Florence, Just a Small Renaissance Town

The Bargello Museum

Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but they don’t do justice to the art and food in Florence. Especially because you can’t eat a picture.

But really, my pictures hardly do justice to the understated elegance of Florence. If I’d had more time, I think the experience would have been vastly improved by having done more research ahead of time. There’s so much history and art that began here in Florence and flourished throughout Italy, and the truth is I know relatively little about it. But never too late! I’m now reading George Eliot’s Romola, set in 1492 Renaissance Florence, and it’s fun to picture her characters walking among these cobblestone streets and loggias.

We saw Michelangelo’s David in the Accademia, a gallery built specifically to house the 17-foot statue. Photos aren’t allowed there (as in most of Italy’s museums), but you can see a replica in the Piazza della Signiora. This David is a little more weather-beaten, and he appears less imposing standing in the shadow of the Palazzo Vecchio than he does in the Accademia, a domed hall built specifically to house Michelangelo’s work.

Afterwards, we did some shopping at the Mercato Centrale, an outdoor market that in particular specializes in selling leather goods.

We had dinner at Osteria Vineria i’ Brincello, and this tagliatelle with pork ragu was fantastic. The interior is quite bright and cheerful, and towards the end of our dinner we developed serious food envy of our neighbors, a table of eight middle-aged local men having guys’ night out, sharing hearty servings of linguine alla vongole.

We stopped for a quick breakfast at the Gran Caffe San Marco, where people stop in for a quick cappuccino on their way to work.

It costs less to drink it, standing, at the bar; ordering from a table incurs a tabling fee. So during the time we stood there enjoying our coffee and pastries, waves of locals came and went, downing their cappuccinos in three large gulps.

Florence’s Duomo, with its white Tuscan marble gleaming in the sun, is really a sight to behold. A major point of interest here is Brunelleschi’s dome, engineered and built in 1436. It’s massive, impressive, even gaudy with its over-the-top facade from the 1870s:

Just across the way sits the Baptistery, famous for Ghiberti’s sculpted bronze doors.

The doors depict Old Testament scenes; above, the walls of Jericho.

They say Florence has the best gelato in Italy, so of course we had to test this statement. I think we had gelato three times in one day. Grom has locations in NYC too, but I honestly think it’s different somehow. We got albicocca (apricot), raspberry and yogurt flavors. This was definitely the best we had in Florence.

Piazza della Signiora, with the Palazzo Vecchio and numerous famous sculptures — Michelangelo’s David, Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa, Giambologna’s the Rape of the Sabine Woman. I loved the pedestal on which the Perseus statue stands — we’d seen it in the Bargello Museum earlier that morning. A great set of photos and more details can be found here:

The Perseus’ statue rests upon a rather high pedestal adorned with four small bronzes inserted in marble niches. The refined pedestal bronzes are an example of Cellini’s unparalleled talent when working on smaller pieces. This was due to the fact that he was also an expert goldsmith.
The four statuettes are related to the biography of Perseus; they are: Perseus’ mother, Danaë, with the his child; Jupiter, Perseus’s father; Mercury and Minerva.

Hello, sir, how d’ye do?

The Loggia dei Lanza, which houses the Rape of the Sabine Woman.

The courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio.

The Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge still lined with shops. And in the foreground, a very random and anachronistic sunbathing patch.

Gold shops have been resident to this bridge since the time of the Renaissance.

Sunshine, tourists, and the Arno River.

The Uffizi Courtyard. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the Uffizi Gallery either. One thing we did make good use of is the Rick Steves app, which you can use to download audioguides to the major museums, sights, and walks. Rick gave us a very informative tour of the gallery, from the flat, medieval art, through the blunders of experimenting with two-dimensionality, and over the course of Renaissance art’s exploration of religious and mythological themes. I loved the Botticelli room, especially Primavera. 

View of the Ponte Vecchio and beyond from the Uffizi.

We only planned a day and a half in Florence, which was barely enough, but our itinerary was packed! I’ll catch up with you in Siena next :)

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8 thoughts on “Florence, Just a Small Renaissance Town

    1. It’s also just so hard to take it all in. I’m still retroactively doing research on things — which is why blogging is great. You get to relive the whole experience!

      1. Yes for sure…. I go back and read blogs I wrote over the last (almost) 3 years and remember all the little things that are easily forgotten. Better than a travel diary!

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