Destination Florence (The Finale) the last blog post from my Italy escapade. I kicked off the trilogy with a trip in Venice, then Milan and now Florence (Firenze). There were some breath-taking in-between transit stops and it all fell into place so well.
Had 3 days to spare in Florence, decided to add PISA to the mix. Besides the fact that Florence is the capital of the Tuscan region of Italy, home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art, it’s rich in history and Architectural marvel. Below are some fun facts:-
- Italian Gelato was invented in Florence! It was the Florentine architect who in 1565 made the first frozen dessert considered as Italian Gelato.
- Florence was the first city with paved streets in Europe.
- Opera was created in Florence.
- Florence is the Birthplace of the Piano, Invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori in the 18th Century.
- Home to Pinocchio.
Site Seeing in Florence
Legend has it that during WWII Hitler prevented the destruction of Ponte Vecchio. The bridge is the oldest and has become the most iconic landmark in Florence and crosses over the Arno River. This medieval stone bridge still preserves its original characteristic with shops built along with it. The bridge was initially occupied by Butchers but today you will find art dealers, jewellers and souvenirs.
Piazza della Signoria
The Piazza della Signoria is the heart of the city for Florentines. It has been the political center of Florence since the 14th century, a site for political rallies, festivals, and ceremonial events. You’ll find several iconic Florence tourist attractions: Palazzo Vecchio (Florence townhall), the Neptune Fountain, the Uffizi Gallery (a prominent art museum), the Loggia dei Lanzi (corner building with wide arches), and copies of statues by Michelangelo and Donatello.
Because I’m a secret Liker of Things, I had to visit Gucci Garden – a museum dedicated to the iconic Italian fashion house. The museum is the brainchild of creative director Alessandro Michele, its a place where fashion, art and haute-cuisine meet. The space is home to an exclusive boutique offering unique pieces, the Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura restaurant, and the Gucci Garden Galleria exhibition area.
The Gucci Garden museum is a great concept, some great collectors items and some very questionable one. My next stop was the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
This cathedral is what Saint Mark’s Basilica is to Venice and the Duomo di Milano is to Milan. Standing tall over the city with its magnificent Renaissance dome design, the Cathedral referred to as the Duomo by locals is the prominent landmark. The cathedral complex includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile and located in Piazza del Duomo, the heart of the historic center of Florence.
The tour of the cathedral which includes climbing the Dome which is known to be the largest in the world was the highlight. At the base of the dome, you walk along an interior walkway for a close-up view of “The Last Judgement.” a beautiful work of art which was started by Giorgio Vasari and completed by Federico Zuccari. From there, you continue and then step outside for incredible views of Florence.
‘Life is getting up an hour early to live an hour more‘
I have this ritual when I travel of getting up before sunrise, I usually go for a run or a long walk. I use the time to discover the city while its peaceful. On my 2nd day in Florence, I decided to go for a run from Ponte Vecchio to the Piazzale Michelangelo (1,6km’s one way depending on the route).
The Piazzale Michelangelo is square with panoramic views of Florence, a great place to catch the sunrise or sunset. Unfortunately for me, the weather was not great but still made the most of it. The square is dedicated to the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo. The 2nd copy of the statue of David is on the square.
The Galleria dell’Accademia (Accademia Gallery)
If you a lover of sculptures and art, the Galleria dell’Accademia is a must visit. The gallery houses the most famous statue in the world – the sculpture of David by Michelangelo. Photos don’t do justice to this genius work of art. Being up, close and personal with the original was awe-inspiring.
To think that David was sculpted from a single block of white marble that had been worked on more than 50 years earlier by Donatello. At that time the marble was said to have had a flaw in it and the project was abandoned.
The gallery also houses some unfinished works of Michelangelo, some beautiful old musical instruments as well as a host of beautiful artworks.
Where I ate
Food plays a big part in everyday Italian lifestyle and they have a relaxed nature in how they appreciate food. It’s all about authenticity, tradition, unique senses, aroma and most importantly family.
I discovered Eataly – a retail outlet dedicated to the best of Italian regional food and wine on one of my walks. You can go there for grocery shopping, coffee, lunch or dinner and it’s a one stop shop for Italian produce. Decided to treat myself to dinner at Pizza & Cucina Restaurant that forms part of the retail outlet.
Gelatarium …a dream ice-cream… is indeed dreamy. This place is about eating gelato, swinging and enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
Day 3: PISA
Pisa is one of the most famous regions in Italy, its known for its iconic Leaning Tower. The city has an array of beautiful historical buildings and beautiful scenery along the banks of the River Arno.
The Leaning Tower forms part of a complex known as The Field of Miracles and consists of four structures – the Cathedral of Pisa (Il Duomo di Pisa), the Baptistry, the Bell Tower of Pisa and the Monumental Cemetery. The complex is located in Piazza dei Miracoli, one of the most beautiful squares in Italy.
The Tower of Pisa referred simply as the Bell Tower, or Campanile which was made famous by its noticeable tilt is the crowning glory of the complex. A climb to the top of the bell tower is a must but its not for the faint hearted. The entire experience is weird primarily because the building is tilted.
Adding PISA to my itinerary was a good call, another day well spent. I took a train back to Florence and decided to ‘treat myself’ to some Gelato. Went to Venchi, a chocolate and ice-cream haven. The chocolate wall for me was everything.
Italy is magical, the cities I visited all rich in history and each city has its unique characteristic (Venice – the city of canals, Milan – the fashion capital, Rome – home to the Vatican and the Coliseum)
The Italian way of life is unique, the people are passionate, family is an important value and food isn’t just nourishment, it is life. There is still so much more of Italy that I want to explore, for now we reminisce on past adventures.