Italy Trip 2021 Part 3: Florence

In Part One I talked about some pre-travel things and our first night in Milan, In Part Two we visited La Spieza and Cinque Terre.

Everyone, literally everyone, I have ever spoken with, even my Italian relatives in Abruzzi, said you must visit Florence (and then next they bring up Venice, but we have been there before, and let me tell you, if you have not been, you must go). Our first visit to Italy we were awestruck by Rome, the second visit to romantic Venice, and this, our third trip to Italy, we made sure we did not miss Florence.

Day 1:

We arrived via the train to the fairly deserted Rifredi station from La Spezia, and a quick search of the map app informed us this was not the station near central Florence. After missing the bus, we took the train to the central station of Santa Maria Novella, which is, as those in the know already know, is the main Florence train station. With our large backpacks strapped on, we stopped by the Tourist Information office, where the kind agent provided us a map and informed us of a few things to do in the city. Then we walked twenty minutes to our lodging, a cute studio on the other side of the Arno river.

After we dropped our bags off we decided we would wander around Florence and see where it took us. There were many, many fellow tourists from all over the world, and it became a bit overwhelming. Masks were still required indoors, but as everyone who travels to Florence either needs a Green Pass (EU for vaccinated), a CDC card, or a negative test, most everyone was not wearing masks, which made the atmosphere feel normal and still weird at the same time.

On the map there was a large part nearby, and we headed that direction. On the way, we happened by a church named the Chiesa di San Giorgio e dello Spirito Santo all Costa (that is a mouthful), and what a stunning little church it was. I rarely take pictures in churches, but in Florence, so many of the churches are so impressive artistically, it is hard not to. Also, since there are so many, they are usually pretty empty, and so we could sit in reverence of the faith and artistry that make them unique.

At the top of the hill was the Forte di Belevdere, which was an large, old fort that sat above most of the city. We meandered around the grounds, joined by a relative few fellow tourists, enjoying the views of the city down below. We stayed and watched the sunset on our first night in the city.

Day 2:

We knew we wanted to see two museums, and if you know anything about Florence, you have more than likely heard of them, the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’Accademia. We made reservations online, because the TI agent had told us that was necessary for those two only, and we went the the Uffizi Gallery on our second day in Florence.

We were able to skip the ticket buying line, but still had to wait in the entrance line for a while, beneficially it gave us the opportunity to peruse the many street artisans selling their created art, which was often unique and very impressive. Much better than the tourist souvenir shops selling the exact same postcards, prints, shot glasses, miniature statues that are everywhere, on seemingly every block, in Florence. We bought the below pieces and the Artist of one of them even was kind enough to pose for a picture.

When we entered the Uffizi, which has been a museum since the 1500s, we were amazing by all the statues, starting in the main hallway, which also has exquisitely painted ceilings, and portraits that lined the the upper walls. It was a feast for the eyes, but one could not focus too long, as there were many fellow tourists in the hallway. We knew we had a lot of time to look through the gallery and used it as best we could, but one simply cannot see everything. We tried to look up as often as possible but not bump into anyone else, lest we fall into one of the statues (though there are so many I’m sure they could afford to replace one or two). Most were of the Greek Gods, and were quite impressively detailed, with different poses, hairstyles, noses, eyes, and faces.

One can be overwhelmed by the amount of Catholic religious paintings, as every church already has so many, and as the patron of many of the Renaissance artists was the Church. There were also many fine portraits of nobles and the wealthy of the time, and these were so detailed, still shone so bright, that it was hard not to stare at every one and note the fine details in their clothes, with every fold, every piece of lace, painted with the utmost care and reverence.

We spent a long time in the rooms of the masters Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Rafael, because their portraits and portrayals were so life-like, so bright, so impressive it was impossible not to. Many of these we had seen before in books as they are that famous, but seeing them in person is another feeling entirely, and highly recommended for lovers of Renaissance paintings. Our favorite painting that we had not seen before was Botticelli’s Annunciation, which we saw portrayed by many different artists throughout Florence. It is of Mary and the Angel Gabriel, and every artist had their own take using the same basic elements of the work.

The Cestello Annunciation, made in 1489 by Sandro Botticelli.

We continued down the hallway, our necks strained from looking up so often, until we found the cafe, where we sat at an outside table and sipped proseccos and shared a sandwich while we discussed all the art we had just seen. After resting, we continued through the rest of the museum before finally leaving and exploring Piazza San Marco, with its large statues and massive number of people, taking pictures, sitting on steps smoking cigarettes, talking with friends, and guides holding up long sticks with different colored flags as tour-groups listened on headphones and dutifully followed.

We then walked into the entryway of the Museo de San Marco, but, after standing and gawking at the carved columns, simple fountain, and painted ceilings, saw the large wooden doors shut behind us, eliminating the outside loudness of the square, but trapping us inside. We took pictures as we searched for the exit, enjoying the relative quiet of the few tourists also trapped inside, also looking for the exit.

As we were museumed-out, we decided to pass on the Museum and instead went to find searching for gelato and rest our worn-out feet and tired eyes. The gelato was well worth it and another highlight of Day 2 in Florence.

As this post ran long and we still have two more days in Florence, the next post will detail those.

Published by Phil Barrington

Currently living in Spain, Accountant by Day, Writer by Night. Lover of baseball, travel ,and spreadsheets. Check out my blog: https://waypastcool.org/

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