Florence is often called the best city in the world. It came out top of the list in the Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards for the second year in a row. I took some photos of Florence that will give you an idea of what Florence is like, if you haven’t been, and bring back memories if you have.
We spent two days in Florence and did everything below as well as squeeze in a visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa in that time. By the end of our two days we were utterly exhausted. According to our step counters, this was also the day we did the most steps ever.
Walking in Florence was like stepping back in time. It is like a living museum. As I stood on the street corner, I could picture the men and women walking around in their medieval costumes. Right on cue, a horse and cart went past.
We went on a walking tour with Daniele. There were two tours – a Renaissance tour and a Medici tour. We met him at this spot. An Armenian woman in traditional dress fed pigeons as we waited for our tour to start.
On the Renaissance tour, he pointed out the homes of famous residents of Florence including Michaelangelo and Carlo Collodi (Pinocchio’s creator). Other famous people who had lived in Florence were Donatello, Botticelli, Roberto Cavalli – The Fashion Designer, and Catherine de Medici – The Ruthless Queen. Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo Galilei are buried here in the Church of Santa Croce.
We also saw the famous Duomo (Duomo di Firenze Cathedral), the famous structure synonymous with pictures of Florence. It is capped by Filippo Brunelleschi’s red-tiled cupola.
The Medici tour, focused on the Medici family who dominated Florentine life from the end of the 14th century to the beginning of the 18th. Although powerful, they were also paranoid and built a 1 km long corridor linking their two palaces – to avoid going out into the street where they could be seen by other people.
The Ponte Vecchio is another famous landmark of Florence and its oldest bridge. It is a beautiful arched bridge housing shops – previously butcher shops and fisheries but now jewellery shops. There are great views of the River Arno from here.
This building is covered with dollar bills. No, they’re not real.
We also visited the Uffizi Gallery which houses art by Michaelangelo, Rafaello (the painter not the chocolate), Botticelli and Leonardo Da Vinci. Of course, all this was lost upon my children and they were quite bored. We had to buy the tickets for the Uffizi Gallery before we left South Africa, as the queues are crazy. We used Rick Steve’s audio guides here as we did in Venice and Rome.
We made a quick stop at the leather market where my kids bought genuine leather sling bags to carry their tablets in. Unfortunately my son’s bag containing his tablet was stolen in Rome, our next stop.
At the end of the day, I dragged my tired family to the department store in the Piazza della Repubblica which is said to have one of the best views of Florence. When we got there, it was too crowded to take good pictures.
We stayed at a hotel called Vasari Palace. It had a very artistic feel to it – with lots of paintings – which was quite appropriate considering it was in Florence. Medieval knights and dames were painted on the doors, to give the effect that they were guarding the room. On a side note, my Tripadvisor review on this hotel is my most read review on the website. At the last count, it had had almost 4000 views.