We had already walked back and forth across the Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno river early in the morning before the shops had opened, but now, with the gold and jewellery merchants having opened up the shutters, it was a different experience altogether. No one knows when a bridge was first built at this part of the river, but its history goes way back, possibly even to the Roman colony of Florentia in 59 B.C. Originally the bridge was made of wood, but it was washed away during a flood in the 12th Century and rebuilt with stone. The Arno rose up in the 14th Century and wrecked it again and it was rebuilt in 1345 to the design we see now.
In the 16th Century the private corridor over the bridge was built by Vasari for Cosimo de' Medici so he could come and go without having to mingle with the great unwashed. The corridor, which passes over the Arno and through various buildings along its way, is reportedly lined with great paintings and works of art which the public has only recently been able to have a look at. We would have liked to go through of course, but the waiting list is apparently two years long.
The day wouldn't have been complete without a good look inside the Duomo. For a modest fee we were able to go right up to the interior of the cupola (dome) and walk around a narrow viewing platform with the frescoes just above our heads. Then we started climbing, up steep steps and ladders, inbetween the cupola's doubled walls to emerge into the open air at the very top to great views of Florence. (On the way up we were, in effect, sandwiched between the outer wall of the cupola that you see from outside the Duomo, and the inner wall, on the underside of which are painted the frescoes.) It was quite a privilege to stand atop Brunelleschi's engineering masterpiece.
Before heading for the Accademia Gallery and the Master's most famous sculpture, we had to warm up with hot minestrone at Zio Gigi's restaurant a block from the Duomo.