A “Euro Trip” has for long being romanticized in popular media and lately has become a pretty common thing. The most difficult part about the trip is finalizing the destinations, even more so if the trip is pretty much impromptu. So when we started chalking down the countries and places to visit, Italy was the obvious choice we all agreed upon. The tough part was zeroing on the places within Italy. With gems such as Sicily, Venice, Milan, Naples, and of course the crown jewel Rome, one simply tends to overlook the amazing Tuscany region. Luckily we didn’t completely forgo Tuscany.
We reached Florence from Amsterdam late at night and were just in time for the last bus from the airport, but we finally decided to take a taxi as there were 5 of us and loads of luggage. The taxi turned out to be a rather economical choice. The airbnb we stayed in (Petits Bergers nel cuore di Firenze del ‘900, Florence) was really great and comfortable. The bus stop was right outside the stay.
The capital of the Tuscany region, Florence, is not only rich in its culture and heritage, it also offers some mesmerizing views of the landscapes and is known for its artistic legacy. Considered as the birthplace of the Renaissance in the 14th century, it was also home to many “Great Men” such as Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli and Michelangelo all born in the Tuscany, who practically set the Renaissance in motion.
We began our expedition at Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square).
The square contains the Florence Cathedral with the Cupola del Brunelleschi, the Giotto’s Campanile, the Florence Baptistery, the Loggia del Bigallo, the Opera del Duomo Museum, and the Arcivescovile and Canonici’s palace. The west zone of this square is called Piazza San Giovanni.
We explored the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower), which is the Duomo di Firenze (Cathedral of Florence). The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink, bordered by white, and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris.
Cupola del Brunelleschi the famous dome of Brunelleschi is the cover of the cathedral; it was the largest dome in the world and still remains the largest masonry dome ever built.
The interior of the cathedral has many intricate works of art.
Above the main door is the colossal clock face with fresco portraits of four Prophets or Evangelists by Paolo Uccello (1443). This one-handed liturgical clock shows the 24 hours of the hora italica (Italian time), a period of time ending with sunset at 24 hours. This timetable was used until the 18th century. This is one of the few clocks from that era that still exist and are in working order. The interior of the dome has Vasari’s fresco begun in 1568, and completed by Federico Zuccari in 1579.
Battistero di San Giovanni (The Florence Baptistery), also known as the Baptistery of Saint John, is the octagonal Baptistery which stands in both the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza San Giovanni.
Campanile di Giotto (Giotto’s Campanile) is a free-standing campanile (bell tower) that is part of the complex of buildings that make up Florence Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo. Standing adjacent to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Baptistery of St. John, the tower is one of the showpieces of Florentine Gothic architecture with its design by Giotto (another great Florentine painter and architect), its rich sculptural decorations and its polychrome marble encrustations.
The day was extremely sunny hence we decided to try some gelato, which turned out to be, by far, the best we ever had. Obviously known for the best of ice-creams and pizzas this wasn’t much of a surprise. Spoilt for choice, we finally had our gelatos at a Gelateria called “Perchè No?” which translates to “Why not?” and is indeed a place you absolutely must try. Thoroughly refreshed we headed on.
We walked to the Piazza della Signoria (Public Square) which is an L-shaped square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. It also consists the Loggia dei Lanzi, Tribunale della Mercanzia, Palazzo Uguccioni, and Palazzo delle Assicurazioni Generali.
Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) is the town hall of Florence. It houses the artwork of many great artists.
Palazzo Uguccioni is another Renaissance Palace in Piazza della Signoria and is the only building in Florence with columns on its façade.
We saw many beautiful structures in the Piazza della Signoria like the copy of Michelangelo’s David and Hercules and Cacus, by Bandinelli (1533), at the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Equestrian Monument of Cosimo I, sculpted by Giambologna (1594), the Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati (1575) besides the Palazzo (but unluckily it was being repaired when we visited).
Next we moved past another Renaissance palace, the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace) and reached the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge).
Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is a medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. To its west is Ponte Santa Trìnita (Holy Trinity Bridge) and to its east is Ponte alle Grazie.
The Ponte Santa Trìnita is the oldest elliptic arch bridge in the world, characterized by three flattened ellipses.
Strolling along the Ponte Vecchio we came across the Museo Galileo. We saw the monumental sundial outside the Museo Galileio, at the Piazza dei Giudici. Designed as a “mathematical ornament” for the Museo Galileo, the sundial shows the true solar time of the place in which it stands. The hour and the date are indicated by the shadow of the glass globe atop the great bronze gnomon. The hours are indicated by radial brass lines set into the pavement, while the date is indicated by transverse lines of travertine showing the daily path of the Sun as it enters the signs of the zodiac.
Moving past it, we had lunch at the Trattoria La Mangiatoia. The pizzas we had were amazing and we tried the famous Italian desert, Tiramisù which simply left us yearning for more. The food had authentic Tuscan flavors which you’d absolutely love. It’s definitely another one of the places that has to be tried.
Post lunch we headed towards Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square) famous for the most splendid sunset and providing panoramic views of Florence. We took the stairs and ramps from the Piazza Giuseppe Poggi, also known as the Poggi Ramps.
The views from Piazzale Michelangelo were as splendid as promised. The entire atmosphere was amazing with musicians performing at sunset with the entire Florence city in the backdrop. It’s definitely among the most romantic sunset one would come across. If you want to get amazing views of the entire city and just sit and relax and enjoy the sunset, then Michelangelo Square is a place you must visit.
And so ended our beautiful day and evening in one of the most gorgeous cities in the heart of Tuscany. Though we missed many places and could not visit any of the famous museums, due to severe time constraints, just an aimless stroll or a wrong turn opened up amazing new avenues. I would strongly suggest, that you keep more than a day to explore the city, as one day is simply not enough.
Hope you found the blog fun as well as informative. All the details about the monuments are courtesy Wikipedia. I do hope this comes in handy if you ever plan to visit Florence. Do leave your comments and stay tuned for more blogs to come.