Florence was in a word, inspiring. To see the city where so many famous artists lived and worked was amazing. Michelangelo, Botticelli, Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and many many others all spent time in Florence and have work displayed there. I'm hoping Chris will be a guest writer on my blog and share more about the Renaissance and how it impacted him while we were there.
For now, I'll share an experience:
As we were leaving our apartment on the morning after we arrived, I noticed it began to sprinkle. I asked Chris while was locking the door if we should grab our umbrellas. After a long pause, he relented and ran in to get them. We grabbed our bikes and were on our way. Navigating bike lanes without technology in a foreign city was a bit difficult, but Chris did fantastic with the map we had grabbed at the tourist information office the day before. After 20 minutes, we arrived at our destination. The Accademia, the home of Michelangelo's David!
We were prepared to stand in line for a while, but were blessed by the rain as there were only 15-20 standing in line in front of us! The line took no longer than 10 minutes and before we knew it we were there, standing in front of the 17-foot tall masterpiece. It took me by surprise; there at the end of a hallway, in pure white marble stood the David. The statue stood underneath a dome and perfect lighting made especially for it. It was breath-taking.
We sat down for a while, listening to our audio guide tell us about the history and work of Michelangelo and after that, we just sat there in awed-silence. This truly was a masterpiece. And like all great things in life . . . photography was not allowed. I had seen pictures of the statue many times before, and it looks like a statue. But in person, it is extraordinary. And when you compare it to the unfinished works of Michelangelo (known as "The Prisoners") just a few yards away, it looks even more impressive. This perfectly smooth statue was chiseled out of a block of marble. (I've never tried to chisel or carve anything other than a pumpkin and that never turned out well, so you can imagine how impressed I was by this.)
We truly enjoyed this morning, and it is one of our favorite experiences and memories of our trip.
The Baptistry in front of the Duomo
The doors to the Baptistry, each panel depicting a bible story
A view of Ponte Vecchio from the Uffizi museum.
It was overcast and raining, but it's still beautiful
How long we were there: 1 3/4 days
What we did/saw: Our first day there (after we got checked in and Chris got the bikes fixed, more on that another day) we rode to the city center and took a Rick Steve's audio guided walking tour of the city. We saw the outside of the Duomo, a Gothic cathedral with a very colorful facade; the baptistery with it's mosaic ceiling and famous bronze doors, and walked the pedestrian-only street to Ponte Vecchio (bridge) on the Arno River. We admired the statues outside the Uffizi museum, and the Palazzo Vecchio and got a feel for the city where the Renaissance movement started.
On day two we started out (in the rain) on our bikes to the Accademia to see Michelangelo's David, which was a highlight of the whole day. (Amazingly, we arrived 5 minutes after they opened and we waited in line for less than 10 minutes!) From there we walked our bikes while holding umbrellas in the rain to the Uffizi where we stood in line for 2 hours waiting to get in. Once we got in, we walked through each room taking in works of Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, Donatello, Botticelli, and Michelangelo. I started to get tired after and hour and half so we didn't stay much longer than that. But it was raining outside so it was really the best place to be!
What we ate: We had both our worst meal and our best meal in Florence. The first meal we had in Florence was at a little shop down the street from our apartment. They had patio seating and looked kind of cute/local. After we ordered, we realized they were microwaving frozen meals! (AH!) Thankfully, it was cheap. Dinner was difficult to find since the restaurants seemed to close before 8 p.m., thankfully we found a place and enjoyed pastas and wine. (I had a spinach gnocchi, Chris had a mushroom sauce with a wide noodle which I forgot the name of.) We also split a tiramisu for dessert.
Our lunch the next day was amazing. We waited to eat until we finished the Uffizi, meaning most places were actually closed until dinner. We did stumble upon a Russian-Italian place that looked great. We took our time eating and enjoyed every bite of our food. I ordered a pasta with eggplant red sauce and Chris ordered a pasta with a creamy meat sauce. Then we split an entree of rabbit with a vinaigrette sauce. It was so amazing (and we stuffed ourselves silly). This was one of the best meals we had.
Where we stayed: We had our own room and shared bathroom and kitchen at a bed and breakfast. There were multiple rooms and guests staying there so it was a lot different from our previous stop. It was a very causal environment and pretty comfortable. They had bikes available for rent as well which we took full advantage of. Our host was nice enough, we did have to wait 2 hours to get our room as another couple was checking out and when we went to look at the bikes we saw that they needed tune-ups before we could use them. Thankfully, I married a handy-man!
How we got around: We had taken a train from Rome to Florence and then took a bus from the station to our bed and breakfast and then back again when it was time to go. We biked everywhere else!