The second stop on our Italy trip was Florence. We arrived in the early afternoon and met our guide for a tour around the city. I just have to mention that our guide in Florence was the best guide of our trip. He was HILARIOUS and probably one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. I was crying laughing so hard at some of his comments. My mom and I still quote him and crack ourselves up. Anyway, our first stop was the famous Florence Cathedral, also known as the Duomo.
Built between the 13th and 15th centuries, the exterior of the cathedral is covered in marble and it’s stunning. I can’t imagine the work that went into building it.
The inside of the cathedral is also impressive, but Brunelleschi's Dome is obviously the highlight. Can you imagine trying to paint this?! I complain about having to paint the ceilings in my house plain white.
From there we made our way to the Piazza della Signoria or as our guide called it “the square full of nude people” lol.
In the square, you can see what our guide called “Fake David” (the real statue is now at the Galleria dell'Accademia) and the statue of Hercules and Cacus.
From there we walked to Basilica di Santa Croce, burial site of some Italy’s most famous historical figures.
Outside the basilica is a statue of Dante. I read Inferno by Dan Brown not long before our trip, so I was pretty excited about visiting the city and everything Dante.
Inside the basilica are the tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli. There’s also a cenotaph for Dante, but our guide explained that Dante was exiled from Florence and spent his last years in Ravenna and is buried there.
After we finished at the basilica we stopped at a leather shop to do some shopping (I bought a purse) and checked out the San Lorenzo Market, which was right next to our hotel. We bought A LOT of cheap scarves, which ended up being perfect for a couple colder days of our trip.
The following day was a free day, so we made plans to visit the Vasari Corridor, Pitti Palace, and Galleria dell'Accademia to see the real David. I picked the Vasari Corridor because it’s featured in Inferno, but I don’t think it was worth the time. Maybe if you had more days in Florence, but we were only there for 2.5 days, so I don’t think it was worth the stop. Don’t get me wrong though, it was interesting, just not a must see.
Anyway, the entrance is in the Uffizi Gallery and you can only visit as part of a tour group. The corridor connects the Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti so the Medici family could move safely between their private residence and government office. Now it’s just mostly a gallery of self-portraits. We thought that guy looked like Ron Howard.
The corridor passes over the river, above Ponte Vecchio, so there are a couple great photo ops along the way.
Our tour ended at the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. Unfortunately, they closed the gardens due to the weather, which was a total bummer because we had already paid for our tickets as part of the Vasari Corridor tour. So we ended up just relaxing in the palace courtyard while we waited for the rain to stop.
Our last stop of the day was the Galleria dell'Accademia. When I was doing research for our trip it was recommended that you buy tickets online in advance…and I completely agree with that advice. There are two separate entry lines and the non-ticket line is a lot longer and moves a lot slower. The main attraction at the museum is obviously Michelangelo’s David. Created between 1501 and 1504, the marble statue is 14 feet tall and it’s seriously impressive.
The rest of the museum isn’t very large and there are some other interesting pieces so don’t just walk out after visiting David. I really liked this statue by Luigi Pampaloni…and not just because I was missing my doggies at home.
Our last day in Florence was also a free day, so we booked a day trip to Pisa. We did the morning tour with Ciao Florence and had a great experience. The meeting spot was easy to find, the ride was comfortable, the guide was great and we were given plenty of time to explore on our own. I would definitely recommend that tour if you don’t want to bother going on your own.
Anyway, the bus dropped us off a short distance from the Piazza dei Miracoli. Unfortunately, it was rainy so we were hassled by people selling umbrellas our entire walk to the gates. Luckily our first stop was at the Pisa Cathedral so we could escape the rain and wind for a bit. The inside of the cathedral was under construction, but there were still so many beautiful areas and pieces to look at.
From there we were on our own to explore the area, so of course we started with the Leaning Tower. Construction on the tower began in 1173, but after three of its eight stories had been completed, the weak subsoil and a poor foundation caused the building to start sinking on the south side. The tower continued to lean and sink each year reaching a 5.5 degree lean in 1990, which was estimated to be enough to cause the tower to tip. Luckily it didn’t and major renovations took place to stabilize the tower and it’s now estimated to be stable for another 200 years.
I just have to say that it’s harder than it looks to get a good picture trying to hold up the tower. There are just so many people around and in the way. This is the best shot we got out of MANY tries.
After that we took a few more pictures, had lunch, and then did some shopping before boarding the bus back to Florence. There’s really not much to do in the area besides the Leaning Tower, but we thought it was worth the trip out there.
I think that about sums up our time in Florence. Oh wait, I almost forgot to talk about the food. Of course everything was delicious, but the most notable by far was the Florentine steak. Our tour director told us it’s one of the city specialties and to order it if we like steak and are really hungry. Of course I had to try it. I wish I would have put my hand in the picture for scale, but trust me, that steak was HUGE!
The lady at the table next to us asked if she could have the bone for her dog, so it ended up being a great meal for me and for that lucky dog! Florence is a beautiful city, full of so much history and art and we really enjoyed our time there (except for the crowds).
Next stop: Rome!