June 17, 2011

Under the Tuscan sun (Day 7, 16 June)

It was a super hot day in Florence, no wonder there's that phrase 'Under the Tuscan sun'. I am 'chaotah' already!

We started the day with a walking tour, first stop was the Michaelangelo masterpiece, the statue of David located inside the Accademia.

We had a local guide who explained to us the history of the statue but as with a lot of Italian museums, no photos were allowed. Apparently not because of fear of damage from flashes but because of copyright issues.

The statue was very detailed, the muscles, veins, posture and after the explanation you come to appreciate how talented Michaelangelo was.

David done, we walked through town towards the cathedral and Duomo as well as Giotto's bell tower. The cathedral was another work of art with intricate carvings but we didn't go inside, can just imagine how spectacular it would have been on the inside.

Next was Piazza Signoria where there was a replica statue of David along with other sculptures. At least we got a photo with David there!

We were shown a leather demo next at a shop called Peruzzi, they had a whole bunch of leather stuff. Catering to groups, their prices were of course on the high side but I still bought a couple of things nonetheless, including an enamel silver pendant.

We left the rest of the group there and went to the Chanel spotted earlier at Piazza Signoria but the staff were snooty so I didn't bother browsing much.

We headed to Ponte Vecchio and I spotted a H&M nearby which we had no time to shop at. We walked along the river in search of a bus stop to bring us to Piazzale Michaelangelo, passing by the Uffizi and a bunch of lovers' padlocks along the way.

We ended up climbing up to Piazzale Michaelangelo when a guy I asked for directions to the bus-stop said we could walk. Mummy lagged behind and I went ahead.

It was a steep climb up, but the view was worth it. The sun was harsh, I got a Kiwi I chatted with on the way up to help take pictures of me. As the bus to town departed from the top, I went back down to persuade Ma to slowly climb up.

She stopped by the rose garden midway and then finally made it to the summit of the hill, where we saw a rare Contiki bus. It's been Insight and Trafalgar everywhere we go!

After her fill of pictures, we boarded the bus 13 to the central station Santa Maria Novella to make our way to Montervarchi, home of the Prada factory outlet.

We bought tickets from the tobacco shop for 4.80euro each, that allows you to travel up to 60km. I forgot to validate our tickets, but no one checked. We boarded the train bound for Arezzo at platform 13 and the train left promptly at 1.33pm.

It took almost an hour to reach Montevarchi, we passed by the stop for The Mall (Rignano sull'Arno) but figured we would do Prada first. Once we reached Montevarchi, I spotted a couple from Hong Kong and approached them to share a cab.

There were a couple waiting just outside the train station, a driver came out from a ice cream shop and took us to Lo Spaccio for 12 euros. I booked him to pick us up at 4pm and then had a bite with ma at the Space cafe. Prices were reasonable, paid 14 euros for a sandwich, salad, cake and water.

Then we took a queue number at the entrance of the store, this allows the staff to put aside the items you want under your number at the cashier.

The store was big, bigger than I expected and nicer too, set up just like a boutique, I was expecting a warehouse! Went straight into the bags, amazed at how cheap things were, from about 255euros onwards for nylon bags and 500plus for leather.

Because we were planning to go to The Mall, I didn't really stock up at Prada, something I regret now. Just bought 3 bags for myself, one that Aunty Irene requested and one was Ma's. Also grabbed a namecard holder for fun, but that was it.

The taxi picked us up promptly at 4pm, we were a bit confused about the train route. When I bought tickets, the lady told me platform 3 at 4.30pm. We were a little early and there was a train already waiting but we didn't think to check where it was headed.

After it left, we waited ages for the next train headed in the Florence direction and hopped onto it but it turned out to be an express one at 5.08pm that bypassed The Mall. Drat!

Oh well, that meant we had time to shop at H&M. I bought a few dresses and spent 100 euros. Then we rushed back to the hotel for the group dinner, the last ones to arrive. Made quite an entrance too, because of our 2 huge Space paperbags.

After dinner, the ladies wanted to see my purchases so I took them out. They oohed and ah-ed, some of them said that had they known there were outlets, they would have skipped the optional excursion to San Gimignano!

I just regret not buying more...shall have to come back to Florence again!

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