This post has been updated in January 2015.Earlier
this week, I ran a little poll on Facebook & Twitter asking whether
you’d like to read another travel post or about one of the cooking classes I
took in Italy. Travel won by a small margin, so here is the latest. I promise
that the next post will be about Italian cooking, along with a recipe. In my
last post, I had written about Tuscany (read Under the Tuscan Sun) so
I’ll continue with Bella Firenze.
capital of Tuscany is considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance. And
there is gorgeous art to be seen all over the city. From its legendary museums
to its piazzas – you will see beauty everywhere. And you don’t always have to
pay an entrance fee to see art; just look up at the buildings as you walk
through the city – the artistic and architectural heritage is there for all to
see. This post is not going to cover the “usual suspects” in Florence such as
Museum, Michelangelo’s David or the Palazzo Vecchio. However,
if you do plan to visit all these places and many other museums and touristy
sights, make sure you buy the Florence Card – it will save you a
lot of money on admission fees as well as the trouble of having to stand in
extraordinarily long queues. Plus, public transport is free with the card.
on to my top 5 in Florence!
panoramic view of Florence in both the photographs above was shot from the other side of
the Arno River – called Oltrarno.
Piazzale Michelangelo is located on a small hill in the Oltrarno district. The climb itself is quite lovely, with lots of
greenery to be seen. Then, bit by bit the famous red Duomo of the Florence Cathedral
di Santa Maria del Fiore) comes into view and the whole city is spread
and there is a bronze replica of David here. There are a few stalls selling
souvenirs and knick knacks. Turn your back to them and look out over the city –
you can see many of its landmarks. The Duomo, of course, Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio, the bell tower of Badia
Fiorentina church and the Basilica of Santa Croce.
Cathedral with its massive proportions and the red domes is quite famous and it’s
worth a visit (or two). The Cathedral building was completed in 1436 and it was
built on the remnants of the earlier church, which dates back to 4 or 5 AD! These
remnants were discovered after excavations were done in the latter of half of
the 20th century and the Cathedral of Santa Reparata came to
cathedral and you will see that parts of it are still intact. The mosaic
flooring, frescoes, tombstones of bishops, marble works, and parts of a staircase – all give
an idea of the modest church that survived for nearly 1000 years, enduring
wars, different rulers and multiple refurbishments.
Ponte Santa Trinita
everyone heads to the Ponte Vecchio with its shiny jewellery stores where you
can just about look at the prices, sigh & move on! Look to its west and you’ll
see the neighbouring bridge of Ponte Santa Trinita (Holy Trinity
Bridge) with its elegant arches and Renaissance features. This is the oldest elliptic
arch bridge in the world and was built in the mid 16th century.
entrance on both sides of the bridge is flanked by two statues – all together
depicting the four seasons. The Church of Santa Trinita stands on
the Lungarno side of the bridge and on the Oltrarno side is the Gelateria
Santa Trinita – another must-visit in Florence! Savour their artisanal
gelatos, made fresh every day and you will know what good gelato tastes like.
We stayed in Florence for three days & walked over to the gelateria everyday! Read my review on TripAdvisor.
like most of the major touristy cities in Italy, is quite expensive food-wise and
eating all meals at restaurants is just not possible – unless of course you
have a trust fund! Thankfully, there are local markets everywhere and you can
take your pick from the fresh, seasonal produce.
Buy some bread, some cheese
and some salame and you’re all set. Not to mention the wines, which are quite
reasonably priced. The covered Mercato Centrale in the San Lorenzo
area of Florence is one such gem. Here, you can buy fruits, vegetables, meat
and fish as well as panini, pizza by slice and so much more. It’s truly a
Update – I visited Florence again in the autumn of 2014 and a new ‘food court’ has come up on the first floor of Mercato Centrale. Several food shops selling freshly made pizzas, pastas, gelato, the Florentine specialty lampredotto, cheese, local wines and other produce – the place is a must-visit! We spent 5 days in Florence this time around and had at least 3 meals here! Excellent quality of products at a reasonable price – it’s one of the best places to eat in Florence.
Piazza della Signoria at night
you walk into Florence’s main squares, the Piazza della Signoria, during day
time (especially in summer), all you’ll see are the surging crowds waiting to
get into the Duomo, Palazzao Vecchio or the Uffizi. But go
there at night and it’s a different story.
A few people milling about, the Renaissance-style
palazzi all lit up, the statue of
David (replica; outside Palazzo Vecchio)
gleaming white, the impressive Fontana di
Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) casting strange shadows…
the gateway to the Uffizi Museum and at night without the crowds, you can
really appreciate the beauty of the building itself. One of the oldest museums
in the world, it was originally meant to house administrative offices (uffizi means offices). The long
courtyard between the two wings, leading up to the Arno, is lined with sculptures of historically important Florentines – Leonardo da Vinci, Dante Alighieri, Michelangelo,
Galileo and Machiavelli to name a few. The empty corridors of the museum,
strategically lit up, are hauntingly beautiful.
the Loggia dei Lanzi and listen to the melodious strumming of the guitar by a
street musician; bring along a bottle of wine and you have your perfect date
Did you miss my earlier post on Verona? Read about Italy’s romantic, medieval city – it’s not just about Romeo & Juliet!