It is so easy to understand how so many artists and writers and philosophizers have lived in Florence over the centuries. Many people consider Florence to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. You’ll have to see for yourself.
Our hotel in Florence was the stuff of Italian hotel dreams. While we were right downtown, a short walk from the train station, our room was blissfully quiet. Especially fortunate for us: we were in the annex building to the back, which made it extra quiet as well as extra charming. I mean, come on:
The inside of the building was awesome too. I loved the interior architecture as well as the Lady at the end of the hall. The lady at the end of the hall is a replica of the 1902 Portrait of Emilie Floge by Gustav Klimt. A Klimt portrait is cool enough, but that it was Emilie is extra nice because most historians agree that they were long-time lovers, and I was visiting her with my lover of 20 years.
Now, Florence is absolutely mobbed by tourists, no matter when you go. But it’s easy enough to see why the city has drawn people for centuries. The surrounding Tuscan countryside greets you with dreamy vistas. But for me (and UNESCO who designated the city center as a World Heritage Site) the draw is the Renaissance art and architecture. I took approximately a bazillion photos of buildings on this trip and literally put my mother to sleep showing them all. In my photos I worked very hard to mitigate the crowds and focus primarily on the subject. When you stand in awe at the base of a fantastic building, the crowds are easy to forget.
The amazing thing to me is that while you meander through narrow roads (which are not pedestrian-only), watching your footing on the cobblestone, every time you look up there is something amazing to see. I have nothing but awe for the buildings of Florence.
It was a really great life lesson, actually. Look up, Heather. Look Up.
Sometimes looking up meant seeing an interesting architectural detail, or a beautiful building peeking through the narrow street, and sometimes it meant observing the Vasari Corridor: a series of overground tunnels between buildings built in the time of the Medici to allow the family to commute to work without being in the public sphere. (And given that assassinations were common and several Medici would become victims of assassination plots it wasn’t entirely unwarranted.) So yes they have an elitist history but they’re also aesthetically charming.
My favourite thing was walking down a narrow alley to have it suddenly open up to a piazza around a stunning church.
Florence hosts dozens of churches, each unique and beautiful.
Santa Maria del Fiore, with that stunning dome, is probably the most well-know. Across the Piazza del Duomo from the Cathedral is the Baptistery, a truly unique building. Octagonal in shape, it seemingly beckons visitors from all sides. I could spend hours just looking at each of the Baptistery doors, whose 28 panels each tell a different story. The doors themselves were designed by different Florentine artists as well.
The Duomo caught my eye at every angle and whenever I saw it. But the Duomo at night was especially stunning. (And romantic!)
The Arno river bisects this charming city. Ponte Vecchio literally means “old bridge” and dates back to Roman days. As was traditional, the bridge is still occupied by a myriad of shops. (Most of them are jewelers at the moment and the vast majority of them are all the same shop. However I did find a tiny little closet of a shop that was independently owned.)
Ponte Vecchio may be the oldest bridge, but it is not the only bridge in town.
And even on rainy days, the Arno with its bridges is beautiful.
Renaissance architecture isn’t the only art game in town. Modern art juxtaposed against the Renaissance buildings made me quite giddy. Art is not just a thing of the past in Florence.
Another confluence of old and new was the mulberry tree in the dodecahedron. However what I found most fascinating was that this was a brain child of Leonardo DaVinci.
A word of note: we visited Florence from Sunday evening to Tuesday morning. On Mondays museums are closed. (The shops, naturally, are still open and shopping in Florence is always an adventure work taking.) We enjoyed walking about the city and enjoyed our time. But had we had we been in the city with enough time – on a not-Monday – we really wanted to visit some of the museums, starting with the Ufizzi Gallery. Oh well, I guess we are going to have to return.
There is so much more I want to show you of Florence. We saw so much and felt so much more. Yet we wanted to do so much more. Alas, soon it was time to board the train and head to Rome. I couldn’t help but think that if I lived in Italy it would be so much easier to visit here whenever I want.
But I couldn’t leave Florence without a shot of the train station. I looked up, and thought, “yep. This is perfectly Florence.” What more would you expect from a Florentine train station?