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Masterpieces of rock; A trip to Florence is a feast for all the senses combining fabulous food with world-famous art and musical icons at immense Firenze Rocks festival.

Byline: BRIAN MCIVER

In the morning, it was all about the paintings.

Spending hours in the company of Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo (dude!) and Boticelli, Florence is an art lover's delight.

In the evening, it was all about Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, and one of the great rock bands of all time.

Florence, home to the Uffizzi Gallery, the statue of David and the stunning Ponte Vecchio, a bridge crossing that is a work of art itself, is now also home to Firenze Rocks, one of the finest music festivals around.

This year's stellar line up included Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Prophets of Rage, Placebo, System of a Down and legendary rockers Aerosmith.

Held in a race track on the egde of the city, Firenze Rocks is a massive, incredibly well organised gathering.

But when it's held in a city hailed for its cultural output, it should be no surprise that they can do rock as well as they can do art.

The festival is also conveniently held in the evening, allowing visiting rock fans such as myself the chance to do some proper touristing around the city in daytime before taking the five-minute tram ride to the venue.

From Scotland, there are cheap flights from Edinburgh to nearby Bologna and from Prestwick to Pisa, with easy ongoing bus connections to Florence city centre, where there plenty of cheap hotels and hostels.

The cost of living isn't as cheap but for a weekend of the finest pizza, pasta and ice cream you can imagine, you'll be glad you saved on travel costs to properly indulge.

Day one, I put on the trainers and saw where my feet would take me, enjoying the delights of the Ponte Vecchio and its bustling shops, and the way every street and piazza is dotted with public art and statues.

I wandered by the Uffizzi Gallery.

There is so much art on its exterior, I could only wonder what lay inside. I'd booked tickets for day two, so instead wandered on to Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral and its towering Duomo, the massive dome in the middle of the city, and 463 stairs right up into the sky. Again, you must book in advance, so I ended up on neighbouring Campanile bell tower, with 414 steps around a winding staircase.

The views from the top are sensational and give you an idea of the scale and majesty of a city which is really just one large museum.

To see the David at the Galleria Academia, you must book well ahead, but the massive Uffizzi, reckoned to be one of the top two or three art galleries on earth, and filled with the amazing works of all four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle namesakes, is easier to get into.

I booked 24hrs before to skip the queue and it was definitely worth it. Allow hours to just wander and roam through the corridors.

Aside from the big-name galleries, make sure you allow time to see the city itself. Then you will have plent of time to get a good slot at the front of Firenze Rocks. On opening night, UK rockers Placebo made a triumphant second headlining appearance as part of their 20th anniversary tour, and Brian Molko led a vibrant mix of old and new hits, rounded off with a chilling take on Kate Bush's Running up that Hill.

Then it was time for the band some of us had been waiting 27 years to see - Boston icons Aerosmith.

Steven Tyler and Joe Perry have clearly made deals with the devil as their performing and efferverscence is as bright now, kicking 70, as ever. They belted out a world-class greatest hits set list.

Saturday's main event was a solo set from Pearl Jam's awesome singer Eddie Vedder, supported by Once star Glen Hansard. Vedder rocked an amazing succession of stripped down classics, with a teary version of Black reminding all of his recently lost pal Chris Cornell.

He did an amazing cover of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb, while Hansard backed him up on a noisy acoustic version of Neil Young's Rockin' in the Free World.

Things got heavier on Sunday, with metal band System of a Down top of the bill, but arguably a bigger draw was rock rap supergroup Prophets of Rage.

It was a fantastic festival. Food and drink weren't cheap but were better than the usual chips'n'cheese and curry sauce offerings, and many festival cities could learn from the infrastructure - the trams stayed open till well after the final act had finished to let everyone get home quickly and safely.

Firenze Rocks? It definitely does.

n Dates and ticket prices for Firenze Rocks will be announced later this year, visit www.firenzerocks.it n Ryanair flights from Edinburgh to Bologna cost from PS64.78pp return; flights from Prestwick to Pisa cost from PS52.18pp return.

pasta "It should be no surprise that Florence does rock as well as it can do art"

CAPTION(S):

ROCK GOD Steven Tyler of Aerosmith at Firenze

FEST VIEW Fans race to front of the stage

COOL CITY Florence boasts finest ice cream

GO WITH THE FLO Spend days wandering around beautiful Italian city of Florence
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 17, 2017
Words:869
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