As I mentioned last week in a post about Rome, my time during that trip was also spent visiting another historically significant city known as Florence, Italy. Recognized by the Italians as Firenze, Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany region and is considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance during the middle ages. Countless famous artists studied here including greats like Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Dante Alighieri (my all-time favorites). I cannot even begin to tell you just how excited I was about getting the chance to go here! Florence is every art-lover’s dream, and seeing and discovering it for myself truly felt like stepping back in time to the magical era of the Renaissance.
Starting from Rome, My husband and I together travelled by speed train on Trenitalia (highly recommended) about an hour north to Florence. We always enjoy taking the train to fully appreciate the lovely views of the countryside when traveling, and Tuscany was particularly beautiful to see. As we arrived at the train station we checked in to our hotel and immediately set out to explore the most prominent building that dominates the Florentine skyline… The Florence Cathedral. More commonly called “Il Duomo”, the cathedral incorporates a series of structures including the main Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry, the Crypt, and the Gallery of the Opera del Duomo (museum). It was absolutely incredible to see every inch of these buildings both inside and out. I feel like it would be a crime to ever skip out on doing this, even the website says “If you haven’t seen this, you haven’t seen Florence” and I couldn’t agree more! There is plenty of ground to cover here and I strongly suggest to plan on saving an entire day to look at it all. We spent a good few hours going through every part because there really is just so much to see. The ticket office is located in Giotto’s Bell Tower and costs only 10 Euro per person which is quite the steal when you consider all that is included.
If your legs aren’t completely numb then you can also climb Giotto’s Tower which offers fantastic views of the dome itself.
Experiencing the Cathedral that day was utterly exhausting but completely worth it. That evening we somehow managed to find the energy to head around the corner to the famous San Lorenzo Leather Market. If this market hadn’t been so fantastic we probably wouldn’t have had the strength to walk up and down the streets. But the San Lorenzo Market is literally the BEST market shopping I have seen in Europe! We are usually too busy seeing the sites to really shop at the cities we go to, but here? We definitely shopped until we dropped. They have some of the best quality-made leather goods for the most reasonable prices. Leather purses, jackets, belts, and wallets, they really do have it all. I almost think that it would be impossible to go through the market without wanting to buy something. Be sure to barter with the salesmen to get even better deals. We ended our fun-filled day that evening with delicious authentic pizza from a tasty little restaurant La Bottega del Pizzaiolo. In Florence, we literally ate pizza for every meal! There are plenty of great pizza places around and I’m pretty sure that you can’t go wrong no matter where you go. Don’t forget to have gelato for dessert.
Knock off Celine bags anyone?
The following morning for us was museum day, and we couldn’t think of a better way to start it off than by seeing Michelangelo’s iconic masterpiece, The David. You can see the sculpture by visiting the Galleria dell’Accademia just north from the Duomo. My husband and I were both completely blown away by the sheer size and beauty of the David. We stood there for almost an hour just observing the pure perfection of one of the world’s most incredible works of art. The David is by far the most amazing sculpture I have ever seen. Photos are not allowed in the museum, but it doesn’t matter because no pictures could ever do the David justice! There is nothing like seeing it in person for yourself and viewing that statue for the first time was probably my favorite moment in Florence.
From there we continued with the artistic theme of the day by heading next to the Uffizi Gallery which is the centerpiece museum of the city. Various historic works of art are shown including well-known paintings like The Birth of Venus (Botticelli), The Annunciation (Da Vinci), and Madonna of the Goldfinch (Raphael). These are just a few standouts from an impressive collection of some of the world’s oldest pieces of art. The price for both the Uffizi and Accademia were not ideal, but we have found that most museums/sites in Italy are this way (not much you can do about that). Seeing this museum left us feeling super cultured but super tired. Huge museums can often be a little overwhelming so be sure to check out the highlights so you aren’t just wandering around aimlessly. As we finished the tour we stepped right out to the Arno River to relax and enjoy some great views of Florence’s most famous bridge, The Ponte Vecchio.
Going across Ponte Vecchio was a little crazy due to the fact that the Florence Marathon was happening throughout all the main streets of the city. We still managed to see some gorgeous views from the bridge and go through all the little jewelry shops on our way over to the other side. I really liked seeing the other side of town which included more main attractions including Pitti Palace and the beautiful The Boboli Gardens. I have to admit that before going to Florence I read Dan Brown’s latest book Inferno, which takes place in Florence and covers all the different landmarks. It’s a little nerdy, but I learned all about the city before going which made exploring around even more enjoyable.
Our evening was spent watching the most beautiful sunset go down over The Ponte, Vecchio.
You know that moment when you arrive somewhere and you feel instantly connected? That was exactly how Florence was for me. It was love at first sight, and everything about this city spoke to me. From the architecture and art, to the history and scenery. Florence was perfection in my eyes. I do hope that I get the chance to go back again to visit one of my most favorite places I have ever been.
The Savvy Suitcase Top 3 Picks:
1. Michelangelo’s David. A masterpiece.
2. Florence Cathedral. Crown jewel of the city.
3. San Lorenzo Leather Market. Such fun shopping.
*We recently went to Portugal and I will be covering all about that soon!