First Day in Florence

Max got invited to do a course in Reggio Emilia, Italy.  I decided to tag a long and we went two days early to explore Florence and Pisa first.  For a girl that hates to fly I sure seem to be on an airplane a lot.  Our journey had us fly from Phoenix to London on a ten hour flight.  We then had a four hour layover in London, a two hour flight to Bologna, and then an hour drive to Florence.  To make it just a little longer when we checked in at the Phoenix airport we were informed our flight was delayed by three hours!  Ugh. But it is still amazing that in under 24 hours you can be on the other side of the world.
 After a really long and exhausting day we ended up in a beautiful, old, historic hotel on the Santa Maria Novella square.  This was the view from our balcony.
 I love traveling and experiencing other cultures, food, and ways of life.  The hotel room was so non American and I loved it!  The fancy bed and the ornate bathroom with white and dark green marble where charming.
Every morning they put out a beautiful breakfast spread of European and American breakfast options.  We didn't know it at the time, but it would be the largest cafe Americano we would have until returning home, and we thought it was tiny there!  The coffee in Italy is delicious, but just never enough of it.
 I wouldn't recommend ever traveling with Max and me.  We are all in from sunrise to sunset without much down time in between.  We had two days to see Florence and Pisa which meant we would need to move at steady pace both days to fit it all in.
 I had planned out which places to see each day because Sunday and Mondays are the days most things are closed, and those were the only two days we were there!  First and foremost we headed to see David.  He is as impressive and  remarkable as everyone says he is.  The sheer size of the sculpture is impressive but then to see how perfectly chiseled he is even more amazing.  Somehow Michelangelo captures a quiet strength with rock!
He is the master of sculpture and David towers above all other works.  We looked at the numerous other sculptures in the Accademia Gallery but once you see David all the rest is a bit disappointing.
Next we went to the Uffizi Gallery and walked through the Piazza della Signoria on our way.  Piazza della Signoria has been the center of political life in Florence for centuries.  It is where the Medici family returned to rule Florence and initiated the Italian Renaissance.  In the square is a replica of David,  Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus along with a fountain of Neptune.  Unfortunately the fountain was closed off for restoration.  The square itself is like an outdoor art museum.
The Uffizi Gallery is Italy's most visited art museum and it holds one of the largest collections of Italian Renaissance in the world.  We spent hours wandering though the gallery seeing masterpiece after masterpiece.  But the painting we were seeking was The Birth of Venus by Botticelli.  The picture does not accurately portray just how beautiful it is in person.  The colors are much more vibrant.  Venus is so ideally feminine.  Max and I were underwhelmed when we saw Mona Lisa in Paris, but The Birth of Venus was worth seeing.  Wow!  David and Venus within 2 hours of each other!
The Uffizi gallery sits next to the Arno river over looking Ponte Vecchio, which means old bridge.  When the ruling Medici family moved across the river to Plazzo Pitti they wanted a secret connecting route from their palace to the Uffizi.  They wanted to stay out of contact with the common people so the Corrido Vasariano, an upper passageway was built to allow them to cross the bridge in privacy.  All types of shops have been on Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century.  Butchers, fishers and tanners inhabited the shops initially.  However, once the Medici family began using the secret corridor they did not like the stench from such shops and declared only jewelers and goldsmiths could dwell along the bridge.  To this day the merchants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir shops.  We managed to score one of the few tables that sit on a balcony along the river.  It will remain one of my favorite lunches of all time.  Everything was perfect.  The weather, the food, the wine, the view, the man.
After recharging our batteries we headed to the Boboli Gardens that were the backyard of the Pettie Palace.  The Medici family planned the garden as an outdoor museum with sculptures, fountains and grottoes.  The expansive grounds became a model for many European courts.  We had fun exploring the grounds and could imagine the royal family taking peaceful walks in the shaded canopies.
We then set off for a 1.5 mile hike up the hill to Piazza Michelangelo.  The square was designed in 1869 intending to showcase masterpieces of Michelangelo with copies of his great works.  However, plans for the museum never materialized and it is now a beautiful square to look down on Florence from.  We can find our beach anywhere. :)
As we made our way back to our hotel we stopped at the Basilica of Santa Croce.
 The architectural beauty of the church was only rivaled by the ornate alter, beautiful frescoes,  and the colorful stained glassed windows.  The sheer size of the church was a wonder.  It is the largest Franciscan church in the world with 16 chapels.  The church began construction in 1292 and finally opened its doors in 1442.
 It is know as the Tempe of the Italian Glories with some of Italy's most famous citizens such as Michelangelo, Galileo, and Rossini buried there.
After walking over 9 miles taking in all we could of Florence it was time for some well deserved pizza and wine.  I loved this inscription near our hotel that said, "every step I have taken in my life has led me here, now."  Nothing felt more true after all the steps we had taken that day! :)
Eating in Italy is such a treat.  Everything taste better.  We had so much fun dining on the square taking in a once in a lifetime view of ancient, glorious buildings with echos of history around every corner.
We couldn't end our day without a little gelato too!  Florence you were a sweet treat.

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