After cycling through the hilltowns of Tuscany for a week on a VBT bike tour,
I spent 3 days sightseeing in Florence.
Click here for a report on the bike trip.
Continue below for some photos of Florence.
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The most impressive buildings in Florence are the Duomo (cathedral)
and its Campanile (bell tower).
Completed during the 15th century, the dome is almost 300 feet tall,
while the Campanile is slightly shorter.
Both are open to the public (for separate fees) and
give you great views of the city, the religious paintings inside,
and a glimpse at 15th century civil engineering techniques.
There are no elevators, so be prepared for about 460 stairs each
to climb these, but the views are worth the effort.
Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452 in the town of Vinci, just east of Florence.
In addition to being a great painter,
Leonardo was a prolific inventor and engineer.
A small museum near the Accademia displayed models based on Leonardo's drawings.
One of these drawings (apparently never actually built) was a bicycle
that looks very much like modern bicycles with a handlebar, seat,
spoked wheels, chain, and gears.
These drawings were some 400 years ahead of their time.
Other bicycle-related inventions include the gear and chain, cupped ball bearing,
and the ratchet.
Leonardo was apparently the Florence army's chief engineer during the war
with Siena. Other inventions in the museum included armored vehicles,
flying gliders, and various bombs.
The world's second most important bicycle race is the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy).
On the Sunday and Monday of my visit, the Giro rolled through Florence.
Ivan Basso (in the red and white Team CSC jersey) was Lance Armstrong's main
rival in the 2004 Tour de France.
After a great performance in Sunday's time trial, Basso jumped
up to second place overall in the Giro. In the first mountain stage,
a few days later, Basso would take the overall lead in the Giro.
At only 27 years old, Basso may be the future of pro cycling.
Lance Armstrong is not participating in the Giro, but his Discovery team is there;
led by former Giro winner Paolo Savoldelli. Savoldelli also did well in the time
trial, finishing in third place overall. Savoldelli is the only one to keep pace
with Basso in the mountains, moved up to second place a few days later.
Here is the Discovery team at the Monday morning race start.
Savoldelli is number 71.
The Monday stage started under the David statue (copy) at Piazzale Micheangelo
(near San Miniato).
That was my three days in Florence.
The old city is very compact and easy to get around on foot.
During the summer, however, the hot weather and crowds of tourists
might not be very pleasant.
During May, temperatures were generally in the pleasant 60s to low 70s F.