One of the most beautiful stops on our trip, Florence or Firenze is a city I truly look forward to returning to some day. Not just because of the friendly restaurant proprietors and scenic beauty, but also because, since it was on the tail end of our trip, I didn’t really manage to see a lot of it. Don’t get me wrong, in the short time that we were there we did some brilliant sight-seeing and had some very memorable moments.
Our first day we decided we just had to go to the top of the Cupola Duomo (the domed cathedral) located fairly in the center of the city. So we got the 10 Euro pass – this thing is brilliant – it gives you access to the top of the Dome, the Bell Tower, il Grande Museo del Duomo, the Baptistery and the Santa Reparata, which is located inside the Cathedral. Entry to the Cathedral itself is free, but involves waiting in long lines – trust me, buy the pass! The view from the top of the Dome was simply magnificent. Walking around you see the city spread out in front of you in every direction and it is absolutely breathtaking (and I have a touch of vertigo so I for me it was quite literally so). Though be warned, the climb is not too easy (in fact it’s definitely enough to remind you just how out of shape you are!) – with 463 steps, many of which are along steep inclines or narrow circular stairs, it’s no joke. Back inside the Cathedral, you’re sure to notice the fresco on the ceiling (I sure as hell did). Unlike the ones I had seen in Rome, this one had some very brutal and carnal imagery – possibly because Florence had a tradition of being more free and bohemian artistically than its Holy Roman brethren. And the distinction is evident not just within, but also without. The facade of the church is bright and colorful, quite unlike the gothic styles of many churches in Rome. If the climb to the top of the Dome hasn’t completely wiped you out you can attempt to make it up to the top of the Bell Tower as well. This one is 414 steps, but its all straight up narrow winding steps with two-way traffic. If you want to do it just to say so go for it, but the view is pretty much the same as from the Dome so don’t feel like you need to push yourself.
In the evening the city seemed to retire rather early. Walking around at 8:30-9 we found ourselves strolling through quiet streets and empty squares, at least a lot quieter and emptier than expected. But the area around Capullo Duomo was quite lively, with its rather more fancy restaurants and a merry-go-round which looked very pretty at night. Still, the city did look quite beautiful and serene at night. And while Florence may not have the night life of Paris or Barcelona, it is perfect for sitting outside and having a drink under the stars. Which brings me to one of my favorite moments from the trip – sitting at a little ristorante called the Panbriaco on via del l’Ariento having Cianti (as it turns out, I like Cainti) and some freshly made bruschetta. My friend and I sat there as I went through glass after glass (don’t judge!) and had some delightful conversation with other patrons who were visiting from Arizona and California – the most hilarious part of which was talking to two American women, one of whom thought my friend and I were brothers, while the other thought we were a gay couple.
We were lucky enough once again that there was a free walking tour that started at our hostel every morning, so our second day we jumped on that bandwagon and were treated to a brisk walk around town, stopping as one does to take in some history and acquaint oneself with the true Firenze. From the creation of the city to its becoming a hub of art under ‘Lorenzo the Magnificent’, we really got a fascinating crash course. Though particularly interesting was seeing how so many of the homes of the important houses of Firenze have been turned into mini-museums where people can go to see exhibitions or recreations of how people lived in the Medieval days. And of course everywhere we went we saw the magnificent ‘Fleur de lis‘ or Lily, which is a symbol of Florence ever since it was founded by Julius Caesar in the spring. I think my friend was more riveted though by the histories of various big names that had originated in this small city, including Salvatore Ferragamo whose was born and trained in his craft in Florence before emigrating to the US to find fame. But his favorite part, hands down, was stopping at this wonderful Gelateria called the ‘Gelateria Santa Trinita‘ located right at the end of the Ponte Santa Trinita (the Trinita Bridge). They had the most fluffy and amazing looking Gelato I have ever seen (they looked like multi-flavoured clouds!) – and the choices were brilliant – I mean I never thought that I would like Goat’s Cheese and Fig gelato – well I was wrong!
From the Santa Trinita bridge you should make your way to the Piazelle Michealangelo – it involves more climbing (yay!) but the view is worth it. You can see the beautiful landscape and hilltops that surround the city, as well as remains of the old city walls, which used to enclose the whole area. Many of its towers still stand around Florence. This is also where the city has put up a bronze reproduction of Michealangelo’s David right in the center of the square. While it must pale in comparison, for all of you who don’t make it to the museum where the real deal is housed, it’s something!
While the sights and sounds of the city bring fair delight, your Florentine experience just won’t be complete without scarfing down a Florentine style T-Bone steak. As far as food goes, this is a speciality. Problem is, most places only serve it at a weight of 1 Kg at around 4 Euros per 100 grams. Now this is fine if you’re sharing, but it put me in a fix because my friend wasn’t eating red meat, and as much as I love steak (and i looooove steak!) an entire kilogram of meat could have put me in a coma. But don’t fret, you can find places that will cater to you single meat-etarians, you just may have to roam around a bit – I enjoyed one at ‘Giannino in San Lorenzo‘ ristorante on via Ricasoli, where they offered a wonderful 16 ounce Florentine steak for 22 Euros, and trust me – it was worth it!!!
Full bellied and cultured-out, we say good-bye to fair Florence, home of the David, Da Vinci’s Demons and Ezio Auditore. Coming next (the final entry, thank god right!) Venicia…