Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy –
Renaissance art, awesome views
And standing in line

Reservations Line

Uffizi Gallery line to get reservations for the following day, allowing us to skip the ~2 hour line to get in.

Jeff on the Cathedral Terrace

On the Cathedral Terraces tour, enjoying the views and the sense of satisfaction from skipping the incredibly long line to get into the cathedral.


Notte Bianca
The streets are overflowing
With crowds and music

Notte Bianca band

Jazz band outside the church near our apartment.

Notte Bianca

Crowds in the square outside Palazzo Vecchio.

Notte Bianca

Building near the river with DJ and light display.

Florence Summary

Four nights: Friday, April 27 to Tuesday, May 1

After a relatively quiet visit to the small town of Alba, we decided to spend four nights in Florence. As a city, it had a good deal of atmosphere and a lot of interesting things to do (and eat). After checking in to our apartment on Friday afternoon, we went on our usual orientation stroll. We had heard that there were great views from Piazzale Michelangelo, so we headed across the Arno river and climbed the hill up to the piazzale. Sure enough, we ended up with great panoramic views of the city!

In terms of sightseeing, we were underwhelmed by the Uffizi Gallery. Despite being perhaps the best collection of its kind in the world, I don’t think Renaissance art is my thing. That said, it was cool to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus in person.

Despite interesting architecture and sheer ornateness, I don’t usually get a lot out of churches either. However, there were two that we really enjoyed in Firenze: the Basilica of Santa Croce and the Florence Cathedral.

The Basilica of Santa Croce was primarily interesting due to the famous people either buried there or who have funeral monuments inside. Probably most famous is the tomb of Galileo (though not all of him is buried there, see my later comments). After that, you’ve got Machiavelli and Dante (who’s actually buried in Ravenna). Surprisingly, we came across two monuments (not actual tombs) that were not even mentioned in the basilica’s handout: Marconi and Fermi!

 

The cathedral was an impressive building, huge and made of green, white and red marble. Maybe even more impressive were the massive lines of people waiting to get in! However, there was a special, not well-advertised tour you could get tickets for at the nearby museum that allowed you to bypass the lines as well get access to the rooftop terraces (normally off-limits to regular visitors). The views from the top of the cathedral were stunning and made this tour one of the highlights of our visit.

 

Earlier I mentioned that not all of Galileo was buried in Santa Croce. We found this out when we visited the Museo Galileo, which primarily displayed various scientific instruments that had been collected by the Medici family. While many of the artifacts were cool (instruments and tools related to navigation, biology, astronomy, electricity, etc.) they also had on display a few of Galileo’s mummified parts: fingers, a tooth. Ewwww!

The food in Florence was good. We checked out the central market one day and picked up some fresh veggies, pasta and mussels (€3 per kilo) that made a nice dinner that night. The restaurants we tried were all good, plus I came across a surprising number of locally brewed Italian beer. One place I found some of this artisan beer was the Slow Food Market – an outdoor market with a lot of food vending booths.

Finally, we just happened to be in Florence for a special all-night celebration that took place Monday night. It was called Notte Bianca and was basically a big party the night before the May 1st holiday. We ended up staying out until past 2:00AM – this made catching our train the next morning a little rough, but we had a good time!