To get ahead of the surge of midday tourists, began our day with a climb to the top of the Duomo's signature dome...the very first Renaissance dome. Scaled 463 steps to the summit of Brunelleschi's masterpiece. Winding staircase straight up the walls of the Duomo, then along the inside rim of the dome past amazing stained glass windows and fantastic frescoes, and finally up narrow, slanting staircases until you're actually walking on top of the interior walls. Popped up (finally) through a floor panel. Met by cool breezes in the face and sweeping panoramas of Florence and the surrounding hills. Passed crowds on the way down...we chose the right time.
Simple pizza for lunch, then off to walk the gardens south of the Arno. Our first visit to the Giardino Bardini...with numerous flower gardends, winding hillside walkways, and high views of the river and the historic center beyond. A simple 17th-century villa sat perched at the top. The Duomo was warmly lit in the distance.
Our entrance ticket allowed us to continue into the adjoining Boboli Gardens...the famous gardens behind the grand Pitti Palace. Entered the Bobili after a quick tour of Forte Belvedere, an imposing fortification on the hilltop. The fort's ramparts and "ratholes" reminded of our trip to Germany...we know Keegan would have enjoyed this part.
Wound our way through the Boboli Gardens...tree lined paths leading to garden rooms with flowers or statues or fountains. At the rose garden at the top of the Boboli, we drank water from one of several continuous drinking fountains...this one saved us from dehydration on our last visit, a.k.a., the death march. Watched a heron fish for its dinner. Returned to the Pitti Palace to visit two galleries: the Galleria del Costume (our first visit to these ornate state apartments) and the Galleria d'Arte Moderna.
Dinner after a shower and much-needed respite. In the mood for pasta, so we returned to Baldovino. Fresh caprese and warm focaccia rabie. Two fine pasta dishes: spaghetti alla carbonara and gnocci with asparagus and bacon. Friday night drinks nearby. In one bar, watched the final 15 minutes of an American Idol type show but with Italian opera hopefulls. The Friday night crowds were out in force, and bars were full by 11. Pleasant temps outside; very warm inside...curiously, saw three people with heavy scarves...inside!! Cool Italian beers kept us refreshed.