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Published: September 28th 2010
A Renaissance City
View from Piazza Michelangelo.
Sometimes the universe propels you in the right direction. In our years we’ve realized that you end up where you need to be.
With a world of change behind us, we set forth to recapture the essence of who we are: EXPLORERS, voyeurs, and sometimes just curious. These are rather insatiable traits that seemingly cannot be ignored for long. What better place to feed this passion than the city that simply oozes creativity: Florence.
From the climes of Pittsburgh, we first stopped over in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia and boarded a plane to Frankfurt, then to Florence. Although most choose to fly in and out of Rome, we wanted to start this voyage in Florence, hence the strange connections. We will eventually make our way to Rome towards the end of this journey.
The history surrounding this city of the Renaissance is the tale of most major centers: greed. Money in the hands of the few always results in famously outrageous tales. Throw in some pillaging, sacking, looting and the like and you find a great story that is Florence.
From the moment you get near the heart of the city
The Original David
in Academia Museum
center, you can sense the creativity that became the Florence that you see today. The many piazzas, churches, and buildings reflect the wonderful designs and craftsmanship of brilliant minds. Although construction of some of these edifices took more than 150 years, the results are astounding in their intricate detail and use of the building materials available upwards of 600 years ago.
The Dark Ages (or Middle Ages) tethered to the plague and flooding almost destroyed Florence, but the afore mentioned greed is what brought it back. In this case, it was the famous (or infamous) Medici family and others, who apparently made serious cash by loaning same at high interest rates (haven’t we seen this movie before?) and also managed to get their influence all the way to the papacy.
Families of considerable wealth commissioned the many works then the way the modern world would order fine furniture. The results were astounding to say the least, and these fine works of art are well preserved in the museums and churches throughout Florence. Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli and many others left an astounding body of work that continues to bring admirers in droves.
The Lovely Arno River
with it's many bridges
only had a few days to soak all this in, we were fortunate enough to sign up for the Walking Tours of Florence which exposed us to a great deal of the art and history of the town. Michelangelo’s “David” is a tour all its own and the story is amazing. Other tours included an overview of the city and a tour of the Uffizi, which houses hundreds of master works. These tours are absolutely worth the money as they are conducted by guides with a wealth of knowledge and you don’t have to wait in long lines to gain entrance to the museums. This was our first time to take the walking tours in any city and we can say that we truly enjoyed them.
Seven paragraphs in and no mention of the food! Unconscionable!
Our first night in town we wandered around the corner from our hotel and enjoyed our first Italian pizza at the Bondi Pizzaria with a stop at the first Gelato corner store that we could find. Both were excellent! Our second night we took a recommendation from our walking tour guide and had an absolutely wonderful meal at Za Za’s in
the Central Market square.
We later learned that this restaurant was featured in several travel guides. We generally try to avoid those places but this one was well worth the stop. The following night we were heading out to another restaurant that had been recommended but it was closed so we ended up back at ZaZa’s and had a second wonderful meal. This would represent our obligatory recommendation.
Our last night in Florence we dined at Trattoria Antellesi, where we enjoyed the Steak Florentine. I did not take long to realize we are not going to have a bad meal in Italy. The wines, as expected are exceptional. The absence of tannins and preservatives allows Dave to enjoy the grape, as the normally ensuing headache does not happen.
We enjoyed our stay at Hotel Mario’s, an Italian family run inn. It is cozy but the rooms are very small. We noticed this property in Karen Brown’s guidebook and I would say it is nice, but not her norm for one of her recommendations.
In all our travels around the world we can certify that America has the biggest and widest streets that we have seen.
This includes Dubai. We can imagine if someone from Florence would come to visit they would wonder about our waste of space. In Florence, the streets are narrow, many only as big as an alley in America as they once only had to handle pedestrians and the occasional horse-drawn cart.
In the city many vehicles are subcompacts. The “Smart Car” is quite popular as well. It is fairly entertaining to us as Americans to watch a Smart Car parallel park in a space we would never consider possible. Most of the streets are one way and that is good as they are so narrow that there is barely enough room for one lane of cars to be parked along the side and a “smart car” to squeak past. There are times you hold your breath in wonder. Scooters, vespas and bicycles are popular forms of transportation. These narrow streets should be limited to foot traffic.
Other highlights of our time here in the city of the Renaissance included a climb to the top of the Duomo (domed church), which is known as Santa Maria del Fiore and provides a lovely view. The first level is up 120 steps
and the second level is an additional 300+ steps to the top.
On our walking tour we learned about the “Pharmacy” perfumery where they filmed a portion of Hannibel. We had to make a stop and check it out. It was fun being in the same place where Hannibel Lechter created a divine scent.
From time to time watching television or reading a magazine, you come across a picture that is a stunning vista of this city. We were strolling along the river one day and asked a bus driver about these large white umbrellas across the river and up a rather steep bank on the thought that this might be a nice place to have a view of the city. He responded that what we were looking at was the Piazza Michelangelo. We hopped in a cab and went there directly. The view of the city sites was absolutely amazing--- breathtaking. This view allows you to take in all of the sights. Pretty as a postcard? Yes, and that is because this is the view on all the postcards!
Since both of us are nurses we feel the urge to comment on Florence Nightingale who was
A tired pup
after climbing the stairway!
born in here and named after the city. Florence was born into wealth and could easily have lived a very different life from the one she selected. Her years of experience and caring for soldiers during the Crimean War allowed her to realize the importance of sanitation. She fought to reform military hospitals and medical care. She founded St. Thomas’s Nursing School in London, England. Florence was a strong and independent woman and did not care for the rich, idle life that her family was accustomed to.
Ah, but enough shop talk……our stay was wonderful and exhilarating and provided us yet again with a sampling of history, art and wonderment in city that revels in its boast that man’s creativity was reborn here some 500 plus years ago.
And now on to the island of Elba, better know historically as the place where Napoleon was first banished upon his overthrow in the early 1800’s.
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