle talking fishing with a chap called Oliver.

Sorry Madam, L'amore must wait, there's fish need bothering here.

A life-long angler, Oliver graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English Literature but decided that Fishing was the future. Oliver sounded like my kind of guy and two hours before dawn the next day we met again with an armful of rods, for our morning on the river. I won't go into too many details because I have had to chuck up guff elsewhere, but highlights included:

many Zander caught just upstream from the Ponte Vecchio, sight fishing for wels catfish, fly fishing for wels catfish, the stunning bird life of the Arno,
the interesting plants that line the river,
a twenty two pound common carp on floating crust, the substantial catfish that vied with the carp for the crust, probing the offering with its eight inch long whiskers before the carp sucked the bait in, and an entertaining and knowledgeable host.

I don't normally do commerce or adverts but if you wish to find out more about fly fishing in the centre of Florence please visit

that's folks

Fishing done, and suitably showered, I had points to make up in the L'amore stakes, so it was off up to Piazza Michaelangelo on the other side of the river for liquid refreshment and a view of the city, and then on to the Uffizi and the parade of todgers that is the upstairs gallery with its many naked statues.

Vassari corridor next. Built by the Medici, in order that they could move between palaces without mixing with the masses,
it is undoubtedly a corridor, but now serves as an extension of the Uffizi art gallery. Mostly renaissance but also an extensive collection of self portraits. Linking Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the river Vassari's corridor, was built for a wedding in a matter of months,
it passes through the Uffizi, over the Ponte Vecchio, where Il Duce put in a picture window to give Hitler a better view when he popped in one afternoon, around a tower, whose occupiers wouldn't allow the Medici to knock it down for a straighter corridor (and well done for that by the way, these Medici's had some side!)
through a church (see previous note about Medici having some side)

and out into the spectacular Bobili gardens of Palazzo Pitti, a lumpen pile of bricks if ever I saw one..

At which point we'll break off.

The new Pottery programme is on in the next room and I'm sorry but they've lifted more than a few lines from Finbarr Saunders and his double entendres,

Bake Off do the same now and again, all that's missing is a Phnaar, Phnaar, Titter, Titter,

The Duomo next day, a building so big it is impossible to do it justice with a camera from the ground. So up the Campenile we went, the third floor in Debenhams gives me the willies, but wracked with guilt after my happy time fishing, I ascended the stairs. I'd been lured up a similar tower in Bologna while three parts foxed on Prosecco in search of the loo, but this was mid morning with only coffee and pastry onboard.

It's a narrow staircase up the campenile, which is used to both ascend and descend, because it's very old and they were all little fellas back in the day. Four floors up we were met by Chuck or possibly Jan, who was very wide and very tall, and acted as a rod would to a drain, as we were swept out into the street as Chuck/Jan made his descent.

At Thorpe Park little guys aren't allowed on the big rides, there's a line drawn as a guide to minimum height, it's not discriminatory it's for safety. At the base of the campanile, and other such dangerous towers there should be a door that you have to walk through without touching the sides before you are allowed to ascend...It's just a thought.

The Duomo is enormous, and I'll say it again, too big to photograph effectively from the ground. Inside is cavernous if a little underwhelming as much of the decor, including all of Donatello's and Michaelangelo's, handiwork has been moved to the museum at the edge of the square.

There were shops, of course, and we seem to have come home with an awful lot of leather.
The central part of the city is an outdoor gallery of sculpture, some original, some copies, some to impress, some to strike fear. In the street behind our apartment there was a more modern piece to mark the spot where the mafia blew up a Fiat full of explosives in the early 1990's, killing six, injuring forty eight and busting up the Uffizi in retribution for privileges being removed from some of their incarcerated contemporaries.

I don't mean to let daylight in upon magic, but I think we came across a future episode of Dr Who being filmed. Possibly a sequel to the one where statues creep up on their victims, there looked to be somebody dressed like a cyberman, although I could be wrong as we were in a particularly fashionable quarter where all dress sense was in danger of being lost.

There are some stunning buildings, and all draw a crowd, plus a maze of back streets in which I frequently lost all sense of direction, that or someone was moving the Duomo,

but as ever in Italy the provender on offer is always a highlight.

I can confirm that I like Chianti, and Madam has a taste for mid range Prosecco. The best Pizza in town was taken at an establishment that offered just six different types. Cutlery and cups were all plastic, tables were shared and people from many nations joined us at our table, because yes, we eat slowly on holiday.
The couple from California were a blast, although the stressed out Scandinavian who was fourth onto our table that seemed to operate as the house sin bin, and who took this photo, had spent the whole day in a dark room at his hotel, oblivious to all that the Medici had put on for us (hang on, haven't I heard that before somewhere) served as a signal to draw the night to a close, which I feel is betrayed in our eyes, although his wife was great fun.

Oliver had provided us with a few Trattoria to visit, all on the other side of the river from the Duomo, where prices are generally 20 euro cheaper on a meal for two, and we ate at our favourite three nights during our stay, I'll not list what we had here but we didn't have a duff meal all week.

Our flight home was delayed by four hours due to fog, I only fell out with two people at the airport, both younger than me who had become frustrated at my addled bumblings. Several flights were cancelled, and in a Brian Hanrahabn moment, ours was the last out of Pisa and the last into Gatwick.

It's a magnificent city that no longer holds fishing matches, and we plan to return.

Amo Firenze

Not you Centaur


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