Italy: Exploring Florence
S. and I woke up in Florence with the day ahead of us and a mission: see everything that Florence has to offer in 10 hours or less. I’m sure most Florentines would laugh off such an endeavor, but we knew what we wanted to see and made a beeline as soon as we were up and ready.
Florence is most definitely a walking city. We were provided with a city map upon arrival at Casa Billi (our B&B/hostel) and mapped out our plan: hit up Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michaelangelo’s David, check out Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo), Santa Croce and then head down across Ponte Vecchio to explore some goodies (the Pitti Palace & Boboli Gardens) south of the river before heading back through the Uffizi Gallery. There were a few modifications on our route, but we managed to see the most important things on our list.
After grabbing coffee & breakfast at a nearby eatery in the San Lorenzo area, we headed to the Galleria dell’Accademia where David is housed. I had looked online for pricing for our ‘must-sees’ so we could figure out how much sightseeing was going to cost us. The articles I read mentioned that the entry fee was around €6.50 (€3.50 with a student discount). When we arrived at the Galleria, there was already a pretty intense line. After we got in line we found out that we needed a ticket to stand in line since tickets were equipped with an entry time. We headed out and got our ticket from a nearby museum only to find out that tickets were far from €3.50. They were €14 each and there was no student discount available. Needless to say, I was sad and slightly perturbed but as I’m sure many of you will agree: a trip to Florence is not complete without seeing Michaelangelo’s most famous work. We huffed, complained for a split second, paid the €14 and headed over to the gallery to get in line. We entered around 12:30P and made it our mission to explore everything the museum had to offer to get the most bang for our buck. We noticed pretty quickly that David was definitely the main draw for the gallery; there weren’t that many rooms and while the artwork was great, it was limited. David, however, was worth it. Truly amazing. I think S. and I were both a bit surprised at how big he is (how tall, I should say). He’s absolutely massive and perfect. Like most people, I have seen pictures of David a million times; I knew what it looked like and thought I knew exactly what to expect but I was truly awed by the awesomeness of seeing it in person. It is absolute perfection. We couldn’t take pictures inside, but even if we were, pictures can’t really do it justice. If you’re in Florence, it’s definitely worth seeing (although I’m still reeling a bit from the €14 entry fee).
After seeing David, we hit up the Duomo, an amazingly elaborate and massive church in the middle of Florence. I had heard about it, but S. and I were both a little awe-struck when we saw it! Not only massive but ridiculously elaborate and ornate. We headed inside where S. got a ‘shawl’ to cover her shoulders before we could explore (much like the head scarves you have to wear at mosques):
After, we headed past San Croce, where we got to see the church and the square. We passed through Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery next and checked out the replica of David (happy that we got to see the real thing only hours earlier).
We headed out shortly after and decided to head to Ponte Vecchio, the site that S. was most excited to see. The bridge is pretty amazing and, being the only bridge that survived WWII, is oldest bridge in Florence (at one point it was the only bridge that people could use to cross the river). It was built in the 1300s and is home to a billion jewelers. Other vendors used to have stalls on the bridge (a long, long time ago) before the Medici family ordered the bridge to be dotted with jewelers so commoners wouldn’t peruse the area. (Gotta love those Medicis – so thoughtful.) I zipped past the jewelers (since I am clearly not in a place to be buying myself glitzy jewelry) and Stace and I grabbed gelato after crossing the bridge. We asked for smalls but apparently our idea of small and their idea of small are totally different. We ended up with massive bowls of gelato (€6 each!) and cooled off inside the air conditioned gelateria before heading back out into the scorching sun.
After snapping a few pictures, we wandered down to the Pitti Palace but after finding out that everything in Florence (everything!!) requires an entry fee, we left after grabbing a few quintessential photos. Now, I must admit, I am spoiled. I have become exceptionally spoiled living in London where the best art galleries and museums are free! When I have to pay 5 – 20 euros entry for a museum, I tend to choke a bit. The majority of the time I pass it up because I get to see some of the world’s greats at the National Gallery, the British Museum, etc. If I were more of an art buff I may have paid the fees for Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery and the Pitti Palace. Maybe next time!
All in all, my review of Florence: it’s nice. Perhaps my friends hyped it up too much, perhaps the weather was just ungodly during our visit or perhaps there were too many tourists. Whatever the reason, I don’t have a much better review than just, simply nice. After Greece, though, nice will do just fine.
See all of our Tuscany pictures here.