WHAT TO EXPECT:
It’s almost as crowded as Venice. But it’s bigger, and it’s PACKED with art. Everywhere you walk, practically, there’s a masterpiece glaring down at you—it’s a great place to feel intimidated, especially if you don’t know much about art history. (We suggest a little preparation in this department might help). You also need to escape from the general chaos of touristland. Head to “the other side of the river” from the Duomo, the “Pallazo Pitti” side and look for Piazza Santo Spiritu: one of many quiet, local square filled with little cafes. In the summer a stage offers local dance groups and music—at night the atmosphere is definitely what you expect of a real square and a real Italian city.
Florence is like a picture book Italy. From our loggia of our rental on the Piazza D’Espagna the view really did look straight out of a fairy tale: lush green mountains ornamented with stone castles and towers. [Sigh] The city itself may not be the party animal that Rome is, but you eat so well. Like the cafe’s in Paris, sitting at a restaurant in Florence with a warm wind blowing the night air is so mind numbingly amazing.
WHERE YOU SHOULD GO:
Consult any guidebook:
Il Duomo—all the beautiful marble, not to mention Brunelleschi’s spectacular dome.
The Baptistry—with it’s Ghilberti doors (We have near perfect copies on the front of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, but there’s nothing like the real thing.)
Il Ponte Vecchio—waterfront property indeed.
Palazzo Pitti—the art collection is shruggable in comparison to elsewhere, but the gardens are… extensive.
Santa Maria Novella—Paolo Uccello’s masterpieces.
The Medici Chapel—do you know who the Medici were? You should be the time you leave Florence.
Michelangelo’s Library—well, Michelangelo’s staircase to the Laurentian Library anyway…
There is so much to see in Florence that you can easily be overwhelmed. Don’t push yourself too much. Give yourself plenty of time. It’s all good for a couple of days of perpetual tuorist rubbernecking.
A must see. No, seriously. To do it right, line up an hour and a half before it opens—if you show up after they open, you’ll spend that much time in line anyway, and this way you’ll get a head start on the crowds. This is considered one of the greatest of museums in the world and for good reason. It’s THE Renaissance museum—you see more stunning first rate painting than almost anywhere, but do gear up for an awfully lot of Madonna and Childs. Notice how really different they are.
Art changed very little in subject matter during the early Renaissance, and most paintings were commissioned by the church, or patrons who wanted to appear pious (while they were plotting, killing and poisoning their enemies). You will probably get your Christ fix for the next few years. But you’ll be happy in a room filled with Botticellis, and some great battle scenes by Ucello and the like. And enjoy the Madonnas which are absolutely weird, suggestive and downright lewd. (Isn’t that right, Laurel?)
I promise I will never again say that all paintings of the Madonna and Child look the same… honest.
Laurel has a notebook full of Madonna and Child notes.
The Uffizi has an intriguing collection. I spent over forty five minutes in the first room alone. It is to Renaissance art what the D’Orsay is to impressionist. Forget the Louvre—it is so much easier to spend a day in the Uffizi.
Stella. Louvre? What Louvre?
WHERE YOU CAN EAT:
Il Santo Bevitore
Via Santo Spirito 64/66
Have the soup. Any of them. They had us in tears. Best to go early. The fill up—fast. Very reasonably priced for what you’re getting.
Via Ghibellina 124/R
ph: 055 200 10 98
Another knockout. Not great for a group, but for two to four people, it’s excellent. A little more expensive.
By Piazza Santo Spiritu, facing the church, on the right hand side of the square is a terrific little cafe lined with painting in the shape of the church. You can get excellent quality gelato all over Florence, but this is the place we always go. The gelato might not be any better than anywhere else, but the staff are much cuter.
WHERE YOU WANT TO GO:
Florence counts as being part of Tuscany, but if you want a better idea of the rolling hills and towns frozen in time like the ones talked about in “Under the Tuscan Sun” and such like, you’ll want to take a train out to Sienna and maybe a bus trip to one of the outlying villages from there. Visit the (other) Duomo, the town square, the tower in City Hall… have lunch in the square. Wander. You can’t go wrong and you’ll love it all. Eat any place that looks reasonably local.
Most of the main attractions are held in the main square. There I climbed 89 meters of twirling cavernous stairs straight up in to the heavens. Up top, the wind blew just enough to relive me of the oppressive heat down below and I found myself surrounded by Italy as far as I could see.
Stella has calves of steel.
WHERE YOU WANT TO STAY:
Located in a lovely area close to Piazzale Michelangelo and san Niccolò, in a quiet area walking distance from the most important cultural sites in Florence, Bastioni apartment comfortably accommodates six people.
Photo credits, Creative Commons:
Uffizi by eblaser
Piazza del Campo, Siena by PhillipC
This story was brought up to us by the San Francisco Art and Film for teenagers