We stayed in several cities on our trip and we both agree that Florence was by far our favorite. We felt at home here. I decided to give us three nights in Florence so we would have plenty of time to go about the city at a leisurely pace. Even so, I’m not sure I fully understand the meaning of the word leisurely. I think we walked about 15 miles one day, including climbing the Duomo and the Bell Tower… What can I say, I wanted to see as much of this beautiful city as I could while I had the chance!
Marcus is not a fan of art. I really wanted to give him a trip that he enjoyed and would be able to learn about the history of Italy without being bored by canvas for two weeks. We decided on less traditional destinations for some of our museum tours, and I’m very glad we did. Everyone goes to see Michelangelo’s David, but not everyone climbs the hill to see the Piazalle Michelangelo where a replica David stands taking in the magnificent view of Florence and the Arno. I wanted this trip to be unique to our interests, so we went off the beaten path and found some of Firenze’s real treasures.
Bargello Palace was high on my list of non-traditional art museums to visit. Located in a fortified palace, the building was used as a magistrate, and is the oldest public building in Florence. The courtyard walls are littered with ancient family crests and the grounds inside are home to magnificent marble sculptures that have been brought in for preservation. Some of the highlights for me were Donatello’s David, Donatello’s Lion (which is a symbol of Florence), and Giambologna’s The Flying Mercury. I loved this museum. It is small and intimate but it holds so many interesting pieces that I’ve learned about over the years. I think one of my favorite points in this stop was the discussion Marcus and I had about sculpture and the differences between Michelangelo’s portrayal of David versus Donatello’s vision. Seeing the work with your own eye, to the proper scale, at the intended vantage point, really gives more impact to the piece, which is part of why I love sculpture so much. This was a highlight for me, but then again, most of Florence was amazing.
To give Marcus something in the realm of science, I decided to get us to the Museo Galileo. This is a collection of scientific instruments ranging from telescopes, to a huge armillary sphere, to hand-blown glass thermometers and even some medical instruments. Of science was involved, you might find some trace of it in this collection. If you took the time to read through a lot of the information you could really come out with some unique knowledge from this museum.
If Florence is known for one thing over anything else, it’s the Duomo. This massive marble building gleams pink and green in the sun, showing off it’s gravity defying dome to the rest of the city. Have you ever walked into a space and just felt, somehow elated? Sheer volume and vastness of this space gave me such an overwhelming feeling while we visited the Duomo. Of course though, you can’t just visit the cathedral; there is a dome and bell tower to climb as well! I’d say that even though the 400+ steps up each climb was rough, the views of Florence are sheer beauty. We overuse the word awesome everyday, but standing on top of the Duomo dome in Florence was a pure moment of awesomeness in it’s rawest meaning. I could have stayed up there for a few hours just taking in the terracotta roofs and endless hills. This is a must-so if you are visiting Florence, unless of course you are pregnant or have heart problems. They aren’t kidding when they tell you the climb is a bit crazy.
Our visit to Santa Maria Novella wasn’t planned but when we walked by in the afternoon it just felt like something we should investigate. This basilica is home to some very impressive chapels and stained glass windows. Between the 13th and 19th centuries work was ongoing which leads to a wide variety of styles and subjects throughout the chapels.
Florence was on the first list of destinations for Italy and it quickly became our favorite. We were able to walk everywhere and the city wasn’t as touristy as everywhere else we visited. There was a laid-back attitude and a welcoming smile from shop owners that made us feel welcome and comfortable. Florence has much to offer any traveller, whether you prefer the art or the out-of-the-ordinary. I think we were both surprised at how much walking we did here, but everything was just close enough for us to get from one area to another at a decent strolling pace. We meandered a back country road to find the Piazza Michelangelo, something I otherwise might have thought too far away. Taking the time to walk in Florence really showed us the heart of the city, maybe that’s why we both found it to be our favorite place on the trip.