Many people dream of visiting the Renaissance capital of Florence (Firenze), Italy.
Where else can you spend days seeing art from Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Botticelli and taking afternoon gelato strolls beneath the Duomo and across Ponte Vecchio?
Our two week trip to Italy began in Florence, but not before that long, miserable flight to Europe. I know they have sedatives they give animals on airplanes—why not humans? I want to give a shout out to the Vienna, Austria airport where we had a four hour layover. Whereas most airports do not know the meaning of comfortable seating, Vienna has nailed it! Not only do they have rows of seats without armrests so people could actually lie down, each gate also contained the most amazing piece of furniture I have ever seen—I call it Layover Heaven Sofa.
Thanks to this sweetheart, we arrived in Florence later that day not totally exhausted.
While in Italy we were interested in doing a convent or monastery stay for some of the time and Sanctuary B&B Firenze http://www.sanctuarybbfirenze.com/ worked perfectly for us. An excellent location a few blocks behind the Duomo was accompanied by a beautiful courtyard garden and attentive service by a group of adorable nuns. Spartan rooms and breakfasts were easily overlooked because 1. Why are you spending much time in your room in Florence? and 2. With all of the food you will be eating, do you really need an excessive breakfast? What’s wrong with some Nutella-covered biscotti with Tang-esque juice?
The highlights of Florence for me can be broken into three categories: art, food, and views. With only three days to spend in Florence, we purchased the Firenze Card, which gives admission into several museums, but more importantly, lets you skip the line! A visit to the Academia to see Michelangelo’s famous David is a requirement for a visit here. Get a load of his huge hands!
Outside the museum you can buy a variety of David-themed gifts, some more tasteless than others, but all in good fun. I liked the aprons with the body of David on them…maybe not the most appropriate for Thanksgiving dinner with Grandma.
Also, the visit to the Uffizi Gallery with its overwhelming collection including Birth of Venus and more works by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and other Renaissance masters left us in a constant state of awe. The artistic interiors of other Florence attractions like the Medici Chapels and the Duomo and even Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise outside the Baptistery left my head spinning.
Another work of literary art celebrated in Florence was Dante’s The Divine Comedy and his famed Inferno. After reading the Dan Brown book Inferno, a must read before and after a trip to Florence, we paid a visit to the House of Dante where I found the best books: a series that is a children’s illustrated version of The Divine Comedy. You can’t make these titles up: Dante for Fun– Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise.
Greatest. Collection. Ever.
All of this museum time and walking around Florence gave us a healthy appetite. On a trip like this, the Rick Steves’ Italy book became our bible, but we also had amazing meals at non-Steves restaurants, including pecorino and pear ravioli at Coquinarius http://www.coquinarius.it/ and spaghetti frutta di mare at Ristorante Zio Gigi, both located near the Duomo. Make sure you eat lunch around 1:00 so you are hungry for the mandatory gelato hour at 5:00! I got really good at my Italian during our daily gelato runs: Un cono piccolo di stracciatella, per favore. Never mind that most people in the service industry speak great English, I was bound and determined to awe the local people with my mad pronunciation skills. At least that is what I will keep telling myself…
The final category of views could go on and on. Everywhere you look is beautiful, whether it is gazing up at the Duomo or Palazzo Vecchio, looking down the Arno River at all the bridges, or overlooking the town from the Boboli Gardens.
One afternoon we tried to go up to the Piazza Michelangelo, but the bus stop we were directed to did not have a stop on Sunday, which we discovered after a very long walk and failed Italian conversation with an elderly couple. Oh well, the climb to the top of the Campanile next to the Duomo during an afternoon rainstorm made up for any sweeping views we may have missed.
Is three days in Florence enough? If you run from sight to sight, yes. But it is important to take a bit more time to sit in different piazzas, lingering over a Chianti or a gelato. Sure we missed quite a few museums and churches we would have liked to visit, but we did take time to sit, people watch, and soak up the ambiance of this great Tuscan city. And if we had not done that, we would have missed out on the Grease flash mob on the Piazza della Repubblica. An homage to Travolta—how much more Italian can you get?