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A Day in Florence (Firenze)

If you don’t have much time to spend in the city of Florence, don’t worry, everything is close and in walking distance. I did a lot of research of what should be seen (or what I found to be the most important) and calculated what we could fit in a day without exhausting ourselves. Our itinerary was perfect, and we still had room for two sit-down meals. You could pick up a meal and go, but sitting down to eat allows you to sync in the culture around you and relax your feet. If you were to walk in a loop to all the destinations below, it would amount to at least 5 kilometers, but you will need to factor in any tours you choose to do.

Galleria dell ‘Accademia

Famously known for the home of Michelangelo’s David, Accademia Gallery has a collection of many Renaissance paintings, sculptures, and musical instruments.

The shear size of David is massive. With the base above your head, it is a total of 517 centimeters high and weighs 5,560 kilos.

Since David creates a crowd of tourists, I would suggest purchasing a ticket for a morning slot in order to skip the line and the crowd. When you leave the museum and see the amount of people waiting to get in, you will thank me! We also went to the back of the gallery first to see David before everyone else, and we were able to get pictures without people getting in front of the camera.

Since we started with David, we circled back down the hall leading up to him. There are four other works from Michelangelo belonging to his unfinished series of the Prisons: The Young Slave, Bearded Prison, Awakening Slave, and Atlas. Michelangelo left the statues incomplete after the commissioned project was scaled back. The stage of these works reveal Michelangelo’s freehand sculpting process and the marks from his mallet and chisel.

Among these large sculptures stands two more: St. Matthew and Pietà of Palestrina. The Florence Cathedral commissioned Michelangelo to sculpt the twelve apostles. St. Matthew was the only statue he had begun and was left unfinished when the project was halted. Pietà of Palestrina was not mentioned in any archives and is questioned to be his work – although accepted by some, such Accademia Gallery. In my opinion, the heads, bodies, and extremities seem distorted and disproportionate, which is not a characteristic of any of Michelangelo’s works.

The Young Slave
Bearded Prison
Awakening Slave
St. Matthew
Pietà of Palestrina

Although Accademia Gallery is known for it’s Michelangelo collection, there are many other notable pieces. The cast of Giambologna’s (Jean de Boulogne) Rape of the Sabines stands at the entrance of the gallery, and there are paintings from Botticelli and instruments from Antonio Stradivari.

The Accademia Gallery is the perfect size and isn’t overwhelming. We were able to tour the museum in a little over an hour.

Absorb the culture

After being on our feet for over an hour, it was time to sit and relax. We hadn’t eaten breakfast, so we chose to get a bite to eat at 56 Red (56 Roso), and most importantly, coffee! You can find it a block south down Via Ricasoli. We were early enough that we were one of two couples, and it allowed us to enjoy the intimate moment.

One thing we learned about traveling Italy is to take the moments that are available to absorb the culture. Beyond the corner where there is a building or artwork you want to see, there will be a mass influx of tourists you cannot escape. Find a quiet street, a small cafe with tables outside, and enjoy the solitude while you can.

Piazza del Duomo – The Historic Center of the City

Take a short walk from Galleria dell ‘Accademia to the historic center of the city, and soak up the stunning architecture. Head south on Via Ricasoli, and you won’t miss it. There is so much to see in Florence’s historic center, Piazza del Duomo. To enter the cathedral, it is free of charge, but if you would like to tour anything else, you will need to purchase a ticket. I would suggest purchasing a ticket online ahead of time to avoid the line and confusion on what to purchase.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, one of Italy’s largest cathedrals, with Giotto’s 7 bell tower on the right.

Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (Santa Maria del Fiore)

This medieval, marble facade church was completed in 1436 and is one of Italy’s largest cathedrals. With a purchased ticket, you can visit the Crypt of Santa Reparata, a crypt beneath the cathedral with mosaic tile floors.

Giotto’s Bell Tower

The campanile looms over the cathedral’s front right side. If you are committed to the panoramic views of the city, you can purchase a ticket to climb 398 steps. Although it is less steps than its dome, the staircase is narrow with two-way traffic.

