I would suppose that for most visitors, the focus in Florence is on art and architecture. That was certainly the focus on our tour there. And why not? In a city that houses the most famous statue in the world, several of the most famous paintings in the world, and one of the most important architectural achievements in the world, a visit would not be complete without paying one’s respects to these things.
Our tour group arrived in Florence in late morning, after taking the Alta Velocità (AV, or high speed,) train) from Venice. That in itself was a wonder, with a comfortable, on-time and efficient train taking us at speeds up to 250km/hour through the Italian countryside to our destination. We should be able to do half as well in this country, but I digress….
At our hotel in Florence, we were met by an art historian who essentially explained the Renaissance in about 45 minutes! It was a great introduction to the things we would see while we were in Florence. And see we did! Visits to the Uffizi Gallery and the Academy of Florence Art Gallery (Galleria dell’ Accademia di Firenze) were definitely highlights, as were just walking around and absorbing the sights. The Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) is magnificent, and although we chose not to climb the 463 steps to the top (would have taken too much time…yeah, that’s it 😉 ) we were able to admire its beauty from the ground.
Walking around Florence was a bit confounding, as all of the streets around the cathedral tend to veer off into unexpected directions. You wouldn’t think so from looking at a map, but Kathy & I got lost one night when we decided to take the long way back from dinner. Of course we had very confidently left the hotel without a phone or a map! We did eventually stumble our way back “home” but that was one of the days I recorded over 14,000 steps! We made sure to have some kind of navigation aid with us from then on. Oops.
I had recently read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Da Vinci, and the idea of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Bernini, Brunelleschi and others walking around Florence at about the same time had me fascinated. I even imagined the group of them holed up in a bar somewhere, drinking mead and talking about sports. The reality though is that these geniuses were all in fierce competition, especially for Medici money. Although I think they harbored a certain amount of respect for each other, I don’t know that they would have had each other on their Christmas card lists. Hard to say for sure!
One of our days included a bus tour into the Tuscan countryside to visit and have lunch at one of the Antinori wineries. It was set in an old monastery and was very interesting, not to mention delicious food and great Italian wines! I’ll talk about that visit in a separate post.
In addition to the planned highlights, we had several opportunities to explore the city on our own. One of the places I had wanted to visit was the Galileo museum. While it doesn’t contain a lot of actual Galileo artifacts, it does contain a display with one of his teeth and a finger. Really! Otherwise it is a very nice collection of artifacts from the 15th & 16th centuries, with very well-done exhibits of scientific instruments & personal items from the history of science. Kathy had an opportunity to sample the famous leather shops and brought home some souvenirs, and of course I was able to have the famous Florentine T-bone steak I posted about previously!
We saw only a small slice of Florence, and it is the kind of place where you could spend weeks or months and not see it all. But we saw most of the highlights, and certainly saw enough to convince us that we could probably come back in the future and spend extended time there. Hopefully with a map!