Italy, Chapter Two: Florence

This is part two of a four-part series of posts chronicling our recent trip to Italy. Check out Italy, Chapter One: Venice if you haven’t already!

After about a day and a half in Venice, we were ready for the next destination on our trip: Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. Julia and I boarded a train on Wednesday morning for the journey south.

When we arrived in Florence it was mid-afternoon and raining hard. We were bummed about the weather but decided to make the most of our time by getting in line to see Michelangelo’s David. Our umbrellas served us well as waited more than an hour to enter the Accademia Gallery where it is housed. As it turned out, this was the longest we waited for anything during our vacation.

They don’t permit photography in the museum, so I don’t have any photos to share from this experience, but I can say that the statue is very impressive in person. It stands 17 feet tall in its own domed room with natural light illuminating it from above, emphasizing every carved muscle on the marble statue.

The weather cleared a bit, so we explored Florence some more and saw the Baptistery of St. John and the Florence Cathedral.

Umbrellas carried by other tourists provide a sense of scale demonstrating how massive the cathedral is. It was first built without its dome because the technology to build a dome that large didn’t exist in the 1300s. Some people consider it a sign of Renaissance optimism that construction continued with builders confident someone would one day invent a solution to their problem. The dome was completed in 1436, more than 100 years after construction began on the structure.

We moved south through the city, crossing over the Arno River to see the famous Ponte Vecchio, a bridge built in medieval times. We were fortunate to see a four man boat practicing on the river while we walked by.

We explored the neighborhoods linked by this bridge. The area to the south has a local flair.

Looking north from the Ponte Vecchio towards shops and hotels.

We finished our evening at Piazza della Signoria, the traditional hub of Florence and a square we returned to often over our few days in the city. Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of the city.

We woke up early the next day ready to visit the famous Uffizi Gallery, one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world. We read about lines lasting hours, and after waiting in the rain to see David the previous day we feared the worst. Fortunately, we arrived at about 8:45am and were able to reserve tickets for a 9:30am entry. We casually drank coffee in a cafe in for about half an hour to kill time and then strolled into the museum: Easy. Again, no photographs were allowed in the Uffizi Gallery. We saw famous works by Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Titian, Caravaggio, and countless others. The Birth of Venus was probably the highlight for me.

Although photography was banned, I managed to sneak a couple shots of this great view of the Ponte Vecchio from the Uffizi.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering Florence, returning to the cathedral and Piazza della Signoria.

Julia taking a photo of another sculptor’s interpretation of David, victoriously holding Goliath’s severed head. Nobody ever roots for Goliath. A replica of Michelangelo’s David can be seen to the far right of the frame. This is actually where the original stood for a few hundred years until a riot broke out in the square and someone threw a piece of furniture out the window of the Town Hall, damaging David below. At least, that’s what I read in the Stevie Ricks book (by this time we were giving Rick Steves various pseudonyms). They moved the original David to its current location for safekeeping in the late 1800s and placed a replica in the square instead.

This is a photo of the Uffizi, with two real statues and a street performer dressed up to pretend to be a statue but doing a crappy job at it because he’s talking on the phone instead of being in character.

That night we went out to an insane dinner at a restaurant called La Giostra – insane both because of how good the food was (and how much we ate!), but also because of how expensive it was. By this time I had convinced myself I was an Italian in spirit. I made Julia take photos of me on the hotel balcony wearing a scarf and a blazer and sunglasses, even though the glasses were impractical in the evening light. ciao.

With the major sights out of the way, we spent our last full day in Florence wandering around and enjoying the city. We explored a market where they sold masks!

I took photos of awesome old school bikes!

We ate gelato!

I posed next to comically small automobiles!

And we had beers with lunch. We joked that the guy featured in the logo for Moretti – with his eyes closed in anticipation and his jacket and hat still on – seems like he really earned that beer. Julia said that from his expression it looks like he has lady problems. I’m inclined to agree.

In the afternoon, we went up to a hill just to the south of the Arno river for a scenic view of Florence.

There’s a cemetery at the top of the hill where several generations of family members are buried in each plot.

We wrapped up our visit to Florence with another great dinner and a stroll along the Arno River. Here’s another shot of Ponte Vecchio. Interesting fact: All bridges in Florence were destroyed by the Nazis in WWII during their retreat from the city, except for this one. Rumor has it that Hitler himself gave the order to spare it, blocking access by destroying buildings on each side but allowing the centuries-old bridge to stand.

The Florence Cathedral, illuminated at night.

Although we experienced spotty weather during our visit, we enjoyed Florence for its cultural significance and great art. I got to see works from Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael: All the Ninja Turtles. However, we also found it exceedingly touristy and crowded with American college students studying abroad at local universities. Everywhere we went we heard American English being loudly spoken and were regaled with tales of drunkenness from nights prior in a tone that only self-important 19 and 20 year-olds can manage. It must be karma coming back to bite me from when I spoke like that in London during my semester abroad. After two and a half days in Florence, we anticipated a more authentically Italian experience at our next destination: Siena!


  1. Enjoyed this post and some more great pictures. The picture of you next to the “little” car reminds me of the picture when you were in London and put your arm over the car–remember that?
    Looks like the weather cleared up a bit and I really like the night photos. Bring on Siena…

  2. “I Don’t always pose for pictures.. but when I do, it’s on the hilltops of Florence, with my fiancĂ© and historical monuments.”

    Nice blog

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