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| p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Italy in the fall! Venice, Florence, Rome. |
Second the advice on getting an early start. I would especially suggest getting the earliest tours or entrances you could to the Vatican Museum, Uffizi Gallery, etc. St. Peter's wasn't quite as crushed by the crowds but it's huge. We did find that St. peter's Square was full of chairs the day we visited, a Tuesday, and am guessing that was in preparation for a Wednesday Papal audience but didn't ask. We also visited in the off season this last winter and were kind of surprised by the number of tourists in Florence and Rome. Be flexible, be aware of the potential for rain.
The historic center of Rome is bigger than that of Florence but we did all of our touring by foot in both city centers, aided by my daughter, in school in Florence at the time. A good map is essential and guide books very helpful. Preplanning using the internet is also very helpful. None of the churches we visited in Rome and Florence, except the Sistine Chapel, restricted photography but maybe they do restrict flash. I didn't try using flash, though. Nor did I try using a tripod or gorilla podding/clamping to pews, etc. Many of them were very dimly lit and good high iso performance, fast lenses, multiframe noise reduction type modes are all going to be helpful. It can be hard to tell some of the most popular churches/cathedrals are not secular museums at times, with the heavy tourist traffic.
There was a lot of scaffolding and work underway in both Florence and Rome. I guess that's part of being flexible. My daughter, studying in Florence, told us the scaffolding that surround the baptistry went up the day before we arrived. Accept that you can't see it all.
Here are a couple of suggestions. I don't know of any secrets, though. In Florence, my daughter and I climbed Giotto's Bell Tower but not the Duomo (she'd already done both). The Duomo climb is very strenuous and can be very claustrophobic, tight quarters, steep, lots of tourists, etc. The tower has several convenient "floors" which allow you to relax and get out of the stream of tourists easily and convenient viewing areas. The top gives pretty much the same views of the city and you look back to the dome. In the Duomo, you'd look back to the tower. I thought the golden hour lighting along the Arno was striking the times we were there for it and the view back across the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo was indeed magnificent. But it's not a secret and there were lots of people there for the sunset so arriving early if you want a good photo vantage is a good idea. Look up. Lots of architectural details along the corners and roof-lines. Then look down, the drivers aren't intentionally trying to run you down but...
In Rome, we visited two small churches which my daughter had studied in her her Arch classes which perhaps aren't quite as generally well known as many of the big tourist stops - both very close to the Quirinal Palace from which it's an easy walk to the Trevi Fountain. You can Google search them for directions, information, etc. The Church of Saint Andrew's at the Quirinal - Sant'Andrea al Quirinale and Saint Charles at the Four Fountains - San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.