I had wanted to go to the top of the Duomo, and we got in the long, slow line to do so. As we were standing on the hard bricks, getting hotter by the minute, we noticed across the plaza, people walking right inside the base of the Campanile. And its top had a great vantage point also ... so a change of plan. Up we climbed, 276 feet on steep, deep steps in narrow stairwells. A bit tiring, and some people were gasping for breath. But what a vista once we arrived on top. [Duomo panoramic]

[more views from campanile]

OK, the legs were starting to tire, but on we pressed. The lines to get into the Uffizi were too long, but right nearby was the Museo di Storia della Scienza. It was an incredible collection of historic scientific instruments, like compasses, telescopes (some of Galileo's), globes, weather measuring stuff, chemistry and medical items, and a lot more. Very impressive and no crowds.

We made the long walk back to the hotel, rested for a while, then got antsy again (well, me anyway). We needed another vista fix, so walked up to Piazza Michelangelo once more. [Piazza panoramic]

Our last day in Firenze and still so much to do ... we gave ourselves a break and took a cab back to San Lorenzo. There were several different parts of the cathedral and grounds to see ... and more of Michelangelo's genius to appreciate. Going in the dome end (smaller and similar to the Duomo), we visited the Medici mausoleum, lavishly decorated with marble. Then, another thrilling experience — we got a close-up look at the Medici tombs. Michelangelo began work on these in 1520. Here are some views from postcards. You might think after all the great works we'd already seen, we would be blasé about seeing more. I'm happy to say, no, not even close. But I won't gush any more ...

We had to go outside and around the cathedral to the opposite end, then through a courtyard and garden to visit the Biblioteca Medicio-Laurenziana. Yet another entry fee, and we were inside. This area was a showcase for Michelangelo's talent as an architect. The staircase is so unusual and elegant; he also designed the desks and ceiling. There were many huge books on display with pages of hand-written and -drawn manuscripts, several centuries old.

Now then, there we were in the middle of Firenze's famous leather goods marketplace. What should we do? Sandals! — we both had to have Italian sandals. We got some nice pairs. And amidst all the leather we found something we really needed: a large duffel bag to carry all the new things home.

We crossed the Ponte Vecchio to the south side of Florence and were soon in front of the huge Palazzo Pitti, the main residence of the Medici family after 1550. We didn't go into the palace (filled with Medici art collections), but through the inner courtyard to the Boboli Gardens. An amazing complex of sculpted gardens — hedges planted and trimmed into intricate geometric patterns on a giant scale. There are classical statues amongst the greenery, fountains, ponds, and an outdoor amphitheatre. I loved the wide, long Viottolone — an impressive "avenue" lined with huge cypress and pine trees. There are also nice views of Florence from high ground — it's a beautiful, peaceful place. [Boboli panoramic]

It was now mid-afternoon, time to fish or cut bait: would we head back to the hotel and relax or make another try at getting into the Uffizi, one of the top art museums in the world? Can you guess?

It took over an hour, but we finally made it, we were seeing the amazing collection of the Uffizi. Some of the greatest works of Botticelli (Birth of Venus), Leonardo da Vinci (Adoration of the Magi), and many others by Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt ... well, you get the idea. Paintings I'd studied years before, come to life. What an art history lesson. And my hero Michelangelo was well-represented by his neat Tondo Doni (love her arms). One complaint: several of the best-known paintings had a glass pane in front of them, for some kind of protection, I guess. A real shame. It was hard to fully appreciate them because they were partly obscured by reflections.

Then, it was really time to face facts: our time in Firenze and Italia was coming to an end. We trudged back to the hotel for the last time. Then walked to a neighborhood trattoria recommended by the hotel manager — it turned out to be a warm, family-run business, great food.

We flew out the next morning, over the Alps, to Brussels, then on to Boston. It was with a feeling of great satisfaction and peace that I left. We had been so enriched, so lucky to have been in Italia.

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