{Travel Tales: Malta & Italy, Part Sixteen – Florence Works Her Charm}

The next day was our only full day in Florence.  I was almost immediately in love with the city, so much more so than Rome.  I developed a theory that your preferred cities in Italy correlate to your preferred eras in history.  Rome is for people who like the ancient Romans and similarly old cultures and cities, Florence is for Renaissance geeks like me.

We only had one day in Florence, and I wanted to make it count, so we got up early and headed down to breakfast so we could get moving.  The breakfast in Florence was just as good as the one in Rome, but had the added benefit of house-made muffins and pastries.  I continued to eat as much salami as humanly possible, and I preferred the coffee at this breakfast because you could get a cappuccino.

Because of our walk the night before, I had a pretty solid idea of where we needed to go to start our adventures for the day.  We walked to the river and began to walk along it, moving in the direction of the Ponte Vecchio.  My goal was the Uffizi Gallery, despite the fact that we did not have advanced tickets to get in, which is apparently a bad move.  However, I got it into my head that Florence owed us a favor after our derailed trip to Pisa, and I wanted to give it a shot.

It worked out.  We were online for only about forty minutes (generally it’s a three hour wait) – my idea to get there as close to opening as possible paid off, and the girl standing in front of us told me I looked like Emma Stone so score on that front, I guess.  (I’m convinced that the fact that my sunscreen makes it look like I put geisha makeup on is the reason that comparison was made.)

The rest of the museum was full of paintings, impressive ceilings and a lot of things that we swore we already saw in Rome.  So the questions remains: which is the original one?  I’d probably have to do a ton of research to figure that all out, but all I know is that I saw many repeat statues in Florence that I had already seen in Rome.  Once again, I preferred the sculpture to the paintings, though it was amazing to see Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” in person.  I love getting to see the originals of paintings I have only ever seen pictures of.

The graffiti in the top left photo was found in the bathroom of the museum:

From the Uffizi, we walked over to the Palazzo Vecchio and got our daily gelato – the day’s flavors were chocolate hazelnut and amaretto, which turned out to be a perfect combination.  We ate gelato and walked around the palazzo, looking at the buildings and the statues.  The Fountain of Neptune next to the palazzo was covered in scaffolding which was a bit of a bummer, as it was something I had been looking forward to seeing.  They do, however, have the fake David statue outside of the palazzo which looks impressive… until you see the real one (which will come a bit later in this tale).

The square was crowded, but it had a different energy than Rome.  Though there were a lot of people, it felt like a calmer crowd.

As we did in Rome, we were mostly just wandering the city.  We had the big sights we wanted to see and a plan to walk to all of them, but for the most part we really enjoyed just walking the streets of a new place and seeing the charm of the signs and the buildings.

After the Palazzo Vecchio (which we would end up walking through a few times; there always seems to be one place in every city that you end up passing through multiple times), Santa Croce was our next stop.  Santa Croce was “rebuilt for the Franciscan order in 1294 by Arnolfo di Cambio, is the burial place for the great and good in Florence. Michelangelo is buried in Santa Croce, as are Rossini, Machiavelli, and the Pisan-born Galileo Galilei, who was tried by the Inquisition and was not allowed a Christian burial until 1737, 95 years after his death. There is also a memorial to Dante, but his sarcophagus is empty (he is actually buried in Ravenna as he was exiled from Florence)” (Visit Florence).  Because of these claims to fame, the line to get in was very long so we skipped this one and instead enjoyed the piazza outside of it.

Santa Croce led us to the Duomo… eventually.  In every city we inevitably got turned around trying to find the next sight we wanted to see.  Although this can derail some, I actually like it because it allows you to see more of the city that you’re in and to stumble upon something that the guidebooks don’t necessarily mention.  In this case, we were able to see more of the smaller streets of Florence until they opened up into a large piazza, complete with a carousel.

After a bit of map studying, we found out way to the Duomo.  We had a bit of confusion once we arrived trying to find our which line went inside the building – visiting the church itself is free, but you can also go up to the dome, which needs to be arranged in advance.  Neither of us were too keen on going up to the dome since we read that the staircase is very narrow and hot and can rile up one’s claustrophobia, so we opted for visiting the inside of the church instead.  The line was long, but moves very quickly, and there’s a water fountain to fill up your water bottle along the way.

Once we made it inside, we were very impressed with the dome.  The church itself was huge and ornate.  I was very impressed with all these ceilings while I was there.

Our last major stop of the day was the Accademia, where we would see the statue of the David.  However, our tickets were reserved in advance and we were not due to be there until around six o’clock.  At this point, it was about two.  Sarah was still not feeling well and I was hungry, and so we decided to grab some lunch and go back to the hotel to rest.  We ended up at an extremely disappointing pizza place.  It was probably the only really crappy meal the whole trip – it was just kind of bland pizza.  How a pizza with bacon from Italy can be described as bland, I don’t know but somehow that’s what it was.

After a few hours of rest, we headed out to the Accademia in search of the David.  While I was in my hotel room, I had studied the map and discovered that everything we had gone to was actually in very close proximity, and I mapped out the best way to get there without retracing everything we had done all day.  Walking around Florence was much more straightforward than Rome, however, for the sole reason that it’s a much smaller city.

One thing that I learned on this trip was definitely buy all of your museum and major attraction tickets beforehand to visit.  It’s so much easier than standing on the line, and you get an assigned time to go in so you don’t spend a lot of precious sightseeing time waiting around.

The Accademia line process was quick and easy and we got in with no issues.  As you walk in, there are some paintings and statues, but most people have just one goal in mind when they enter that building: The David.  The original Michelangelo statue is far superior to its copy in Palazzo Vecchio.  It is enormous, and situated impressively in a room with a large domed ceiling.  You turn the corner, and suddenly there he is.  And here’s more pictures of the David than  you’ll ever need:

The museum had a few other rooms of sculptures which obviously took a backseat tot he main attraction but are worth viewing just the same.  Many sculptures are all located in one room, in various states.  If I’m remembering correctly, some of them were casts for later sculptures or sculptures in progress.

We had read in our guidebook that there was a very good gelato place near the Accademia, and so we decided it was a two gelato day (this time was almond and I think a vanilla since I hadn’t tried that yet).  We walked slowly back in the direction of the hotel, gelato in hand.  The goal was to take it easy, but we wanted to walk some more.  We followed a modified version of our path from the morning, passing by the Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio again, since we knew it would be our last chance to see them.   The walk ended at the Ponte Vecchio and to the middle of the bridge as we had passed it a few times but hadn’t walked over it.

Dinner was at a restaurant we found on the walk back to the hotel, but we kept it simple and I had a truffle pasta, which was amazing.  It had the perfect amount of truffle (sometimes too much truffle can overwhelm dishes and take them from delicious to disgusting very quickly).

Our full day in Florence was productive, but I wish we had planned more days there, because I think I really would’ve enjoyed exploring in more depth.  My goal is to get back there someday as part of a trip to Tuscany.  But for the time being, I appreciate the short time I had in this city!

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