We’re in Italy!
So far we’ve passed through Pisa & Florence. We’re currently driving to Rome!
Here’s a quick update on our last couple of days.
We only stopped for about 45 mins in Pisa but had to grab the compulsory leaning tower snap! We had a competition on our coach for the best pic that could be taken with the tower. Above was our entry which landed us first equal (The idea is totally thanks to Jenny).
After Pisa we carried onto Florence. We could tell straight away that we were going to love this city, compact, pedestrian friendly, filled with life, history, views and warmth.
Having read Dan Brown’s Inferno, which is largely set in Florence, also helped to bring the city to life. Below were some of our personal highlights of this visit (I can guarantee there will be another).
Piazza della Signoria
This is the main square by the council buildings, the square has more than its fair share of statues. The statue highlights include that of the Medici family (a banking family who ruled Florence for over 300 years before dying out of infertility), Persius killing Medusa (look for the artist’s self portrait on the back of persious’ head) & a replica of Micheangelo’s David (which sits where the original once did, is the same size, made the same way & is almost identical to the orignial according to our guide). Seeing as though the line to see the original was around 3 hours long & we only had a day, we felt satisfied with the replica.
Instead we did as any sane human visiting Italy would do…we sought out Gelato! Not just any gelato but a store called Vivoli, which according to multiple sources serves the best gelato in the whole of Italy. It wasn’t easy to find. It’s located on a backstreet parallel west of the end of Piazza della Santa Croce. It was however worth the effort. At the store we met an American couple from Washington. DC. Josh & Laurie. Josh who told us that he’d been coming back to Florence every year for 43 years, he said he was surprised that we’d managed to find Vivoli so quickly as in his 43 years of visiting Italy he (along with the other sources) hadn’t found better. He suggested trying the Peach, Hazelnut & Chocolate flavours. I was not disappointed, it literally tasted like I was eating a chilled peach! We stayed talking with Josh and Laurie for a while who’ve kindly pointed out a few insider attractions for future visits!
We decided to take the slightly less trodden route in Florence, skipping the Duomo & the Baptisery & instead checking out Santa Croce. Santa Croce is well known for being the burial place of several well-known figures in history including Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante & Machiavelli (for all the Polititical Science Geeks out there). Santa Croce also contains the statue that allegedly inspired the Statue of liberty statues of New York & Paris. Additionally it contains some exceptional religious art & has an overall impressive size. In regards to Michelangelo’s tomb, its interesting to note that despite the impressive sculpture memorial and the seemingly tomb-like section, he is actually buried down off the right of the memorial behind a little plaque. Apparently Michelangelo was aware of his fame before his death & knew that a big memorial would be made but requested that his body be buried off to the side because he didn’t want people to make a big fuss over him; gawking at his tomb.
It was upon the suggestion of our traveller friends Josh & Laurie that we checked our the Bargello museum which is often overlooked because of it’s competing larger museums in the city. If you are restricted in time however, it’s worth considering the Bargello. For 7 Euros each we walked in with no lines. The Museum is housed in a large old 3-storied fortified building with an open courtyard in the middle. The Museum holds a few Michelangelo pieces and a quite a number of pieces by Donatello as well as impressive collections of ceramics, religious art and an armory. We managed to push through in an hour, while managing to read quite a number of descriptive plaques but I imagine you could be here for hours! This museum is definitely a hidden little gem.
We also spend a significant amount of time eating local cuisine (Tortelinni, seafood spaghetti, tiramisu & wine – saving the Florentine steak for next time) and browsing local tanneries for leather goods.
Overall I’d highly rate Florence for equal parts culture, food, and attractions accessibility. We’re already looking for volunteering opportunities around here so we can extend our stay, I have a feeling you’d do the same should you visit.