One day is enough to take in Venice. One day is enough to gaze upon the Leaning Tower of Pisa. One day may even be enough to hike Cinque Terre. But one day is NOT ENOUGH to experience Florence!! One day in Florence is a travesty! One day is a shame (SMDH). But one day is all my friend, Tennille, and I had to visit this wonderful city ಠ_ಠ
We did our best to fit as much in as possible, but it truly felt like we were on the Amazing Race–rushing to hit each item on our itinerary before the stop watch buzzed. We arrived at the Piazzale della Stazione, the Florence train station, at 12:30 p.m. in the afternoon on a beautiful day in late August. We immediately set out on foot to find Michelangelo’s David in the Accademia. But we made a few quick stops to check out a splendid church we passed on the way, named Firenze Santa Maria Novella, and to grab some lunch–pizza–yum!
Then we were off to set our eyes upon the chiseled form of David, which was about a 40 minute walk from the train. Originally we thought it might be fun to take the double-decker tour bus, but I’m glad we didn’t. You get to see a lot more details in this city on foot. Printed Google directions helped very little but we easily found our way by asking people.
Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’ Accademia
The Accademia is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and we made a reservation in advance to secure our spot. The main attraction here is David, a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture created by Michelangelo between 1501 and 1504. It’s a 17-foot-tall naked hunk of man. He’s hot–with a tight ass and a broad, ripped chest, and waves of thick hair. If I was alive in 1501 then the model that David is based on could get it. On a comical note, if you happen to be wondering why David’s junk is so small, read this thread. It’s hilarious! I secretly snapped some pictures of this beauty even though it was not allowed. The Gestapo-like guard was yanking people left and right for taking photos. Here’s what I managed to take:
San Lorenzo Leather Market
After leaving The Accademia, we walked west to see the leather market around San Lorenzo. Florence is known for it’s leather goods and for many years San Lorenzo was the place to buy the best quality leather. However, in recent years the place has developed a bad reputation. Many tourists’ reviews warn of rude and aggressive sales tactics, cheap quality goods, and questionable safety in and around the area (mostly pickpockets).
I did not have this experience. The shop owners seemed no more aggressive than is typical in these type of places and the quality of the leather I purchased was sound and has lasted me all these many years since my visit in 2009. In fact, my over the shoulder satchel still looks great.
Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore
From there we headed south to the massive Duomo.The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) was built between 1296 and 1436 in the Gothic style. The exterior is adorned with marble panels in shades of green, pink and white. The cathedral complex, located in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile (a bell tower). The three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic center of Florence. The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches, and until the use of modern materials, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.
Piazza della Signoria
After taking in the Basilica, we dashed further south to Piazza della Signoria, a L-shaped square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, an impressive fortress/palace/town hall building. The square is the political hub of the city but is also filled with many grand buildings and stunning sculptures. Some of the more famous sculptures include:
- At the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, a copy of David. The original by Michelangelo is being kept at The Accademia.
- The “bronze equestrian statue of Cosimo I” by Giambologna (1594)
- The Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati (1575)
- “The Lion,” referred to as “il Marzocco” with a copy of the “Florentine Lily”, originally made by Donatello
- “Judith and Holofernes,” by Donatello
- “Hercules and Cacus,” by Bandinelli
- “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” by Giambologna
- “Perseus with the Head of Medusa,” by Cellini (1554)
- “Medici lions,” by Fancelli and Vacca (1598)
It’s possible to spend hours in the square just taking pictures of the buildings and the sculptures and reading the informative plaques, but we had to keep moving across Ponte Vecchio, the medieval stone bridge that crosses the Arno River. The goal was to make it on foot to our hotel, Residence Michelangiolo, before sundown–about another 40-minute walk.
We crossed the bridge and then walked to the left toward Ponte alla Grazie, and then up toward Viale Galileo Galilei. We walked up the Poggi Stairs, named after Giuseppe Poggi, an Italian architect and native of Florence who redesigned many of the city’s palaces and gardens.This trek is not for the out of shape. We took the stairs to the 11th-century church of San Miniato al Monte. San Miniato is one of Tuscany’s finest Romanesque buildings.
Somewhere around here we got woefully lost. We wondered north of San Miniato into Piazzale Michelangelo, a famous square with a magnificent panoramic view built in 1869 and designed by Poggi, asking countless strangers where to find Viale Michelangelo. The problem is that Viale Michelangelo has many long twists and turns and changes names many times. It was frustrating and sweat inducing but we eventually stumbled upon our hotel, after knocking on many wrong doors and asking way too many people. We made it just before it got pitch black outside.
Despite being a bit hard to find, Residence Michelangiolo is a marvelous little hotel. The staff was friendly, the room was cute and clean, and it had all the modern amenities. After we got settled, we headed back out to have dinner. We walked to Affe di Bacco, a place recommended by the hotel. The food was amazing!
Unfortunately, our night ended and with that, our jaunt in Florence was over. In the morning we headed to Pisa and then on to Cinque Terre. If I had it to do again, I would have loved to spend another day or two in Florence. When I return I will have time to stroll around the Galleria degli Uffizi to see some Renaissance art, hangout in Piazza di Santo Spirito, take some pictures at the Pazzi Chapel, and make my own fragrance at Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. I will definitely go back and perhaps take a bus ride into the Tuscan countryside and to the vineyards as well.
The moral of this story: Don’t make my mistake–give yourself enough time to enjoy Florence!