If you ever are in Italy, you must try Florence! It was an amazing experience for us all. We arrived in the train station, as always, and looked around in our latest surroundings. However busy Venice may seem, you really realize how quiet it is once you hear all of the cars honking at each other once again. We took a taxi to our new apartment, located in the middle of the city in an area where no cars were allowed, save taxis and trucks for restaurant supplies. At the front doors of the building/former palace we met with the owner of the apartment and went in. This palace was owned by a rich family, their wealth displayed in the size of their front door (which was massive) and curved ceilings and a mosaic tiled lobby floor. Our apartment was probably just the cellar for meats or wine back then! It was perfect for us though and very cool because you could see the little engraved stones that decorated the corners and have an idea of how people lived, even if this was only one room in the basement. Having arrived tired, we went out for dinner in a little restaurant around the corner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so good but we did find delicious gelato in the gelatiria where there are so many interesting flavors you wonder which one you will ever come by again!
On the first full day we walked into the piazza Signoria where the masses of tourists were already congregating. We saw the replica of the statue of David, which stands at 4 meters tall! On a diagonal we could see the gallery of the Ufizi museum, one of the most famous museums in the world. It’s built in a U-shape with one inside side columns (where the crowds now stand in line) and across from that there are many statues of philosophers put into stone arches. There are many statues of the gods and centaurs and such. Since we have read the Rick Riordan books which I recommend for kids, we could see the gods and who was who, or at least think we knew who was who. The rest of the piazza boasted a fountain with Neptune and his mermaids and a bronze statue of one of the Medicis and his horse.
In Florence be prepared to walk a lot! Our new rule (after a lesson in Rome) is: The bigger the city, closer the lodgings. Then it’s easy to go and take an hour off to rest because navigating through the busy streets and crowds is exhausting. After walking through the piazza Signoria we walked along the cobblestone streets to the Marketo Centrale. The streets were lined with little stalls selling hundreds and hundreds of bags and belts and other things made of leather. We were in search of this food market because it was supposed to be a cool thing to see according to Rick Steves’ book on Italy. After walking and walking we noticed a supermarket-like building on the street and wondered if we should go and get things to eat in case we can’t find the market. This turned out to be the market! It was a really interesting market under a glass ceiling, with all of the vendors selling very fresh foods. We found upstairs there was a festival called Wine Town and there were little vendors with only tasters. There were chocolates and olive oils, truffle pesto and jam, everything homemade in the Tuscana. We loved it. After discovering the little secret we went back downstairs and got some things on our list. There was a certain vendor that asked how many people you needed to feed and then took the sheets of pasta, put them through the machine in front of you, dumped the noodles on a piece of paper, wrapped it, and gave it to you. It was fascinating and the gnocci we bought were the best gnocci I’ve ever tasted! We had a small lunch in the market at a vendor where we paid for three dishes, got some random ones, and ate at the tables. One of these plates turned out to be tripe, which is cow stomach. My dad thought this was great and we should definitely try it!…the rest of us were a bit more skeptical, but we tried it… it was slimy and I didn’t like it at all but I’m glad I at least triped it!; my dad thought it was good, which none of us understood. It was definitely an aquired taste.
We walked past the Pitti palace and found that the entire weekend was free for all state-owned museums in Italy because it was European Cultural weekend. This was really lucky for us and the line moved pretty fast so we hopped in and decided to go into the palace, instead of just the gardens, which we found out weren’t public anyway. After getting our first taste of waiting in line to see something, we walked in and went through a couple of galleries with paintings. They were all gorgeous, painted with incredible detail. The walls were all painted rich colors and the ceilings are indescribable. Gold statues of angels and such are in the corners and frame the entire ceiling like a piece of art, which it is. Bending your neck the entire time is annoying so I thought it would be a good idea to lay mats on the floor because the ceilings are incredible! We also saw statues that were labeled with 200 BC! Then we quickly walked through the “modern” gallery where the statues made in the 15 and 16 hundreds were described as more “recent” by my dad… As my sisters started to get cranky we pushed one last time and went into the costume gallery with clothes from a long time ago which was pretty interesting for them and then walked through the amazing gardens with tired feet. We did find a little hidden picture-taking secret, high on a hill with a perfect view of the Duomo.
My mom and dad woke up early in the morning and went out to catch the morning light (their secret to picture-taking) of the Duomo which we saw from the outside. I found the color combination of the green, white, and pinkish orange very interesting. On the second day we navigated again through the streets of Chanel and Gucci stores and made our way to the Ponte Vecchio bridge, a bridge like a shopping mall but only with jewelers! We also ended up at the Ufizi museum which was free and waited in line for an hour and 10 minutes. When we saw the line at first it moved really quickly so we thought this was great, we’d be in there in no time… Instead, we found out that the line moved rapidly every 20 minutes where they let about 50 people in; we were about 200 people behind so it took a while. But it was worth it! I could have stayed in there for a long time… I saw the painting “Birth of Venus” by Botticelli, 2 of Leonardo da Vinci, and the sculpture of Romulus and Remus under the wolverine. The little tiny portraits are also amazing to look at very closely. I still can’t understand how the artists get people’s hands to look so real. My mom explained it was just something you need to see and she couldn’t have been more right.
The Leonardo da Vinci museum was recommended for kids because you could play with a lot of his inventions and we went in right before it began to pour buckets. It was ok, but for the price it wasn’t so good. My sisters loved it though! From then on we spent more time trying to be locals and walking around, going into churches (my sisters love love love lighting candles for our grandma) and eating gelato! With that our last day in Florence was over… everybody should try it!