On our fifth morning in Italy, we hopped on a high speed train for the ninety minute ride from Rome to Florence. After getting settled in our apartment, we headed out for some food and sightseeing. Sandwiches, gelato, and the Duomo, in that order.
Florence’s Duomo was constructed beginning in 1296, and the city’s main church has a much different feel than St. Peter’s in Rome. While much smaller, it is still immense, and covered in pink, white, and green marble.
I was struck by how different the church looked at night than it does during the day.
We climbed our second dome in as many days, walking up the 463 steps (no elevator!) to the top. The previous day’s climb to the top of the Basilica was a cake walk compared to this one; the Duomo’s steps are narrow, the ceilings are low, and we had to step aside often to let people going the opposite way through. We finally emerged to breathe in fresh air.
Once we took in the beautiful view from the top, I hated to go back down those steps with all the other sweaty tourists, but what can you do?
You can have another gelato. So we did.
We spent the rest of our first day wandering the city, which was refreshingly smaller and easier to navigate than the maze of Rome. We stopped by the Palazzo Vecchio, the symbol of Florence’s civic power for over 700 years.
Outside of the Palazzo is a replica of Michelangelo’s David. The original stood there from its creation in 1504 until 1873, when it was moved to its current home in the Accademia. I wonder how many tourists take a photo with the full-sized replica, thinking they are seeing the real thing.
We did see the real thing the next day, during our Day of Art. None of us are art aficionados, but when in Florence, one must see the great works of Renaissance art. In the morning we toured the Galleria dell’ Accademia, where the real David is the star.
Created between 1501 and 1504, the statue was originally supposed to be placed high on the Duomo. This may be why his right hand and head are disproportionately large, since he was to be viewed from a distance.
I was surprised by how this statue affected me; I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. Michelangelo took a cold piece of stone and turned it into a man who looks like he could step off the pedestal and walk out of the building.
Lining the hall leading up to David are partially finished sculptures by Michelangelo; you can see the marks from his chisel in the stone.
Even unfinished, the bodies appear to be climbing out of the rock.
In the afternoon, we checked in for our guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery, one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world. The kids weren’t dying to go, but I booked a tour so that we could get more out of the visit than cursory glances at seemingly random pieces of art. As we were waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, Gwen spotted Justin Tucker, the Baltimore Ravens’ kicker. He and his wife ended up being on our tour – what are the chances? We chatted with them for a few minutes before the tour, and they were both lovely. I’m sure my kids were more pumped about spending two hours with Justin than they were about seeing famous art.
While I’m glad we visited the Uffizi, I could have toured it in about half the time that we spent there. I can only see so many Madonna and Child pieces before my eyes start to glaze over. However, it was cool to see works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rafael, Rembrandt, and Botticelli – all names even I knew.
The building was built to house the offices of Florentine magistrates (uffizi means offices), and I thought the architecture was more stunning than most of the artwork.
We ended our Day of Art with a gorgeous sunset on Piazzale Michelangelo. The walk and climb was worth it to get this view of the Duomo and the city.
When the sun set, the crowd gathered in the Piazzale literally gasped and applauded.
On our last day in Florence, we had no reservations and no tours. After six days of nonstop sightseeing, it was wonderful to just wander with no destination. We shopped at the Leather School of Florence and walked over Ponte Vecchio to Oltarno (the part of Florence on the other side of the Arno River).
With the help of my trusty guidebook (on my phone), we found the Porta San Frediano. Part of the medieval walls of the city, the door was built between 1332 and 1334.
That is my family in front of the doors. I had to stand in the middle of the street to get this shot; Matt is making sure I don’t get run over by a car. The kids are wondering when I’m going to stop taking photos.
Thoughts on Florence
This was my favorite city in Italy. I can’t tell you exactly why; I just loved everything about it. While there were fewer attractions than Rome and Venice, I could spend weeks there just getting lost in the neighborhoods, restaurants, shops, and museums.
The gelato in Florence was the best we had in Italy. It was so good we had it six times in three days, and twice here:
Cumulative gelato count after one week: fourteen. And each one was worth it.
Next stop, Venice! Until then–