When I started planning this trip, I was undecided about whether or not to include Florence on the itinerary, but I’m very glad I did! We arrived by high speed train from Rome at about noon on Tuesday after sharing our coach with a group of 27 fifth and sixth graders embarking on a four day field trip with two of their teachers. As retired grade school teachers, we felt right at home, but also very glad that we weren’t responsible for all those excited children!
Our guest house in Florence was a short walk from the train station and just off the corner of Piazza del Duomo in the very heart of Florence. Absolutely everything we wanted to see and do was within walking distance, so we were able to pack plenty into our day and a half there.
As soon as we checked in and dropped off our luggage, we headed out to see the Duomo, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The complex is so enormous that it was impossible to squeeze it all into a photo and so ornate that you really need to look at various parts of it close up.
Surprisingly, the interior, though beautiful wasn’t as ornate as some of the other churches we’ve visited.
From the Duomo, we walked a very short distance to Piazza del Signoria in front of the grand Palazzo Vecchio, headquarters of the city government as well as a museum. The highlight here was the replica of Michelangelo’s David standing in the exact spot where the original stood for over 400 years until it was moved into the Accademia Gallery.
Perhaps the most famous sight of all in Florence is the nearby Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s oldest bridge, that has spanned the Arno River since the 12th century! Little jewelry shops line both sides of the interior of the bridge.
The riverside is lined with fascinating architecture.
Neither of us are art connoisseurs, but the next day we spent a very enjoyable morning at the Uffizi Gallery, one of the world’s top art museums, taking in its enormous collection of Renaissance masterpieces. After we’d made our way through about one quarter of it, we decided we’d have to pick up the pace or we could easily be there all day! The sculptures were the greatest attraction for me, especially the busts of historical figures. It was amazing to gaze into the faces of long gone heroes of the past like Agrippa on the left and Trajan on the right.
This sculpture representing the martyrdom of St. Lawrence especially intrigued me due to the fact that the artist, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, was only 15 years old when he carved it in the early 1600s! What amazing talent!
A vast number of the pieces in the Uffizi are of a religious nature, many of them stunning altar pieces like this one.
Images of the Madonna abound. I was particularly attracted to this one by Botticelli. If you look closely, you can see that the angels on either side of Mary and the Christ child are holding a crown of thorns and crucifixion nails.
A huge print of this painting by Caravaggio was hanging at the head of our bed in the guest house!
After leaving the gallery we crossed the river and made the steep climb up to Piazza Michelangelo where the views of the city were absolutely stunning!
I could easily spend endless hours wandering the tiny streets of Florence, but a day and a half was enough to capture the highlights.