Saturday, March 12, 2016

Falling for Florence

What can I say about Florence? A lot of things. This city surprised me. I arrived late at night from Rome having travelled all day from Lisbon. I had a list of things I wanted to see and was hoping that my time would be enjoyable. Arriving at my hostel, I was supposed to be in a four bedroom female dorm but the woman at the desk said that I had been put in a single room and if that was alright. I thought it was more than alright and happily accepted the single bed at the rate I had paid for the four bedroom. 

Waking in the morning, I headed for the Uffizi Gallery for my 9:30 am time slot. Passing the Galleria dell’ Academia, I popped in and grabbed my tickets for my 2 pm time slot. Heading along through the streets of Florence I came face to face with the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore or Il Duomo di Firenze, as it is ordinarily called.

The weather was grey but I could not help but admire the large cathedral and its beautiful exterior. Stopping outside of the baptistry, I admired the Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti, a goldsmith and sculptor.  The doors were built to serve as a votive offering to celebrate the sparing of Florence from the Black Death in 1348. These doors are a replica but the originals took 21 years to complete.

Walking along I passed by Palazzo Vechio making a mental note that I wanted to visit it and hopefully would get the time to do so the next day.

Heading across the Ponte Vecchio bridge, all the stalls were still closed but it gave me something to do before my time in the gallery. I headed back to the gallery, pausing to snap a photo of a statue of Dante.

Entering the Uffizi Gallery, I wandered through each room enjoying the painted ceilings, the sculptures, the paintings. It was a very good experience and I am glad I got to enjoy it. 

Leaving the Uffizi Gallery, I went to All'Antico Vinaio on Via De' Neri 65/R 74 /76/R. It was so close and when I got in I had a hard time just figuring out what I wanted. I let the guy help me and he made me an amazing sandwich with salami, roasted eggplant, this crazy amazing cheese spread. It was so good. I got myself a glass of the house wine and sat down to enjoy it. It was such a big sandwich that I was not able to finish it so I tucked it into my bag to enjoy later.

With lunch out of the way my next challenge was to climb all the things. I really wanted to climb the dome but I learned when I got to the ticket office that I wouls have to purchase the €15.00 ticket for all the the Duomo which included entrance into the dome, the bell tower, the baptistry and the crypt below the church. The cathedral is free to enter but I found that the ticket was worth the price for everything you get. I believe you can use it over a 2 day period as well.

Starting to climb the stairs, I arrived at the first section of the the dome which is painted by  Filippo Brunelleschi. The dome is sometimes referred to as Brunelleschi's Dome because of this. It was a long way to the beginning of the dome and there was still the rest of the dome to climb.

Finally reaching the top of the dome I was rewarded with a beautiful view over Florence. I had climbed 463 steps to reach the top. It had been a bit of a struggle to as its not a straight climb and you have to deal with anyone coming down as there is only really one way up which is the same as the way down until you reach the second level of the inner dome. It was a bit annoying but there was nothing you could do but wait to get past or squeeze past others.

Managing to climb back down the dome and all the stairs. I wandered around just letting myself waste a bit of time before my 2 pm time slot at the Accademia.

Deciding to head into the Baptistry, I thought about Dan Brown's book Inferno that is set in Florence. In the book Robert Langdon, the main character has to open the Gates of Paradise to enter the Baptistry to get in before its opened.  The Baptistry was a very cool building, I liked its shape and beautiful ceiling.

Heading to the Galleria dell'Accademia, I was allowed in a little bit earlier than my ticket which was nice as I had hoped they would not turn me away. It was worth trying. Entering the gallery, I spotted the David from down the hallway surrounded by his admirers.

Wandering around the rest of the gallery, I liked how it explained most of all the paintings in detail and did not just say their names and who they were by. They also showed what some of the paintings looked like before, during and after restoration.

After enjoying the gallery as much as I could, I left and headed back towards the Duomo. This time it was time to climb it's bell tower which is known as Gioto's Bell Tower. Climbing this was a bit easier than the dome of the Duomo as there was a lot of areas for you to stop and rest along the way. The bell tower is also only 414 stairs, compared the climbing to the dome which is 463 steps.

Enjoying the view and taking advantage of the selfie function of my camera a lot more than I normally would. It's so nice having the screen be able to flip so I can see what I am taking a picture of.  No having to ask people to take the photo and be disappointed with the result.

While I was up in the tower, I decided I would try some of the new functions of my camera. I am pleased with the results.

Next on my exploring of Florence, I took a long stroll towards Piazzale Michelangelo, which was supposed to have a really nice view over Florence. 

Reaching Piazzale Michelangelo, I would have to agree and say that it did give an amazing view over Florence. The sun was starting to set and it the weather was so lovely. I really enjoyed looking over Florence.

Another statue of David. The original is in the Accademia but you can find replicas everywhere in Florence.

Heading down from Piazzale Michelangelo, I admired Ponte Vecchio from Ponte alle Grazie. Walking until I came across the Basilica of Santa Croce, which front face was very much like the Duomo. The sun was making things pretty and I enjoyed walking around the square in front of the basilica.

I found a really cool shop called Bartolucci that had this wooden motorcycle in the window. It was full of all different type of ornaments made of wood.

For dinner I headed to Osteria dè Benci, on the recommendation of the lovely Whitney. I had the spaghetti carbonara with the house wine. For dessert, I enjoyed the tiramisu which was heavenly and I definitely recommend this restaurant. It was delicious.

The walk back to the hostel was about twenty minutes but I stretched them a bit longer by going back to the Duomo and staring up in wonder. Florence surprised me by how much I fell in love with it. Goodnight Duomo, goodnight Florence.

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