Day 10-11: Florence
Arrival in Florence
We arrived in Florence and have some time before our orientation walk. So, we headed toward the Mercato Centrale, Florence’s central market. On our way we walked through a street full of vendors selling leather goods, scarves, trinkets and handbags. For us, that experience took away from the charm of the city. Summer did try on a scarf and the price quickly went from 14 Euro to 10 Euro without much effort.
We made it to the Mercato Centrale and it was packed with so many different types of things to buy. It had restaurants, wine, bath products, books and more. It was a fun place to visit but we did not buy anything.
We met our guide Jennifer for an orientation walk of the city. During our stroll it seemed like the Duomo church came out of nowhere. It was just in the middle of all of these regular buildings, like a modern city has built up around it. It was so magnificent and huge! There were so many details and sculptures on every inch of the building. There was also a parade going on which made it very congested with people.
We walked past the Baptistry Doors, but could not see much because the building was undergoing renovations.
Our group went into the Accademia Museum to see Michelangelo’s David. Lining the hallway with David at the end was Michelangelo’s “prisoners,” a series of unfinished sculptures that look like they want to break from from the stone.
The David was spectacular. It was a lot bigger in person than we imagined.
The group dinner was fantastic. We had amazing gnocchi, sliced beef and a cart full of desserts to choose from. We also received complimentary limoncello or schnapps. Rick Steves company also picked up our wine tab!
Back at the hotel a few of us were talking with our driver Richard about things to see in Florence. He told us about an amazing view of the city from the top of a nearby hotel and then took us there. We got to see the skyline of Florence at night and it was awesome! Afterward, we all strolled through the city which was a lot more pleasant than during the day – less people and everything is lit up. The rest of the group eventually went back to the hotel, while Richard, Summer and I went at got a gelato to cap off the evening!
Museums and Sightseeing
In the morning we went solo to the Bargello Museum to see Donatello’s David, which is a lot different than Michelangelo’s version. Dontatello’s is made of bronze, a lot shorter and depicts the scene after the fight with Goliath. We also saw the artwork by Brunelleschi and Ghiberti who both entered a competition for the bronze doors of the Florence Baptistery at the turn of the fifteenth century. The museum also had a lot of sculptures, knight armor and weapons, ivory miniature carvings and more.
Lunch on Our Own
For lunch we ate next to the Bargello Museum and had pizza, beer and a gelato.
Our group met at the Uffizi Gallery and we had a local guide, Cindy, guide us through. She pointed out how Mary used to be painted god like and untouchable until after the Dark Ages, when she then became painted as humanized and realistic. She was depicted as having a high brow and blonde hair, which made her seem wealthy and aristocratic.
A few famous works we saw included Botticceli’s Birth of Venus, Francesca’s Duke and Duchess of Urbino (painted side profile because the Duke had a scar on one side), and Michelangelo’s Holy Family (now thought to be of a baptism scene because of the nude men in background, John in the middle and Jesus in front).
After the Uffizzi, we hiked to Piazzale Michelangelo to see a grand view of the city. It was a long hike up a steep incline and many stairs!
Dinner On Our Own
We had book reservations in advance for Trattoria 4 Leoni. It was a great Italian restaurant. The menu was in Italian but the waiter politely went over what each option was in English for us. Our main courses consisted of a pear and asparagus stuffed pasta (which was amazing), and meat ravioli with a bolognese sauce.
We stayed at Hotel Accademia Florence. It was a pleasant stay and the room was adequate. The bathroom was a good size and it came with a hair dryer. The breakfast included decent options too. No complaints!