Regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is reputed to house more artwork than any other city in the world relative to its size. You can view works of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Botticelli, just to name a few. We initially intended to purchase the Firenza card for 72 euro ($99) that would allow us to see 72 museums over 72 hours but we soon realized that was beyond our abilities and endurance for a three-day stay. Besides, with so much beautiful architecture and sculpture outside the museums, as we discovered on our walking tour, it seemed a shame to spend all our time indoors. So, while it’s good advice to make a plan and stick to it, it’s also advisable to be flexible and recognize when a change is in order.
After our walking tour, we headed straight to Il Duomo di Firenze (Florence Cathedral) to see the area before the arrival of hordes of tourists from cruise ship excursions. The dome of the cathedral was engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi, completed in 1436, and remains the largest brick dome in existence.
Later it became a crush of bodies, but as you can see by these photos, we beat the (c)rush. After our visit to Il Duomo, we crossed the River Arno via the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) to have a look at the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace), the official residence of the powerful Medici family beginning in 1550, and the attached Boboli Gardens. The ticket options were several and varied but pricey. We opted for a combo that included the gardens, which is more like a park with many paths, trees and a few fountains and outbuildings. It’s not as vast and impressive as the gardens at Versailles, outside of Paris, but we enjoyed a leisurely stroll, nevertheless.
The Old Bridge, Ponte Vecchio, is a medieval bridge spanning the River Arno. Originally occupied by butchers, fishmongers, and other merchants, the stench was so rank that in 1593, Duke Ferdinand I ordered that only goldsmiths and jewelers could locate shops on the bridge. Today, there are still many jewelry shops along with souvenir shops.
We decided to try the Uffizi Gallery next. It was mid afternoon and the queue wasn’t too bad so we visited with people in line with us for about 45 minutes while we waited. We’re friendly but we can’t help it. Photos aren’t allowed in the museum so follow this link to sneak a peek at the highlights of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera. http://www.uffizi.org
Since that strategy worked well for us, the following day we went to the Accademia later in the afternoon to see Michelangelo’s David. Again, photos are not allowed inside but there is a reproduction in the Piazza della Signoria where photos are allowed.
Tell me honestly, don’t you think his hands look freakishly large?
There are many other sculptures worth seeing in this piazza located outside the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) so we took our time there.
Allow some time for shopping in the Mercato Nuovo, a covered outdoor market with many vendors selling Italian silk and leather goods. Outside the market you’ll find the famous Fontana del Porcellino, a fountain with a statue of a wild boar. Legend has it if you rub his snout, you’ll return to Florence.
We also visited the Medici Chapel which contains tombs of Medici aristocrats and seven Michelangelo sculptures along with a lot of other beautiful artwork but again photography is forbidden so here’s a photo of the outside only.
Our tour guide suggested a walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic view of Florence and we’re so glad we did. It was truly a highlight for us.
We saw many other beautiful sights in Florence but these make my list of “not to be missed.”
One final recommendation–Take some time just to smell the coffee.