First things first. After checking into our hotel, we needed food. Pizza at Food Il Cavallino fit the bill nicely! This place has pretty poor reviews online, but was recommended by our hotel and we stuck with the pizza that was recommended which was great. We conveniently arrived just before it started raining, so we were protected from the deluge. We hadn’t brought umbrellas, just ponchos, and our time in Florence was the only time we needed to use them. We ended up buying cheap (cheaply made, not cheaply bought) umbrellas during our stay here.
We stayed at Hotel Maxim in Florence, and it took us a bit to find it, but only because we must both be directionally challenged, because as we discovered, Florence is not that big. And Hotel Maxim is right smack in the center of it.
The hotel was nicer than Rome in that it felt very safe to be so central and SO convenient to be able to stop off midday to use the bathroom, but it was also smaller. There were twists and turns in the narrow hallways of this old building, but we were very happy there was an elevator! Breakfast wasn’t too shabby either, mom was happy with the tea here.
Our only scheduled plans for the day were to go to the Accademia Gallery in the afternoon to see the David. We definitely had to buy tickets for that ahead of time! We passed the Duomo on the way there, and were awed by this enormous church rising up in the middle of the city. I was also very excited that central Florence is pedestrian-only.
The David was more than I imagined he would be: he was huge! I was, like everyone before me I’m certain, in awe of the details. The veins in his stone arms, and the pupils in his eyes which I could really only see close up with the zoom on my camera, he was so tall!
Aside from the David, the Accademia is filled with unfinished works and students’ work, which are lovely all the same. I loved seeing the big wall of heads. The hall of musical instruments was a second favorite.
We left the Accademia and decided there was enough time before closing to climb the Bell Tower, just to the right of the Duomo if you are facing it. We ended up deciding that maybe we had enough time to climb the Duomo as well, and we liked the fact that it wasn’t crowded during this time of day, so we hurried to do both. We ended up climbing 877 steps total to do both.
Now’s a great time to talk about my camera bag! I purchased a bag for the trip because I was concerned both about storage and pick pockets. I ended up buying a Pacsafe, in a discontinued color that was more affordable. I love this bag.
It was comfortable, clearly not a backpack (which was important because several sites do not let you bring backpacks in anymore at the discretion of whoever is at the security gate that day – like at the Colosseum), and had a bunch of security features without being too heavy. Plus, the camera was still easy to get to. I was happy it had the pockets on the sides for waterbottles, which came in handy daily.
We ate at Il Teatro our first night, and after a bottle of wine, the Duomo lit up at night was even more awe-inspiring. The lights on the building were impressive. The crowds were completely gone, and we circled the building all the way around, taking in the detail.
Our next day started early with our scheduled booking at the Uffizi museum, famous for it’s collection of Italian paintings. I personally was most impressed with the building itself. Every ceiling was a work of art and unique.
From the Uffizi, we could get a great view of the famous Ponte Vecchio.
After our time in the Uffizi, we went back to the Duomo to see the Baptistry and go inside the church (we had only been able to go in the Dome itself the evening prior). The Baptistry exterior was under construction, but the inside was open and beautiful. The gold panels on the ceiling really impressed mom, who had to get a photo of each one.
It was a lot more crowded in Florence this day, so we waited a bit to get into the cathedral. We were behind a school line (awkwardly in the middle for a while), but once we got in it was easy enough to move forward ahead of them. The interior was just as awe-inspiring as outside, with huge arches and a wide expanse of just space. These buildings are really marvels of construction for their time (or any time).
The Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral has layers of churches and temples beneath it, which was fascinating. You can go underneath and see where they’re “peeled back” these layers. The information is a bit confusing to read, but we gathered from our Rick Steve’s info what we needed to understand what we were seeing.
We did a lot of shopping, since were done with most of our plans for the day after that! After finding some lunch (also to escape the rain) at Restaurante Paoli (so so but satisfying), we visited the Medici Chapel, which maybe wasn’t worth the money but dark and glorious in color. Famous for, including other things, the statue of Madonna and Child by Michelangelo.
We also wandered the city and walked through the flea market and did more shopping along the way. We bought jewelry, and I found things for the kids. We even got waffles to eat outside the Duomo, an excellent snack by default for location, and very tasty.
That night we ate outside at one of the many restaurants lining Piazza della Signoria by the Uffizi. We had another lovely night before our winery tour the next day! It was nice not to rush so much to get to everything we wanted to do as we had in Rome, but difficult as the scheduler to figure out what to do with our down time!