Confusing title huh? Not that we’d want to forget our fun time in arguably the most popular city of Renaissance, Florence. Dana actually visited Florence almost a decade ago when his sister studied abroad. So smitten with the city he even picked out a spot for an engagement proposal! More on that later. Fast forward to our honeymoon – only 8 hours in the town where do we venture? Thank you so much to my cousin from Australia who helped make this optional excursion along with other memorable ones possible!
Well we knew that we definitely had to see David up close at the Academy of Fine Arts, and of course walk the beautiful streets soaking in the heart of the Renaissance. Johnny also recommended checking out the Uffizi Gallery. I didn’t see the spelling so I re-purposed that word as a pun saying “Ooooh (my) feetsies!” from all the walking we did. I had been training on the elliptical for the Duomo stair climb, and unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to climb the steps, but we did enter as the line died down right before we left for the day to enjoy the magnificent architectural design and artwork within.
We started off the morning with another local tour guide named Cynthia who was an American like us! She studied abroad in Florence and fell in love, so she stayed for 30 years at this point! She cited Florence has the most English speakers and foreigners studying at the university. She led us into the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze. We were elbow to elbow with all the other tour groups trying to get a glimpse of Michaelangelo’s works. They also had some art students’ sculptures in the back room on display. Immediately upon entering, we saw David illuminated in ethereal light towering over all the other sculptures in the background. We had to wait for our turn as we made our way to the back. On the way we also saw the famous Prisoner sculptures breaking free from the marble and the unidentified Pietà 2 (most likely not one of Michaelangelo’s works). Seeing David up close was truly a magnificent masterpiece! The 17 ft. tall marble statue standing only balanced by the twig on his back leg. Most of Michaelangelo’s other marble sculptures we saw was not as smooth since he did not painstakingly rub polish all over them. I was so happy that they allowed us to take photos since in the past it was not permitted when one of my friends visited about 5 years ago. We browsed the museum on our own for about half before leaving.
Cynthia led us around the squares passing the magnificent Duomo or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. The architectural mastery of Filippo Brunelleschi on the structure is ingenious! They were able to solidify the structure of the massive Dome by creating another dome within to counteract the force to keep it from collapsing! I thought it was especially funny that Brunellseschi set his sights on the Dome challenge after losing out on the Bronze Doors competition against Lorenzo Ghiberti. Of course the Gates of Paradise famous bronze doors were located directly adjacent to the Duomo. I couldn’t believe that over a decade ago in high school during our Western Civilization class learning about all of these historical geniuses during the Renaissance and we were standing there seeing them live now! I can vividly remember my friend Molly and I studying for one of the tests and reciting “Ghiberti built the bronze doors” (I accidentally confused him with Brunelleschi oops)!
Florence is the Italian capital of Gold and Leather so naturally Gate 1 coordinated a tour for us of a shop called Misuri to sell us their goods. One of the owners of the shop gave us a “quick” run down of the various gold and gilded products available. There was a convertible accessory that actually memorized me! She started wearing it as a ring, then expanded it to a bracelet! The way it was constructed it allowed you to adjust the size as needed. There were also jewelry that they had both white gold and regular gold plating on either side so you could match it with any outfits. Afterwards a young man with an American accent gave the Leather demonstration where he showed us how to tell the difference between FAKE and REAL leather. Apparently it’s from the feel and there’s a smooth side and the inside that has a rougher texture. I did not inquire on the cost of any of these items since even with their 31% discount I still think it’d be too pricey.
For lunch we walked around and found the sandwich shop that Johnny recommended called Il Cernacchino run by two sisters. There’s very limited seating on the main floor and additional seating upstairs as it’s more of a grab and go place. However, we were able to secure 2 booths facing the street to eat our delicious panini sandwiches. We loved the sandwiches so much we also ordered dessert, a slice of apricot and chocolate cake! The price was also very affordable given the nature of the small sandwich shop, as opposed to a sit down restaurant with servers. (Yay for no covers!)
Back to Dana: he had his heart set on the beautiful architectural Bobali Gardens. He even picked out the exact location on the steps where it his future engagement proposal would happen about a decade ago. For the record, Johnny disparaged the location as not worth seeing since it does not bloom and specifically stated that we should avoid the Ponte Vecchio so we did not use this bridge to cross to the Bobali Gardens. Cutting across a separate parallel bridge completely distorted our sense of direction in the hot sun and we wandered around the streets trying to figure out what direction to head towards the numerous garden like facades. One particularly unhelpful man was sitting at an info booth and selling tickets for one of the gardens. We had no idea whether there was an entrance fee so we really should have planned more research ahead of time before setting off this beaten course. I suppose the proposal and the Bobali Gardens just wasn’t meant to be! That’s okay! We had a lovely time anyway together and we redeemed ourselves by getting way more than enough Gelato and visiting the can’t miss Duomo!
Vivoli Gelato – Best in Florence?
Now I’m no Gelato expert, but I couldn’t wait to dive head first into their Gelato assortment. In retrospect maybe I should have gotten more flavors. Dana claims that I demanded the largest size. I honestly thought it was the €5 container and instead he got me the €10 size which was over 2x bigger while I plopped myself down to reserve us seating. Take a look at the photo! I swear they must have fit like 9 or 10 scoops in there! They have a huge assortment at this Gelateria and I chose only 4 flavors. What a waste haha they had dozens of other flavors! Eating that Gelato after a full meal and sharing another dessert proved quite the challenge. It actually got to the point where we had to take breaks and I had to call for Dana’s help. The moral of the story is that I should have stood in line with Dana to pick out the Gelato flavors and make sure I got the right size. It was a great value though compared to some of the other Gelato stands we saw charging €4 for just 1 scoop (I’m looking at you Pompeii)!
Il Duomo di Firenze
After the Bobali Gardens disappointment we decided to salvage the day by stopping by the Duomo. The lines earlier in the day were looping around out the door so we passed on the opportunity earlier. Lucky for us the crowds died down and we could go in right away and it was free of charge. We made sure to wear our church attire to ensure we weren’t denied entrance. I’ll leave you with some of our photos. I admit they aren’t great quality since our cameras did not adjust properly to the dim lighting.
Piazzale San Michaelangelo – Best view of Florence
Of course to end the day we hopped back on the bus expecting to go home but Stefano drove us behind all of the gardens (to add insult to injury Johnny even pointed out the back side of Bobali) to arrive atop the panoramic view of Florence. Giuseppe Poggi designed this beautiful square atop a hill to have the beautiful sight overlooking all of Florence. In the center there’s also another one of many replicas of copper David as a fountain. You can of course see the distinct landmarks and I suspect the photo of the Duomo I linked was taken from there with a high powered camera with lots of zoom. Enjoy my amateur attempt to capture the beauty! (Very difficult when there’s about 4569035 other tourists there too.)
Rating: 4/5 ★★★★