I just spent three days in Florence, long considered part of the “Holy Trinity” that is on every first-time tourists to Italy. The Holy Trinity includes Venice and Rome, in addition to the former.
I completed the Holy Trinity this weekend! That was my first thought on the trade ride home to Viterbo.
A little bit of history behind Firenze: It is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area.
Florence is famous for its history. A centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of the time, Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called the Athens of the Middle Ages. A turbulent political history includes periods of rule by the powerful Medicifamily, and numerous religious and republican revolution.
The trip actually started on Friday morning when my Italian Gardens class boarded a bus on its way to Pienza. In Pienza, we looked at the Piccolomini Pope Pius II (Enea Silvio Piccolomini) from Bernardo Rossellino and in the second half of the 15th century together with the papal palace, of which it is an integral part.
After visiting this garden, we walked around town for a few minutes before getting back on the bus and heading to Florence, a place I would call the city of renovations. No matter what time of the year you travel to this city, there’s almost an 80 percent chance that something you desired to see is closed. Doesn’t matter if its the Uffizi, Academia, Battistero, Duomo — it doesn’t matter — something is always closed. The city can afford to do this by the way because it costs a fortune to gain access to these historical places.
When we arrived in Florence, it was dark and cold. Many of us were tired. Not long after we checked in to Hotel Victoria, most of us were off to experience the city. I happened to split from the group I was with to take some night shots of the Duomo and Campanile, the monumental bell-tower that serves as a landmark in the city. I really enjoyed walking around and kind of getting a feel for the city. I knew that my friends and I had to make the most of the time we had so I did a little bit of reconnaissance – Call of Duty style.
Since my friend Vivian was the travel guide in Venice, as I so explicitly mentioned in my post about Venice just a couple of weeks ago, I volunteered to take the lead on this trip. I had stacks of paper folded into sixths, lining each of my pockets. The memos contained notes about paintings to look at in the Uffizi, Academia, and more. I had a very good idea of what we would be seeing and when, and also how much it was going to cost us for each place.
On Saturday morning, we had a quick and very unfulfilled breakfast. Croissants and Caffe. Nice,right? Afterwards we hit a couple more gardens which I will be talking about next week in my gardens update.
For our midday break we enjoyed chocolate waffles at Caffe Pontevecchio, an eatery on the oldest bridge in Florence, recommended by my friend, Hannah. Its the oldest bridge because its the only one that wasn’t destroyed by a German bomb. The bridge has shops that line both sides of the street. Mostly goldsmiths selling jewelry and other expensive products – none of interest to a student traveler. The bridge is beautiful and unlike any bridge I have seen. It was unique in its own way. I cant thinks of any other bridge that has little shops on each side.
After doing a little bit of shopping at H and M (its v-neck season), we hit the Medici Chapel since we knew it wouldn’t be open on Sunday.
The Medici Chapel, are two structures at the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, and built as extensions to Brunelleschi’s 15th-century church, with the purpose of celebrating the Medici family, patrons of the church and Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The Sagrestia Nuova, (“New Sacristy”), was designed by Michelangelo. The larger Cappella dei Principi, (“Chapel of the Princes”), though proposed in the 16th century, was not begun until the early 17th century, its design being a collaboration between the family and architects.
It was seriously unlike anything I had ever seen. From the inside, which contained two cupolas. One was the old sacristy and the smaller one, designed by Michelangelo, is the new sacristy. The old sacristy contain the remains of six members of the Medici family lineage.
I thought this was amazing. Like, what other family would create a monumental shrine in the middle of Florence to commemorate their family? The Medici were akin to the mafia. The undoubtedly were apart of organized crime and political corruption. But seriously, to have a monument built for yourself is pretty darn cool. I bet they are all smiling down at us and laughing. They are still making money off their crypt by the way. It costs six euros to get in.
We visited two other gardens later in the day and finally got free time after the gardens tours. One point of interest, at Villa Gamberaia, I climbed a tree that was very slippery. I was like Tarzan swinging from branch to branch getting higher and higher. Of course I wasn’t really Tarzan That’s much was evident when I fell out of a tree. I thought I sprained my ankle. Turns out it was just sore. I jumped to the rock in the center of a fountain in the middle of this same garden for the price of 10 euro. That paid for two meals! Thanks, Vivian!
We took the rest of the day to relax after two consecutive long days and another one on tap for the next day.