"Abandon all hope ye who enter here." – Dante Alighieri
This sinister quote from Dante's Inferno might begin to resonate with you should you find yourself visiting Florence unprepared. Especially, but not exclusively, on the Easter weekend. But let me backtrack a bit first.
The decision to do a short bout to Florence over the Easter weekend was rather easy. Some of our friends were planning a trip and asked if we want to join. When I asked Nikki I instantly got a hedonistic barrage of words like "wineries, tiramisu, wineries, pizza, wineries...", so it was decided, we booked the flights and accommodation and that was that.
People, People Everywhere
Unfortunately we did not do much else in terms of preparations. We also were not aware that Florence is subject to Easter processions, going back all the way to Da Vinci times.
Generally before you visit Florence, make sure to check the following:
- Book EVERYTHING before you get there. This includes any tours, entrance tickets and admission fees. Florence is beautiful, but it's completely and utterly overrun.
- When booking online (or in Florence itself, you poor bastard) make sure to only book with the official museums and tourism operators. This seems obvious, but believe me it's not. First of all the internet is literally polluted with third party operators, that present themselves as the official sellers. The prices they ask are around 3 to 4 times the actual prices. Same goes for ANYONE who offers to squeeze you into a tour in front of the museums, no matter how official they look.
- Be aware that there is more to see than the Palazzo Vecchio, the Dome or the the Uffizi.
- Whatever you do, do not eat the meaty burger-like snack called Lamperdotto, unless you know exactly what it is. Cause it's not what you think it is.
But back to our Italian Easter experience. We soon realized that there is gonna be some spectacle for Easter which will include a cart, cows, dressed up people and fireworks. We were not quite sure how it will all fit together and how it will go down, but we knew it was gonna happen in front of the Dome, and so we waited there. With another ten thousand people seemingly.
The amount of people that kept pouring into that square seemed to have no end to it. We were pressed against a building at the back of the crowd, and this being Italy, where rules and regulations are generally regarded as loose guidelines, I climbed up on the sill of a barred window to see what was going on.
There was a big cart being pulled by some cows, a marching army dressed in renaissance inspired garments, and an endless sea of people. OK. I got back down. We "decided" to stay for the fireworks (as if we had any choice), and every now then I would lift Nikki on my shoulders so she could see something and shoot some photos.
After a while a mass started and we got exited, maybe a tad too much. Nikki (sitting on my shoulders) started yelling:
"The pope is coming out!!"
"... Nikki that is not the pope, it's a priest, maybe a bishop (not that I could see anything, but I assumed that was a sane assumption)"
She couldn't hear me though and kept on.
"The pope is walking towards the cart, he waving the incense!"
"Nikki it's not the pope..."
She couldn't hear me. To be fair Nikki knew of course that was not the pope, but she sometimes gets exited like that, and I guess somewhere the Italy/Vatican/Church connection triggered something. People started to turn around and look at us. Oh well, sometimes you have to wear that stereotype like a boss.
"What's the pope doing now Nikks?"
"He's almost at the cart, I think it's gonna blow!"
But it didn't. I took another 40 minutes till that happened. I couldn't feel my shoulders by then. But when it happened, it was a firework alright and it went on for quite a while. I couldn't see all of it unfortunately, but hey, as compensation I got to admire the probably biggest phone exhibition I've seen in years... Crazy Italy.