Been here before?
Nope, both Joe and I were Florence virgins.
Time of Year
25 April (Liberation Day). This is a National Holiday in Italy so public transport was very busy. Spring weather, it was mostly warm but not too hot, we had a little bit of rain on Saturday.
How long did we go for?
We spent three nights in Florence, arriving on Thursday evening and leaving on Sunday afternoon.
What we saw
There is so much to do in Florence, as we'd never been here before we settled on some of the main sites
The view of the Duomo from across the river (The Bargello is the tall tower in front of it)
The front of the Duomo
The Duomo from the side (with my lovely husband). As you can see the marble facade goes right around, it's not just for the front like a couple of the other Churches
The view from the top is totally worth it, worth the wait, worth the price (eight euro each!) and worth the climb.
Palazzo Pitti across the river
Panorama across the roof of Florence
Santa Croce (Dante, Donatello and many other artists are buried here)
Another panorama this time looking out to the hills of Tuscany North of Florence
San Lorenzo (the Medicis are buried here)
On the way up in down the Duomo one thing made me quite said, the walls were covered in graffiti, it really upset me that people felt they had the right to deface an historical building in this way.
Sara hearts Serkan (at least she did in 18 Aug 06)
SPAIN IS THE BEST!!
Spencer + Colty + Lesley forever (yea in Spencer's dreams)
Not sure what this says
Even writing on the sign telling you not to write on the walls
2 Finger Fun Gun, clearly worth defacing the Church to get this message out there
We did not go up the Campanile or into the Baptistery due to prices and all over feed upness with queuing. We did however visit the Duomo on our nightly walk the night before. This gave us a chance to admire the "Gates of Paradise" on the Baptistery without crowds of people. Ghiberti was awarded the job in 1425, he cast and re-cast the doors over and over until in 1452 as an old man he conceded he could not make them any more perfect. They are quite remarkable, however no photos as by this time it was getting dark.
This was originally built by the Ptti family when they considered themselves the most powerful family in Florence (apparently the Medici who were actually the most powerful at the time found this very convenient, they preferred to stay out of the public eye and manipulate people from behind the scenes). Later when the Medici were Dukes of Florence they bought the Palazzo and enlarged it (no longer needing discretion), when the Lorraines and the Savoy took over as Dukes they continued to use it as their Royal residences. It is made up of seven galleries and gardens and this being Italy you need to buy tickets of entry for all of them, there are a couple of combined tickets that give you entry to everything. A lot of the collections belonged to the Medici and the succeeding Dukes and were opened to the public in 1833. The main attraction is the Galleria Palatina which has an enormous collection of Raphael as well as works by Titian, Filippo Lippi and Caravaggio to name but a few.
The appartamenti Reali are the Royal apartments decorated as they were for the last Duke and Duchess of Tuscany. If you are nosy like me and like poking around in other peoples houses the are fascinating.
We also visited the Museo del Costume which was interesting, it had a few historical pieces but mainly a collection of amazing dresses by italian designers in the 20th century. They also had removed what was left of the clothing that Eleanor Cosimi I and one of their sons were buried in and reconstructed their clothing, interesting but also kind of ew.
There is also the Galleria d'Arte Moderna, I didn't go to this but Joe did when he lost me (god knows how as I had the tickets), the Museo degli Argenti (jewellery museum), a porcelain museum, a carriage collection and a collection of art on long term loan that is strong on spanish painting. We didn't have time to see all of this (the place is huge) but we did go into the gardens. The ticket gets you entry into the Boboli gardens which are attached to the Palace (these were underwhelming and in serious need of attention from a gardener) and the Bardini gardens (these were lovely with beautiful views of the city).
View from the Boboli gardens looking back at the Palazzo
Sculpture in Boboli Gardens
spring is definitely here
admiring the view of Florence
more of the Bardini Gardens
Beautiful wisteria at the Bardini Gardens
Galleria degli Uffizi
This is the largest gallery in Florence. The building was originally the government offices (uffizi). These are the complete works that were collected by the Medici and left to the people of Florence on the condition they never leave the city. The collection is still growing. This is where you'll see some of the really famous works such as Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. We booked tickets for an allotted time and still had to wait to get in. Actually getting into this place was quite a process, we had to wait to collect our pre-booked tickets, then we had to wait to go through the security scanners, then we showed someone our ticket and walked upstairs, through a couple of rooms and assumed we were in the gallery, but no there was yet another person we needed to give our ticket to before we actually entered. The collection is enormous and one of those places you could go to again and again. What I love about this gallery and Florence in general is that the art is part of collections established and kept here. The people of Florence were passionate about art. The wealthy citizens were patrons of artists often allowing them to live in their homes. They actively sponsored works and amassed art collections. The portraits are of citizens of Florence and often the religious scenes have well known citizens inserted into them (as well as the artist!). By looking at the art here you are also seeing a history of the place, I loved it. If you really don't enjoy art though you may not be so keen - it was expensive (nearly twenty euro each to pre-book tickets).
The City of Florence
As well as seeing the sites above we also did a fare bit of 'wandering around the city' as a way of sight seeing. Florence is excellent for this, it started as a small medieval town so all of the sights are centered in a small location, everywhere you turn there is a piazza, a church or a palazzo waiting to be admired. We went to the Ponte Vecchio, the Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio, the Bargello and Santa Croce,
Joe and I on the Ponte Vecchio
A replica of the statue of David in Piazza della Signoria
Tuscan food is renowned for being excellent and we definitely ate well if not all that authentically. As Florence is a fairly major stop of the tourist trail there is quite a variety of fare available, this was quite a nice change after being in Bolzano where there is the standard italian food of pizza and pasta or authentic tyrolean cuisine of sausage and dumplings. So the first night we had italian, I had a delicious calzone. Then on the second day we had a late lunch at an american style dinner and a small dinner of baguette and salami and cheese. On Saturday we went to a steak house and I had florentine style steak and Joe has a quesidilla, oh and we had nachos (we were starving!). Lastly on the Sunday we found somewhere to have brunch before we left. All the food was pretty well priced which was great.
The verdict on Florence?
An amazing art city, even though we are still technically on the fringe of the tourist season it was very busy, there is no way I'd recommend going anytime from May - September. I will definitely be going back though, there is still so much to do that we didn't get time to, it would also to be great to go with someone more interested in fashion than my husband, both Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci started in Florence, Ferragamo has a shoe museum beside their flagship store and Gucci have a museum on the piazza della signoria of all things Gucci. Another point to mention is even though there is so much to do in Florence almost none of it is for free, if you want to visit all of the phenomenal galleries you will have to pay for every single one so best to pick the ones you want to see most and then see where your budget leaves you.