The Duomo: Wow, magnificent from the outside, it is the focal point of Florence. We saw it flying into the city and were blown away by it’s sheer size. What is most surprising however about the Duomo is that it is rather bland on the inside (nothing like the stupendous Duomo in Siena). The ceiling is the highlight. The Duomo has a tower that can be climbed. But instead, I’d recommend that you climb the Campanile which has the better views (see below).
The Campanile: the tower right next to the dome is really worth climbing for great views. The views are more impressive than those from the Duomo (because you can look out over the Duomo from the campanile). It is also a more pleasant experience – less people, larger passageways, airier. You can get to the top in half the time it takes to climb up the Duomo. A must-do in Florence for the fantastic views.
I just summarized in 2 short paragraphs what took an entire afternoon to line up for and climb.
Below: the ceiling of the Duomo
We had a tour the next day. Taste Florence has a 4 hour walking tour around the center of Florence. We met up with our guide Christina at the St. Lorenzo church. We spent the first 2 hours exploring the St. Lorenzo market where we sampled Olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Christina explained everything; the processes involved, the various denominations of quality, the strict controls of the Italian food industry, the marketing of Italian products overseas. We always knew Italians loved their food and wine, but it is amazing to what point the Italian authorities go to control quality. Let’s face it, Italians are known to have a very relaxed attitude about things; they park their cars on sidewalks (sometimes facing the opposite way from which they came), they don’t care so much about cleanliness or organization (see Italian trains for perfect examples of both these points). But when it comes to food and wine everything is regulated and monitored to an incredible degree.
Above – St. Lorenzo church and outdoor market.
After 2 hours at the St. Lorenzo market, we continued on to a Gelato shop close to the duomo where we sampled 5 different kinds of gelato. Then the highlight: wine tasting. Again, Christina explained the different wine making regions of Italy and the various denominations, she really knows her stuff.
Overall, an excellent tour, I would recommend it to anyone. A food tour, either organized or on your own (you can visit the Lorenzo market by yourself if on a tighter budget) is another ‘must’ in Florence.
It was a beautiful day and we took advantage to see the Ponte Vecchio, the famous old bridge (described as “Europe’s oldest wholly-stone, closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge”).
Below: Our first glimpse of the Ponte Vecchio.
I had saved the museums for the last full day in Florence. I don’t particularly like going to museums. Too many people. I hate shuffling around with hordes of people. One of the things I constantly said in Italy was “ah shit, look, there’s hordes of people in line” or “oh no, more hordes” which always got a response from Lissette because it sounded like “whores” more than “hordes” coming out of my mouth. She was still also getting sick of me talking like an Italian which I mentioned in an earlier post. When you hear people talking a certain way you sometimes unintentionally pick up a few mannerisms. So somehow, somewhere along this trip, I ended up being the guy articulating with his hands while saying stuff like “mama mia, looka da whores, dey all ova da place. Eh!”. It wasn’t cool with Lissette.
I had pre-bought tickets at both the Academia (where Michelangelo’s David is) and the Uffizi which is one of the oldest and most famous museums in the world. As expected, there were hordes. I can sum up our museum day in a couple of short lines. 1. The Academia. Statue of David is impressive, bigger in person then I imagined. The detail is very impressive, his hands and feet seem a little large in relation. There were a lot of other sculptures in the museum but a lot just looked like discarded heads, bodies, and arms (kind of like the leftovers from a KFC meal). 2. The Uffizi. We did the express tour and managed it in less than an hour. I know it’s supposed to be famous and all, but I honestly wasn’t that impressed. I had been much more impressed in Venice seeing the huge frescos in the Doge’s palace. Even the Alte Pinakothek in Munich impressed me more. But what made it thoroughly unenjoyable for us was the layout of the Uffizi, small rooms and corridors with those hordes of people. It felt claustrophobic. .
We walked up to Piazza Michelangelo for great views over the city (the first photo on this post was taken there as are some below). Lots of stairs, but the views are so worth it.
Below: another photo of the Ponte Vecchio.
More views from around the city:
We did a lot of walking that last day. Florence really is an incredibly gorgeous city.
We splurged and stayed at the “Il Guelfo Bianco”. Beautiful hotel. I’d give it a 4 out of 5 and would stay here again just for the location.
We also broke all the rules – there’s a McDonald’s right next to the hotel and we had one night when we just wanted to veg out in front of the tv.
Above: Hey McDonalds – I’m between jobs. How about hiring me as your new spokesman?
Have you been to Florence? What were your highlights?
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