On Saturday we woke up and prepared for a super full day of Florence artwork! Sara’s mom had prepared a breakfast for us and then we caught the train into Florence. Adam had drawn on the map all the places we wanted to go and what order we would do them in. We knew there was so much we wanted to see so this was a perfect way to prepare.
Our first stop was the Medici Chapels which was the burial site for the Medici family who commissioned much of the most famous Renaissance artists. They made their money through textiles and banking and some of their banking mechanisms are still used today. Michelangelo lived with the Medicis as a teenager. The chapels are located in the Church of San Lorenzo. There are some very beautiful parts including the tomb designed by Michelangelo himself. Inside it are 3 sculptures by the great artist, 2 of which are unfinished but incredible. We can’t explain exactly what it is but there is something about a Michelangelo statue that just has a different look or air about it. Almost like going into old Yankee Stadium.
After the chapels we went to Il Duomo. We first went to the museum which has some sculptures including some that are very famous. Because we had a lot to do, we breezed through the less famous rooms and focused on Michelangelo’s Pieta which was close to being finished but after he found that there was a small imperfection in the marble he stopped working on. We also saw Ghiberti’s original bronze “Gates of Paradise” which used to be on the doors of the Bapistery. Today replicas decorate the exterior of the Duomo and Campanile. Each panel tells a different story from the bible and they are so intricate and beautiful! Donatello’s anorexic Mary Magdalene is one of his most famous sculptures and very interesting. Also there are Brunelleschi’s models for the dome of Il Duomo. What makes this church so interesting is that when it was being built, they left a large hole in the top where the dome would go- the technology to build a dome had disappeared during the Dark Ages and Brunelleschi had to work to re discover this.
After the museum we went into the Duomo to see the large church (the third largest nave in Christendom). Our favorite art inside was the Last Judgement by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari. Although this was an amazing work, we thought that the outside of the church with its beautiful Gothic facade made of pink, green and white Tuscan marble was much more interesting and beautiful than the inside. We wanted to climb the dome but the line was too long so we skipped it and put it on the “next time” list, and with Florence there will definitely be a next time!
Next we headed to the Bargello (Museo Nazionale) which is a former police station turned prison. This has the best collection of Florentine sculpture. Most famous here is Donatello’s “David”. This was very influential in that it was the first male nude to be sculpted in 1000 years. Donatello was one of the earliest Renaissance sculptors and many artists to follow copied his style. Other famous works here included an unfinished Michelangelo sculpture, fine works by Cellini, Giambologna and more Donatello. Also Ghiberti and Brunelleschi’s door panels. We really enjoyed this museum and were in and out of it quickly.
From here, we intended to go to lunch but we were moving so quickly that the place we wanted to go wasn’t even open yet! So instead we went to Santa Croce to see the tombs of Galileo and Michelangelo. This church is a 14th century Franciscan church which holds the tombs of great Florentines. Galileo defied the church by saying that the earth revolved around the sun and was therefore forced into house arrest for the last few years of his life. His remains were only allowed in the church long after his death. Across from Galileo’s tomb is Michelangelo’s. Other famous people buried here include Rossini and Machiavelli. Giotto’s famous fresco “Death of St. Francis” is here as well. We enjoyed this and it was interesting to see so many famous people buried here (all from Florence!)
After this we went to lunch at Gatto e la Volpe which was recommended to me by my friend Brittany. Adam and I shared the margarita pizza with buffalo mozzerella to start. The cheese was amazing and the pizza was very good but not our favorite that we’ve had. I ordered the pesto gnocchi which was so delicious and Adam had the four cheese risotto which he loved. Overall a very successful lunch!!
After lunch we hung out by the Arno River for a few minutes. This is truly a beautiful, historic place that has so much more than one day of stuff to do so we hope to come back and explore more. The river is a perfect place to people watch, see the beauty and get an old time feel for the city. A cool note was that there was a small soccer field right on the edge of the river with a big net around it. A group of guys were playing 5v5 soccer on the edge of the river- at time falling into the net, which was the only thing stopping them from flying into the river. We later learned the whole complex by the field is home to Florence’s famous rowing club.
From here we made our way across the Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s most famous bridge. This was once lined with many butcher shops but today they are mostly elegant gold and silver shops.
On the south side of the river Arno, we went to the Pitti Palace which is full of about six different museums within this one palace. We came to see the Palatine Gallery which features the second best collection of paintings in town as well as the second biggest collection of Raphael paintings anywhere in the world.
We walked through all the rooms and saw all the paintings which we really enjoyed. They had many Titians, Rubens and of course the Raphael’s. Before leaving we took a quick look at the Royal Apartments where the Pitti’s rulers lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Outside the Palace is a long hill made out of stone or concrete where people sit, lay and relax. Here we laid down in the sun for a few minutes. Adam was reading to me but I fell asleep quickly and took a great sunshine nap! Soon after we realized we had to keep moving to see it all so we got up and kept up our marathon day!
We crossed the Ponte Vecchio again and headed to the Uffizi Gallery which houses the greatest collection of Italian paintings anywhere featuring work by Giotto, Leonardo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, Botticelli, and Michelangelo. This museum is large and U-shaped and easy to see all of it. It is mainly in chronological order which made it easier. We moved through the early Italian rooms into what we were more interested in. We saw Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Allegory of Spring and two minor works by Leonardo da Vinci. Even with our Firenze Card in the reservation line we still had to wait on a short line. People in the ticket buying line had a huge wait!
From here we went to the Palazzo Vecchio. We saved this for last because we knew it was open latest. While we were standing here preparing we saw someone Adam knows from Point Guard College who was in Italy for his honeymoon! Small world!
The Palazzo Vecchio is a castle-like fortress with a 300 foot spire that we had to climb. In Renaissance times it was the Town Square and in 1540 one of the Medici family members made it his own personal palace. Today along with being a museum it is the town hall and mayors office. We saw some sort of meeting or conference going on in the Great Hall while we were here. This area is the highlight- a 13,000 square foot hall lined with many frescoes and sculptures including a Michelangelo.
After seeing the hall and paintings we waited on a short line to climb the tower. We made it to the top pretty quickly and were rewarded with an incredible view of the city especially Il Duomo. We took a bunch of pictures and Adam scared me by standing on the area that is clear and you can see to the ground below. I wasn’t too scared til then but then after that I couldn’t get un scared! So soon after we went back down into the museum.
From here we crossed the bridge again and headed to dinner at Trattoria Quattro Leoni, another recommendation by Brittany (her sister actually). This restaurant was fantastic and we had the best meal we have had in Italy!! The menu was all in Italian which is how we knew it’d be great! Luckily we made reservations earlier in the day because they were packed and not taking anymore tables when we were there!
We started with asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and then we both ordered the pear ravioli which they are famous for. It was in a light cream/white sauce and was absolutely amazing! The ravioli and pear and cheese inside and the salty/sweet combination was perfect!! For my meal I had steamed clams and mussels while Adam had a pork dish. Both were great!! I then ordered the cheesecake for dessert because I had to try it! It was awesome!! Afterward Sara picked us up and took us to Piazzale Michelangelo where there is a huge replica of the David and a gorgeous view looking down on Florence from the south side of the Arno River.
Soon after she brought us home. We played her two little dogs (Chloe and Penelope) for a while but we were exhausted so we pretty quickly went to bed. On Sunday we had plans for our private wine tour!!