Europe / Italy

Florence, Italy

I’m going to slowly migrate some of my my travel posts from my previous blog using the Blogger platform to this one on WordPress. Here is a post I wrote about my trip to Florence.

My first stop back in Italy was Florence, the city of Michelangelo, Dante, the Medici family, just to name a few. Florence was worth all the  hype. I was only in Florence for a weekend but I wish I could have spent more time there. I stayed with a fantastic Hostel called Dany House on Via Bolognse, not to be confused with Dany House 2 which has a website. Florence is a very compact city so even though the hostel was not in the city center, I only had a 20 minute walk from my hostel to the Duomo.

The Duomo, it’s absolutely breathtaking from the outside. You do not have to pay to go inside just the church part but you do have to pay to climb up into the actual dome. There is a line to get in to the church and girls, you need to remember to bring a scarf or sweater to cover your chest, shoulders, and anything above the knee. In inside of this basilica is distinctively Gothic and surprisingly bare. Perhaps the conservative decor of the walls is to emphasize the splendor of the dome. The free entrance allows you to see a partial view of the dome which is the option that I chose. If you like collecting souvenirs, you might want to stop at the Duomo gift shop which which as a few wonderful books on the construction of the Duomo and  the cheapest magnets in the city for about 1 euro each.

Most people who visit Florence will pay a pilgrimage to see Michelangelo’s David in the Accademia and to see Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery. But please don’t overlook all the other masterpieces and priceless Hellenistic and Roman sculptures! During peak season (From May-August), be prepared to wait in line for hours in the sun in order to access these two museums. However, it is possible to reserve your tickets in advance although you do have to pay a 4 euro reservation fee on top of the 11 euro entrance fee. It’s pretty pricy but worth the money if you only have a few precious days in the city. You can purchase both tickets without waiting in line at the lesser known Museo San Marco right across the street from the Acadamia. You will be presented with the available times to visit the museum. I arrive on Saturday morning so I scheduled a visit to the Accadamia a 2pm that afternoon and a visit to the Uffizi at 8:30 the following morning. Both museums gave me permanent goosebumps  When you are at the Uffizi, don’t forget to soak in the view of the Ponte Vecchio from windows in the second corridor and of the Duomo from the terrace.
Dining and shopping scenes were fantastic as well. Florentine artisans are very well known for their leather products. The prices are most reasonable and negotiable at the Leather Market right outside of the Central Market.  You can get your small souvenirs such as leather bracelets or leather key chains here for about 1 euro a piece as opposed to about 3 euros at leather stands elsewhere in the city. AND THE SHOES are great quality and around 20 euros for a pair of ladies’ sandals and 40-50 euros for a pair of men’s loafers. If you get tired of shopping, you might want to stop in the Central Market and grab yourself a famous tripe sandwich with salsa verde for only 3.50 euros.
Florence is the perfect city to get lost in. You never know when you are going to stumble across that cute jazz record store, or a 300 year old olive tree memorial, or a knock-your-flip-flops-off gelateria. I highly recommend Grom by the Duomo. Someone told me that a surefire way to know if a gelateria is good is to check out the color of the pistachio flavor. The color should be creamy with a touch of green and not neon or dark green. I had a small cup of two flavors for 2.50 with pistachio and melon. It was glorious.
To catch the most spectacular views of the city, head up to the Piazzale Michelangelo during sunset but make sure you are wearing supportive shoes because it’s a strenuous  hike up.  Spend some people watching, take some pictures of a copy of the David, listen to some funky street music, and soak up the million-euro views. Girls, if you are traveling alone, beware of relentless flirting from men who will try to steal kisses against such a magical backdrop. I usually just say, “non grazie” for no thank you , or look very confused, talk in Chinese, and walk away.
As the sun dips a bit lower, engulfing Florence in a warm glow, I recommend heading back to the Ponte Vecchio. The bridge comes alive with people enjoying the street music, couples stealing a romantic moment, and friends catching up over some window shopping.  I happened to be there when a visiting chamber choir from Switzerland gave an ethereal performance which capped off this perfect visit. If I had extra time in Florence, I would visit the Boboli Gardens and take a day trip to Siena or Chianti for some Tuscan wine and food.

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