Florence in One Day
Florence is a city that always takes me by surprise, no matter how many times i've visited. There are few places in the world that transport you to a time long sense past the way this part of Tuscany does. I arrived early this morning from Rome at the Santa Maria Novella train station. The station itself is so close to the city center that it only took a few steps from the exit to know exactly where I was: Renaissance Italy. When I travel, I try my hardest to take my time. I hate rushing and most often I hate the pressure of an itinerary. This trip, I only had a day to enjoy Florence, so I especially needed to avoid overwhelming myself with a check list. I really had nothing to worry about, because for me, just being in Florence, walking down the cobblestone streets past the church facades and beautiful sculptures is enough to make me feel a world away from home. A climb to the Duomo is ALWAYS a must-see for me, and that's just where I headed. My path zig zagged through a few of my favorite relics from the Renaissance like the Santa Maria Novella Church, the San Pancrazio, the merging streets (Via della Vigna Nuova and Via della Spada), Piazza Strozzi, Piazza della Republica, and then up Via Calzaiuoli to Il Duomo. I don't think I HAVE to climb to the top of the Dome to enjoy it. The exterior of the church makes the interior look almost underdressed. The entire dome is covered in a marble facade made of different shades of pink, green and white marble. Honestly every time I see it I can't help but stop and stare. That's just what I did. I stopped, got some gelato at Grom (my first of three on this trip). In the past, i've visited the Museo Opera del Duomo to check outhow the Dome itself was built. They have some of the tools they used for the mounting and carving along with an extensive history of the church and its historic significance in Florence. Its actually very interesting and makes the structure itself come to life (if it hasn't already) This time around, i bought my ticket and headed straight for the stairs. Well, not exactly. The line made for an hour wait (this was around noontime) and the climb itself took an addition hour since I was quite the meanderer once I reached the top. The stairs were very narrow and the climb was quite steep so if you're weary of small confined spaces or have an objection to moderate exercise while vacationing, I'd recommend you skip this part of the visit. I'm always a sucker for a fantastic birds-eye view and this observation deck is one of the best i've ever visited. Its peaceful, breezy, and always makes me feel quiet and inspired. From above, Florence takes on its prominent colors - red, tan and green, and you begin to notice just how narrow and chaotic the street grid actually is. Ohhhhhh, I could stand up there for hours (and I think they'd let me). There's someone at the top regulating the number of visitors so it never gets too crowded. I should mention the ceiling inside the Duomo too. For a frescoed surface, and that of a familiar scene, the sheer size of the artwork is enough to make it unique to every other painted ceiling. After my climb, I headed down to the water along the Via del Calzaiuoli. There's a ton of shopping, albeit marketplace stuff and souvineer shops. Its a direct route to the Uffizi and the waterfront. I had another Gelato at one of the many shops along the road and had a seat in the middle of the famous Ponte Vecchio. There's so many people snapping photos here of the Arno River but I think the best place to get a picture is actually at the next bridge west of here (called the Ponte a Santa Trinita. There's a cement triangle in the middle of the bridge that makes for the coolest pictures. Its kind of scary to get down there, but its worth the shot. I did a little more strolling and sightseeing at the Piazza Signoria (a replica of the David is here), the Orsanmichele and its 14 niches with bronze statues and marble sculptures, the Chiesa di Santa Margherita de' Cerchi which was built in 1032,then along the arno river on the way to my Vespa rental (checking out the tramonto sull'Arno on the way). $60 bucks later with no previous experience I had the keys to a vintage Vespa for 24 hours. I took a spin through some of the alleys within the historic center, mostly because of the novelty that comes with riding on so much cobblestone and brick. It was defiantly scary at times. I felt like i was speeding down the streets and around corners but everyone , and i mean EVERYONE was honking and passing me. I parked around the corner from the Academia at the Piazza della Santissima Anunziatta and took a look at David - because I couldn't come all tis way without saying hello to one of the worlds most famous statues. The whole point of renting the vespa was actually outside of the city center. I heard that the sunset was best from the Piazzale Michelangelo, and i'll be honest, there's something romantic about riding a vespa down the streets of an old European city in search of a fantastic sunset. Long story short, the rumors were correct. I got there around 7:30 with a sunset time of 8:45 and the Piazzale was packed to the brim. There's a set of stairs on the west side that was spotted with couples and families eating picnics out of paper bags. There's also a massive square with yet another replica of David in the center. The Piazzale itself was built at the top of a hill adjacent from the historic center of Florence, so the view is supurb. You can see each bridge, each cathedral, each beautiful feature of this beautiful city. I had grabbed a salami Panini and a plastic cup of red wine at a cafe in the Piazza Felicitia (called Bar Le Delizie). So here at the Piazzale, I set myself up against the stone railing and had my dinner as the sun went down. Perfection!