We left Rome on the Friday morning, after buying train tickets from the most unhelpful, unfriendly person. I really think she is in the wrong job to be serving customers. A smile is all it takes! Undeterred, we had a while to wait, so we had coffee and watched people hurrying through the station from where we sat, upstairs in the cafe.
The train ride was lovely, travelling through the Italian countryside into the rolling green pastures and hills of Tuscany, which we never saw much of, as we all dozed off, all this sightseeing is tiring! Before long we arrived in Florence, the capital city of the Tuscan region and brimming with Renaissance art, grand buildings and monuments, and some wonderful streets that are just fantastic to explore.
We’d booked a hotel at Hotel Anna’s and, after a short walk to the hotel, we arrived to find that there was no reception and a flight of stairs leading up to the 4th floor and the hotel. I started to climb the stairs with my mum following, already in despair because of the pain in her hip. Luckily, a man from another hotel in the same building had spotted us, and seeing my mum was struggling, called us back and told us there was a room available on the ground floor. We couldn’t thank him enough and we checked in to our triple room, which was full of character, large and airy with antique furniture, a huge bathroom with sunken bath, and the walls painted a bright blue.
We dumped our bags, and went out to explore our new surroundings. Florence is a city with narrow streets, many of which are limited traffic zones, so it’s a great place for walking around safely. The city is also said to be one of the most beautiful in the world and it’s not hard to understand why.
There are so many side streets that you can explore and the historic part of the city isn’t big enough to get lost. We walked along Via Faenza and at the end, around the corner, was the most amazing sight I think I might have ever seen.
Santa Maria del Fiore or the Duomo. A striking domed cathedral whose marble pastel-coloured panels glimmer in the sunshine. The cathedral can be seen from miles away. You’ve also got the Campanile and the Baptistry to admire and they are just as stunning.
The facade of the cathedral is ornately decorated with carvings and mosaics and high above, in between the spectacular rose windows, are twelve statues of the Apostles.
Not only that, almost reaching the skies, is the largest dome in the world which, if you’re brave enough to go up there, boasts views that will take your breath away. Views aside, the cathedral alone will make you gasp in astonishment! I guarantee it 🙂
We sat in the shadows the Duomo and ate lunch and, afterwards, we continued on our exploration to Piazza della Signoria, a huge square dominated by the Romanesque-style Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia dei Lanzi with its arches under which statues depicting scenes from mythology are displayed.
You’ll also see the statues of David by Michelangelo and Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli.
If you walk passed Palazzo Vecchio, you’ll see the entrance to the Uffizi Gallery, in the corner. We didn’t venture into the gallery, the courtyard was doing a fine job of being an outdoor gallery in its own right. A rectangular-shaped space with columns and arches and other architecturally pleasing elements, as well as statues of famous painters, architects and other historical figures. Florence was turning out to be no less amazing than Rome and we’d only been there for two hours.
We found ourselves at the River Arno and gazing out over the water to Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge). This Medieval stone bridge doesn’t have statues, it has a variety of jewellers, art and souvenir shops on either side, once a common sight on the bridges of Italy.
We left the river and walked slowly back towards the city, stopped for coffee (wine!) and went back to the hotel for a rest before going out for dinner at Cornelius Trattoria Pizzeria, a cute restaurant that we’d spotted earlier in the day, with fabulous Impressionist-style paintings on the walls. I don’t think we had a bad meal all throughout our trip and this place didn’t disappoint either. We left there and had our obligatory “one-for-the-road” drink before heading back to the hotel for the night.
The following morning, after breakfast, we went for a last wander around the market to buy souvenirs and ate lunch on the street, always a winner in my book, there’s something about al fresco dining, I just love it.
We were only in Florence for one night, so our time was limited, but what we did see was fantastic, it was much more relaxed and it made a pleasant change from the tumult of Rome.
Next up: We’re back in Rome and exploring the city some more 🙂