We arrived in Florence in the afternoon so just took it easy getting our bearings and making plans for next day. Our apartment was lovely just a 15 minute walk from the train station. The landlord very accommodating (he had a bottle of wine waiting for us) and he suggested a downtown restaurant for dinner.
After dinner (which was excellent, we all had different steaks and sides), we caught a bus to the Piazzelle Michaelangelo, across the river and high up on a hill for a commanding view of Florence at night. It is gorgeous up there with some of the artist’s better known works (copies) on display.
Next morning, we headed first to the duomo with hopes of beating the crowd. Forget that…there were more people here than Venice! The outside of the duomo is unbelievable. Begun in 1296 it took 240 years to complete and had (at the time) the largest unsupported dome in the world. The exterior has a distinctive striped green, pink and white marble facade. The inside is less impressive but still beyond grand, especially the frescoes in the dome.
The duomo itself is free but we had to buy tickets for the baptistry right next door (which is astounding with its frescoed ceilings and incredible bronze doors). The tickets actually get you into 5 museums; the Baptistry, the duomo museum (also a must see), the crypts (my least favorite), the dome (we did not go up although I wished I had) and the bell tower (also we did not go up… at over a 400-step climb, our feet tanked us for passing).
Next we had 2:30 reserved tickets for the Ufizzi Gallery, reputed to be Italy’s most important museum… and I can believe it. Just to get in we had to go through three separate line-ups and wait nearly an hour. We spelled each other off waiting and wandered around taking photos of lovely side streets and the Piazza della Signoria to admire several famous statues including a copy of Michaelangelo’s David (same as we saw last night on the hill).
The Ufizzi Gallery really blew us away. Whereas in many other galleries we have visited where you might see one piece by a famous artist, here there are entire rooms dedicated to just one artist with several paintings or sculptures. I tried to limit my photo gallery for this post to a few of my favorites and some of the better known works. I left out 10 times as many photos as I included. It is incredible and I’m so glad we visited.
A quick stroll across the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge lined with high end and low end jewellry shops and to get the money shot of the bridge in the late afternoon sun, and we started to wind down the afternoon. We made our way back to the apartment to find some dinner.
Our landlord had recommended a pizzeria just around the corner. We got there at 6pm. Italians eat late and this restaurant didn’t open yet for another hour…. what to do? Right next to it was a wine store! So we bought some for a pre-dinner happy hour…. they sell it right out of the barrel and fill a 3-L box for 10 euros. Can’t beat that… plus it was good.
Dinner was one of the best meals we have had yet (see the photos). We laughed and reminisced the evening away. Other families arrived and it got quite raucous… as is the Italian way. Thoroughly enjoyable.