Our apartment fronts on a little piazza with two open-air dining areas and a flower stall where folks sit along the perimeter benches or stand in knots to discuss the day's events. We thought they'd go home when midnight rolled around, but all night we heard shouting, breaking glass, cursing and the occasional police car careening through a side street.
When we set off the next morning, we saw carabinieri on the corner of our piazza, and hundreds of people clogging the street with their red flags and banners. It seemed to be a loosely organized parade of some sort, but David, not to be deterred, pushed on. We came upon the Santa Croce Church and there was no denying that something big was happening. The entire piazza was packed with people. We snapped some photos but kept walking. We had an appointment at the Uffizi, and we'd come a long way to see the world-famous art collection.
|Entrance to Uffizi|
We finally learned what was going on when we got to the museum. Italy's unions had organized the biggest all-day work stoppage in twenty years, and Florence hosted the most protesters of all. There would be no live TV broadcasts, no newspapers, no train, bus, taxi, or airplane traffic for the next eight hours.
No wonder the officials let us in the museum early. The usual number of tourists was absent because only foot-traffic had been able to navigate the streets. David and I were grateful we'd traveled by bus, train, and taxi on Thursday. If we'd tried to leave just one day later, we'd still be in Rome.
|View from Uffizi Window|
We were, I confess, feeling a bit smug about it all and congratulating ourselves on our timing as we wandered the halls of the great museum. We were not allowed to take photos, but the art left an indelible image in our minds.
Just as we were about to see the Rubens, the guard told us to get out. The museum was closing because of the strike.
We were herded along with the other guests to the downstairs entry area where David and I risked getting locked in the museum by taking a side trip to the restroom. After we got over our initial shock at being evicted, though, David and I decided we weren't willing to leave without a fight. Maybe we could get a pass to come back the next day when the strike was over. We'd come too far not to see everything this famous museum had to offer.
We approached the ticket booth to ask for two more tickets, but what we got was so much more. We got the entire museum to enjoy all by ourselves!
The clerk apologized for the “misunderstanding,” walked with us to the elevator, and told us to enjoy our visit.
We walked the upstairs hall. There were a dozen or so other patrons that afternoon of the strike, but all we saw were the Boticelli, Michelangelo, Titian, and Rubens masterpieces that seemed to be there just for us.
Unless you love waiting in lines for hours, you will want to buy your Uffizi Gallery tickets and any other museum tickets in advance from the official site.
We paid 30 euros toal for two tickets--22 euros for two tickets plus 8 euros for the advance order.