Ah, Firenze. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth of the Arno, The breadth of thy hills, The height of thy Duomo... And simply for your abundance of gelato and stunning Renaissance gems.
If you ever have the chance to visit Florence, GO!!! I have a fabulous Airbnb recommendation for you.
For two months leading up to this trip, I immersed myself in the history of the city (of which I knew absolutely nothing), the Renaissance, Michelangelo, the Medici family... anything I could get my hands on, and it made all the difference. I fell in love before we even arrived. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone hooked me, and I came close to reading Blue Guide Florence cover to cover. More history book than guide book, this was my secret weapon to discovering the many treasures of Florence. There's nothing worse than standing in front of a building and having no clue what you're looking at. Amiright??
The award for most stunning goes to Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral church of Florence also known as the Duomo. Brunelleschi's dome is still the largest brick dome ever constructed. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Giotto's Campanile and the Baptistry, which are on church grounds. I mean look at this thing.
It's just massive. It looms over the city and is visible from almost everywhere. The entire exterior is marble, and the sculptures on the Campanile were by Donatello (originals have been moved to a museum). The interior could use some jazzing up... it's alarmingly empty when you step inside.
Santa Croce is a Renaissance goldmine. They charge an entrance fee, which you can avoid by going to mass. For over 500 years, monuments were erected in Santa Croce in honor of notable Florentines. Michelangelo, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Machiavelli, and Galileo are buried here. The frescoes on the altar wall and in the side chapels are remarkable - the most famous are by Giotto and his pupil Taddeo Gaddi. Donatello's famous crucifix is tucked away in a dark side chapel, and the stained glass windows are from the 14th century. A statue of Dante stands directly outside. It took 15 pages for my trusty Blue Guide to spell out the wonders of this church.
We had plans to see Michelangelo's David, but the line for the Galleria dell'Accademia was ridiculous and there are a few replicas positioned throughout the city. We visited the Uffizi Gallery, a must-do, and well worth the price of admission and skip-the-line fee. I'm not even going to try to list what's included in their collection. My head is still spinning. I couldn't resist documenting a few things (*cough* DaVinci) so if you're curious head over to my Flickr album.
Other highlights from this trip:
- Walking up to Piazzale Michelangelo and San Miniato for city views.
- Wandering the streets, visiting tiny street markets, practicing our rudimentary Italian with the friendly locals, soaking up the sun.
- The wine shop on our street selling liters of wine out of their giant vats for 3 euro.
- More affordable and better tasting food than Rome. Also, less aggressive selfie-stick salesmen.
- Overdosing on gelato... I honestly didn't see this coming. I didn't know it was possible. I'm SERIOUS. No puke, though, Mom and Dad! Best gelato EVER can be found at Gelateria la Carraia, not far from Ponte Vecchio. This is an official endorsement by someone who knows these things.
- Sparkling water from a fountain hidden away in Piazza della Signoria. Why is this not a thing in America?? Oh yeah, because people bathe their dogs in public water fountains (or at least they do in Chicago). Maybe I can install one of these in my house?
- Walking through the Holy Door in Santissima Annunziata.
- Google Translate fails.
- Stumbling upon a small, rarely open museum above Orsanmichele containing original sculptures by Donatello, Ghiberti, and others.
My pictures may be a bit church-heavy for some of you. I can't resist the architecture, marble, sculpture, frescoes... but even you non-religious readers would catch your breath when bumping into the Duomo.
Ok lovelies. Ciao for now. We're headed to London for a couple days next week and again the following weekend for a friend's engagement party.