November 14th-17th, 2014
After a memorable few days in Rome, once more we chugged along through the scenic vistas of Tuscany north to Florence to the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance; arriving late afternoon and just in time to hurriedly cross the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge and make the steep trek up to the scenic Piazza Michelangelo to catch the sunset and see the beautiful city bathed in twilight. As you can see by the pictures, the cardiovascular journey up there was well worth it for the stunning views. As a reward for our arduous urban hike we treated ourselves to an aperitivo al fresco at one of the outdoor cafes as we continued to admire the views across the Arno river to Giotto’s bell tower and that famous red duomo.
We were famished after winding our way back down and had noticed an outdoor food market in front of the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella near our hotel earlier when we had walked from the train station and made a beeline for the stall selling the most sizable and impressive cheese and charcuterie boards. Along with the procurement of some wine, white truffle oil, and aged balsamic vinegar we sat down on a wooden bench at a long table and feasted. So much food! Dan still talks about that meal and every time we use our little bottle of truffle oil that we brought home with us it take us back to that night.
After our prior night of meat and cheese indulgences we were looking forward to the day’s agenda of guided museum walking tours with Vanessa from Florence Town tours. First up was an “Inferno” themed tour in which we followed in the footsteps of Dan Brown’s character Robert Langdon and explored the Palazzo Vecchio, Dante’s house, the Duomo, and the Baptistery. After reading all of Dan Brown’s novels, we thought it was neat to tie in the sights of Florence with the storylines we had enjoyed.
Before our afternoon tour of the Uffizi Gallery and the exclusive Vasari Corridor we headed to the big green metal roof over the Mercado Centrale to peruse the artisanal stalls for lunch. After meeting back up with our tour guide we made our way through the Uffizi Gallery admiring Botticelli’s Birth of Venus before walking the Vasari Corridor, a private passageway built in 1564 by Giorgio Vasari for Cosimo I de’ Medici and his family to move freely from the government palace to their residence across the river.
The elevated enclosed corridor runs along the top of the shops that span the Ponte Vecchio and now houses the museum’s famous collection of self-portraits. After crossing the river via the Vasari Corridor we doubled back along the Ponte Vecchio exploring the leather shops that line the streets along the river and admiring the front windows of the jewelry shops that span the length of the bridge in which butchers initially occupied, but gold merchants eventually took over in the late 1500s.
On our third morning, we returned to the Duomo to climb Giotto’s Bell Tower and after a punishing narrow upward climb (though not nearly as taxing as at the Vatican!) we were rewarded with a beautiful skyline view of rooftops and the Tuscan hills.
In the afternoon we wandered the streets towards the Galleria dell’ Academia to admire Michelangelo’s Statue of David. What a good looking man! I mean err statue. Though it was disheartening to see David’s smashed toes on his left foot that serve as a visual reminder of the vandalism that occurred in 1991 due to the work of a deranged man with a hammer.
The next morning we woke up to wet streets, puddles, and a continuous deluge of rain with no sign of letting up, squashing our plans to wander the Boboli Gardens with our camera before our early evening flight back to London. Instead we decided to escape the rain and explore the Pitti Palace, the former residence of the grand dukes of Tuscany to include the famed Medici family who bought the expansive domicile.
Though it was a Monday, so quite a few of the Palace’s more desirable galleries were closed, we were treated to a remarkable exhibit in the Costume Gallery with the recent restoration and display of the funeral garments worn by the Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici, his wife Eleonora of Toledo, and their son Don Garzia dating back to the 16th century. The clothes were extremely brittle and fragile and fascinating to see. After an afternoon of culture, it was time for the very wet walk back to the hotel to gather our suitcases and head to the airport for our flight home.