Our plans for Florence – see all the great galleries and churches in four days – didn’t go quite according to my meticulously organised itinerary.
First stop on the morning of the 3rd May was to find the Tourist Office ‘Just down the road,’ according to the lovely Cristina, but with such a small sign we walked past it several times. Procuring two Firenze travel cards, the aim of our visit, took even more time as cash was the only acceptable payment. ATM’s don’t always work in the suburban streets of Florence, as we soon discovered, but about twenty minutes later, cashed up, we got our passes for three days with a warning from the man behind the counter. ‘Some galleries are closed today because of rolling strikes; possibly all this week.’
Stunned, I asked for more information. He didn’t want to phone any galleries because it wouldn’t help. ‘They can walk off at any moment,’ he warned, ‘but the Accademia is open until 2pm.’
Michaelangelo’s David was, of course, high on my list, so we set off on the first of many brisk walks around Florence. The front of the building was closed, with nothing to indicate where one should try to enter. Around the corner we found a long queue which didn’t seem to be moving, so I left Susanne in line and went to investigate. Down the road and around the next corner was another line and the entry for Firenze card holders. By this time 2pm was getting too close for further dallying. We politely but firmly made our way to the front of this line and were allowed into the building.
‘Where is the painting called Madonna of the Sea, by Botticelli?’ I asked our ticket inspectors. Three of them didn’t understand English, although I think they understood ‘Botticelli’ and wanted to direct me to another of his works.
After several attempts I was permitted to enter the closest gallery, only to discover an empty space where my favourite Botticelli should have been.
‘It’s in Paris, on lone,’ I was informed by a forth attendant when I returned to the ticket counter and my puzzled sister.