Brunelleschi’s Dome

The cathedral’s Cupola del Brunelleschi (Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome), is the world’s largest brick dome. If you are physically fit, you can purchase a ticket to climb 463 steps to the top of the dome for city views.

Brunelleschi’s Dome

The Baptistery of St. John

Across from the front of the church, you cannot miss this octagonal basilica’s bronze doors. Lorenzo Ghiberti’s east doors consists of ten panels depicting the Old Testament and took 27 years to complete. Michelangelo named Ghiberti’s masterpiece the Gates of Paradise.

You can walk around to see Ghiberti’s other doors on the north side, as well as Andrea Pisano’s south doors.

For those of you who want to purchase a ticket to get inside, you get to see the interior’s mosaic-covered octagonal dome.

Piazza della Repubblica – Center of the Roman Empire

Continue heading south of the Baptistery on Via Roma. The next piazza is the Piazza della Repubblica, which used to be the city’s public forum. Here you will find a merry-go-round and high-end shopping, such as Micheal Kor’s and Prada. Unless you have kids who want to ride or money to spend, a passthrough is all that is needed here.

Pet the Pig

If you keep heading south on the same street (now Via Calimala), you will run into an outside market. On the south side of Mercato del Porcellino sits a bronze boar fountain, Fontana del Porcellino. If you rub its snout, it will ensure your return to Florence. If you place a coin in its mouth and it falls to the grating below, you are willed good luck. Even if you are not superstitious, why not take a gamble? Besides, the money collected goes to a charity! Luck or not, we did arrive safely back in Florence two weeks later.

Piazza della Signoria – Heart of the City

Head east, one block to the heart of the city. Here you will find yourself in Piazza della Signoria with a fortified palace from the 13th century. Palazzo Vecchio’s entrance is decorated with many statues and once was the home of Michelangelo’s David before it was moved to the Accademia Gallery. A replica now stands in its place. You can also find Giambologna’s (Jean de Boulogne) Rape of the Sabines here, which you may have seen its cast in Accademia Gallery. It is hard to miss Bartolommeo Brandini’s 16th-century Fountain of Neptune.

Inside Palazzo Vecchio, you can explore the private rooms of the Medici court and its secret passages. You can also see notable works of art like Michelangelo’s Genius of Victory and Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes.

Shop for Keep Sakes & Take in the Sights

You are in a great area where you can find leather bags, jewelry or gifts for loved ones, and the views and fresh air from the Arno River are refreshing.

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio

We headed east of Piazza della Signoria in search for a public bathroom, which are pretty gross and cost a couple euros. It is best to just purchase a coffee somewhere to use the bathroom (even if you don’t drink it). We passed by Basilica of Santa Croce, also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories. It is the burial site of many illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile, and Rossini. You can purchase a ticket if you would like to go inside.

We headed south and across Ponte alle Grazie, a bridge built in 1953. We stopped to watch a couple rafts float by on the Arno River. As you walk you will see the Uffizi Gallery, home of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and Ponte Vecchio, the medieval stone closed bridge know for jewelry shopping.

Basilica di Santa Croce
Uffizi Gallery

Eat up!

That was a lot of walking, and the best way to soak Florence in is to sit and watch the world around you.

Find a Rooftop Bar

In Italy, since the cities have limited space, you will notice all the restaurants expand to the sidewalks and streets. They also expand up to the roofs, which a great place to see the city scape and the landscape beyond. Loggia Roof Bar, a terrace on top of the Hotel Palazzo Guadagni, is a great place for pre-dinner drinks or a cheese board.

Eat at an Eccentric Restaurant

If you are looking for a more substantial meal, eat by candlelight at Hostaria da Fulvio. You won’t stop looking at the walls because every part of the restaurant is covered in art. Our waiter brought us his friend’s homemade limoncello after our meal, which was a special treat.

Walk Through an Italian Food Market

If you parked by Accademia Gallery, you will need to walk back that way. You can pass by Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, a neat little 15-century church near the train station. If you are not too tired, it is a quick walkthrough. Head closer to the gallery, and you will find Mercato Centrale. Foodies will really enjoy this! There are stands of endless types of mushrooms, odd cuts of meat, and a top floor where they cook your meal in front of you.

If I just had one more day in Florence! What would I do?

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