A Few Days in Florence
Just when I thought I didn’t want to leave Rome, we arrived in Florence. Nestled near the Arno River, the small Italian city is buzzing with a much younger and trendier crowd. High fashion reigns in the city center, where the cobblestone streets are much quieter than the likes of Rome and Venice. There are excellent food options around every corner-- like the balsamic steak at Acqua Al 2 and the wine list at La Giostra-- not to mention the six-euro aperitivo at Decumanus Caffè.
Our first stop was the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Duomo. Below you can see just how close we were to the church, as we could pretty much spit on our apartment from the top of the dome! Completed in 1436, it is the largest brick dome ever to be built and remains one of the country’s largest churches. The façade takes your breath away, with the pink and green marble intricacies an ode to Mary. Though the interior is a bit bare and underwhelming compared to the outer façade, it is still cool to see the way that engineer Filippo Brunelleschi built the dome, which was the largest and most progressive of its kind at the time of construction.
Of course, we also had to climb to the top to get a view of the city. Tip- in order to access any of the church’s highest points (the dome or the neighboring bell tower), you have to purchase a ticket at the office DOWN THE STREET. It is just a few steps from the main entrance of the Duomo. It’s not tricky, but this map would’ve been nice to have before we traipsed all the way around the church. The climb to the top of the dome was DEFINITELY the hardest we’ve done so far. It took us about 20 minutes and is 463 steps up narrow, spiral staircases: the woman who came up after us fell to her knees once she reached the top and just kept panting “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU” while sweat glistened on her forehead, if that gives you any idea of the physical exercise required to reach the top. Though the view of Florence is worth it, I would not recommend the trip for people who are 1. Incapable of intense physical exertion and/or claustrophobic and 2. Deathly afraid of heights. On the top of the narrow platform, the only thing separating you from a plummet to your death is a thin, iron rail. For those of you who make the climb, GO AT SUNSET!
We also had the chance to visit the Accademia Gallery, which was built to house Michelangelo’s David. We got our tickets on arrival and entrance fees were fairly cheap. The coolest part about the museum is that the entire entryway leading up to David holds Michelangelo’s unfinished Prisoners sculptures, so it’s as if you’re walking through the artist’s sculpting process with each step towards David. There is an adjacent room filled with other smaller sculptures, but that’s about it. Once you see David in person, it is unbelievable to think the sculpture was once placed in the Palazzo della Signoria, a public square, where it symbolized Florence’s defiance and independence. I also need to mention our dinner after our Accademia visit, because the prosecco and charcuterie board we quite literally inhaled at Vagalume was one of the highlights of the trip. Of note: dinner in Florence does not start until at least 8:00 PM-- Vagalume didn't even start serving food until 7:00 PM-- and lunch is an affair that begins after 1:30PM. The best part about us going into all these restaurants at noon and 6:00 PM was that we never needed a reservation. The bad part? Everyone looked at us weird.
On our second day in Florence, we crossed the river to make the trek up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, or Michelangelo Square. With a 360-view of Florence, the small lookout also houses a bronze iteration of David and provides a stunning outlook over the city’s original outer wall and the Arno River. The pictures below will show you just how massive the Duomo really is! We arrived via the long staircase that starts at Piazza Giuseppe Poggi (once again, bring your walking shoes!), but we made our way back down to the city center on the winding road, Viale Michelangelo, while the rain fell softly. Each time we crossed back over Ponte Vecchio, the main bridge in Florence, we always stopped at the Gelateria Caffe delle Carrozze, which sits just off to the right of the bridge entrance-- by far the best gelato in town!
Our last day in Florence was spent on a day trip the Cinque Terre, a group of five seaside villages on the Italian coast. The pictures are too magnificent not to have their own blog post, which I’ll post next! Overall, Florence comes in at a close second to Rome on my list of favorite European cities. I love the photo below of the carousel that stood in one of the main squares, because it embodies so much of what Florence is about. Modernity within the historical, fashion-forward crowds milling amongst centuries-old arches. Florence has old city charm with its bridges over the Arno as well as the allure of its young cultural scene, from its bars and restaurants to its boutiques. Plus, it’s just a short trip away from Cinque Terre, the most picturesque city in all of Europe!
Tune in next for a post from Cinque Terre! Until then, friends!