After our time in Cinque Terre, David and I headed to Florence. Like Rome, I was incredibly excited to see Florence. Both cities were at the top of the list of places I needed to visit before I died. Like I’ve said before, most of my college studies were focused on the history and art of both cities. Before going to Italy, I couldn’t decide which one I was most excited to see, and after spending time in both cities, picking a favorite is difficult. Walking through the historical sites of Rome was unbelievable, while the art and beauty of Florence were breathtaking.
I’d always wanted to the Duomo, and suggested a hotel that was literally right next to it. David surprised me with a room with a view of the magnificent dome. Looking out our room from bed and seeing the Duomo towering over us was indescribable. Falling asleep with that view outside our window and waking up to it was something I will never forget. The location was also fantastic since the Duomo is basically the city center of Florence.
I had researched the best way to view the sites in Florence, and since we would be there for 3 nights, I decided to buy Firenze Cards. For 72€ a person you get access to almost every museum and site in Florence for 3 days, you get to skip the lines, and you get free wifi within the city so you can actually use your phone. It really was a fantastic deal, especially since I planned on dragging David to as many museums and sites as possible. The wifi was spotty at best, but we were there to experience the city, not play on our phones.
You will not believe the number of days one of my professors spent lecturing on Ghiberti’s doors of the Baptistry. I will admit, they were much bigger and impressive in person than I ever expected them to be. It was nearly impossible to even get close enough to get a picture due to the constant crowds surrounding the doors. I was lucky enough to get this picture early one morning before most of the other tourists had gathered and got this picture.
Our first day in Florence was a Monday, and we learned that on Monday, many museums are closed. We were lucky enough to find the Medici palace open, but it was really disappointing in my opinion. It hadn’t been maintained as a residence and instead was really just a bunch of big empty rooms with some art on the wall.
After the palace we headed over to San Lorenzo Market. It’s a huge outdoor market dealing mostly in leather goods and scarves. I had read that Florence was known for its leather and scarves, and I can see why. Some of the purses were absolutely beautiful with amazing leather and the assortment of colors and scarf designs was overwhelming. I couldn’t rationalize buying another purse but I did buy some gorgeous scarves. I cannot tell you how many locals I saw wearing scarves, and in so many different ways. It was a staple piece of everyone’s wardrobe.
Once David and I had seen everything there was to buy at the market, we headed south to the Ponte Vecchio. I have to say, walking over a bridge that was built in the 1300’s was surreal. It was everything I imagined it would be, with its little jewelry shops lining either side. If only I could have afforded some of their pieces.
David and I explored some more of the city on foot, and grabbed dinner at an amazing restaurant named Osteria dell’Olio where we had an amazing Tuscan Steak. I highly recommend it if you are ever in Florence. The next night David went back after I had called it a night, ordered the steak again, and did shots with the owner.
The next day, all of the Museums were opened so David and I took full advantage. Our first stop was the Accademia, the museum David was most excited to visit. After seeing all of Michelangelo’s art in the Vatican, David was really excited to see Michelangelo’s David. Being able to use our Firenze card to skip the line was fantastic because the regular line was ridicules.
I knew the David was big, but I had no idea just how big. It’s huge. I’d always assumed like the Sistine Chapel, it must be over-hyped. Once again Michelangelo proved me wrong. Standing in the presence of the artwork was breathtaking. In addition to the size, the detail he was able to create was astounding. It sounds cliche but he made marble look like a living person. The muscle and veins look like they are really just under the skin.
Next on our museum tour was the Basilica of San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapel. I specifically wanted to see the crypt where Lorenzo the Magnificent was entombed. Yes, again, I have a morbid fascination with crypts and tombs. The first stop in the basilica was the Chapel of the Princes. A lot of it was under renovation but it was still beautiful.
Then we ventured down into the crypt. Lorenzo de Medici and his brother Giuliano were interred together under this Madonna sculpture that was made by Michelangelo.
Next on the agenda was the Palazzo Vecchio. I was less interested in seeing the art, and more interested in seeing the building itself. I had the great idea that we should climb the tower. I am an idiot.
The stairway was tiny, but it was pretty incredible to be in a medieval building and seeing the old cells in the tower and the holes in the ground to pour boiling oil or other fluids on enemies in the event of an attack. The climb sucked, but was totally worth the view.
After the tower, we headed over to the Uffizi Gallery. It’s home to countless pieces of famous art, but there were only two I wanted to see. I’ve wanted to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera in person since the first time I saw them in a book. I can’t explain why, they just speak to me. I think they and the women they depict and beautiful. I suspect David was pretty happy I wasn’t going to drag him through the entire gallery, room by room, for the rest of the afternoon. He was also excited to finally see some artwork by DaVinci, which was in the room next to the Botticelli collection. The photos really don’t do the paintings or their vivid colors justice, but they were the best shots I could get.
After the gallery, I had hoped to go to the Boboli Gardens, but by the time we got out (the place is a maze and they make you wind through all of it to get out), we were tired and I was sick of being a tourist. I just wanted to walk the city and enjoy it instead of rushing off from site to site. We went back over the Ponte Vecchio, waked around, then headed back and explored some stores. There is a store that we saw in Rome that was also in Florence and Venice and I loved it. They had the cutest little gadgets that I never knew I needed. Every time we saw one of the stores we had to go in and play with everything.
There was also a really cute store where everything was 19€. They also had these adorable shirts by a cartoonist that I regret not buying. I wanted one you see in the window that said “chic” with the giraffes.
I regretted not getting one so badly, that before our train left for Venice, I got up super early, and walked to the store in hopes of picking one up. That’s when I was able to get the picture of the Baptistry doors. Unfortunately, Italian businesses open on their own obscure schedule, and nothing really opens before 10am or 11am. Walking around at 9am, you would have thought it was 6am in the US. The streets were dead. No wonder they call us workaholics. To kill time while waiting for the shops to open, I walked around and enjoyed the best cappuccino I had during our trip. I waited until 10:20 but the store still wasn’t open and I had to head back to the hotel so David and I could head for the train station.
If you go to Florence let me know so I can give you money to buy me a shirt!
Florence was all I had hoped it would be and more. Like I said, picking a favorite between Florence and Rome is really hard, but if I had to, I think I’d pick Florence. The city was just beautiful. David says without a doubt it was his favorite. I was so happy he ended up enjoying the art and was such a good sport about being dragged to see all the things I’d always wanted to see.
Our Hotel:Hotel Duomo – the rooms were updated, clean, and a good size. The bathroom was also pretty big by Italian standards and even had a bathtub. The view was phenomenal.
Best Restaurant: Osteria dell’Olio – the staff was the nicest we experienced in Italy. Get the steak, it is worth it.