Florence was hot. I mean high 90s and humid every day kind of hot (that’s high 30s for my non-American readers). Even so, my parents, sister, Guillaume and I had an incredible few days learning, eating, drinking and shopping our way through the city (maybe I should say eating again because, oh my gosh, we ate well).
For starters, we stayed in a great Airbnb right across from the duomo, so this was our view every morning:
The giant apartment came equipped with both air conditioning and a pool table and we were more than happy with our pick. It was also located next door to a panini shop named Panini Toscani that gives its customers a formal tasting of various meats and cheeses before you order so you can make the perfect sandwich. Starving after our journey from Geneva, we went in with minimal expectations and couldn’t stop talking about how delicious it was afterward. We spent the rest of Wednesday afternoon wandering around town, making stops at a leather market, the Ponte Vecchio and a traditional Italian restaurant for dinner.
Thursday we started out with our first of what would be many trips to Florence’s indoor food market, which has fresh meat and produce on the ground level and food stalls on the second floor. I had an amazing tomato and mozzarella sandwich on crusty bread for breakfast, with a big cannoli for dessert. I am a huge, huge cannoli fan, so I figured I better start sampling Florence’s fare early. Gui and my dad also enjoyed cappuccinos for about 1/4 the cost of what they are in Geneva (go figure). We spent the rest of the morning exploring Palazzo Vecchio, the city’s town hall, outside of which the statue of David once stood before being moved to the Accademia (a copy is now in its place).
We stopped for lunch at Cantinetta dei Verrazzano, named for the explorer, where my mom and I had some awesome pecorino cheese sandwiches, before heading over to Palazzo Medici Riccardi. There we had our first encounter with the squat toilet! My mom was not a fan. The palace has a beautiful chapel covered in renaissance frescoes that is worth a visit. Afterward, we grabbed gelato at La Strega Nocciola (I recommend the lavender flavor) and then went back to the apartment to cool off and play some pool before heading to dinner at a scrumptious vegetarian restaurant slash bookstore named Libreria Brac. All five of us absolutely LOVED our food. Even if veggies aren’t normally your thing, I would look it up if you’re in Florence. We ended the evening with a brisk hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic view of the city at sunset.
We stacked Florence’s three big sites on Friday because when we tried to get tickets upon arriving Wednesday everything was already booked up until then! We started the day with a quick breakfast before climbing the 463 spiral steps to the top of the duomo. I was a little worried about the five of us making the climb in such heat, but it wasn’t too bad during our 9:30am time slot and we made it to the top in one piece, though totally drenched with sweat. The climb allows you to see both the paintings on the inside of the dome and the gorgeous panoramic view from the top, but be warned, you have to work for it. I think the most unpleasant part was the stretch of narrow stairway shared between those climbing up and those trying to go down because you have to awkwardly maneuver around other sweaty people. I’m really glad we did it, but it’s one of those experiences I doubt I’ll feel the desire to repeat 🙂
After the climb, we visited the church (pretty bare compared to the outside, and shoulders and knees are supposed to be covered to enter) followed by the museum in the crypt, and then went into the baptistery where Gui developed a stiff neck from gazing up at the gorgeous ceiling for too long. Lunch was more traditional Italian food (pesto gnocchi for me) before heading over to the Uffizi Gallery for an afternoon of art, including Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo (Holy Family) and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. The museum was being renovated while we were there so some of the paintings were moved from their usual spots, but it didn’t impact our visit much other than make the map in our guidebook totally useless. For dinner, the five of us returned to the market and shared three delicious pizzas, braving the toasty interior for more tasty food (lots of cooking heat but no AC!)
We finished the evening with 8pm tickets to see Michelangelo’s David, which was truly something to behold. We were extremely lucky that we found late tickets because the museum was basically empty, allowing us to take in everything in relative calm. The sculpture was so much bigger than I thought it would be! But at the same time, it was so graceful and so detailed. In my opinion, it deserves the hype and then some. Incredibly impressive.
Our Italian adventure ended with trips to Pisa and Chianti, which you can read about in my previous posts, before spending one last afternoon in Florence getting our final fill of tomatoes and mozzarella and haggling at the leather market. Planning your own trip to Florence? Email me at plaidshirtdiaries[at]yahoo[dot]com if you’re looking for any additional info!