Individual Days - Italy

Florence

September 20, 2023

The morning was free to explore as we desired so we got an early start right after breakfast.

Brunelleschi’s Dome

We entered the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and climbed the 463 stairs to get to the top of Brunelleschi’s Dome. Even though it was an overcast day, we were still able to get an amazing view of Florence.

The dome was built between 1420 and 1436 to a design by Filippo Brunelleschi. It is still the largest masonry vault in the world today. The brick and stone dome are actually two domes – an interior and exterior dome. The exterior dome is covered with terracotta tiles and white marble ribs. On the way to the top of the dome, we were able to get a close-up view of the Last Judgment painted by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari in 1572-1579 on the internal vault.

The building with the green roof is the central market we ate at yesterday.

The Baptistry of St. John

The baptistry stands right in front of the entrance of the cathedral. While the baptistry was consecrated in 1059 by Pope Niccolò, it is believed that originally the structure was a pagan temple dedicated to the god Mars.

Mark and I passed through the remains of the Roman walls surrounding Florence on our way to the Piazzale Michelangelo – a square high on a hill on the south bank of the Arno River. It was a steep hike up to the overlook. The Piazzale also had a “fake David” (another copy of the Michelangelo statue). On the way downhill, we walked past man-made waterfalls made to look very old.

We walked back towards the city center along the river.

Artwork stepping off the bridge over the water.
Ponte Vecchio - medieval stone bridge with jewelry shops
Uffizi Gallery
Ponte Vecchio Shops

We even saw more “little wine holes” as we walked along the streets of Florence.

Before meeting up with the rest of the group, we had time to sit down and have a nice lunch. We ate at Signorvino Wine Store & Restaurant across from the Uffizi Gallery, overlooking the Ponte Vecchio bridge on the Arno River.

As was customary in Italy, we were charged a cover fee because we had a table with a view. However, this was the only restaurant that gave us a time limit for the table. Everywhere else we ate in Italy; the cover fee allowed you to sit and stay as long as you wanted. It didn’t matter to us because we had plenty of time for lunch before meeting up with our tour group.

We had an assortment of appetizers – crudo & bufala focaccia (white focaccia, Parma ham, and buffalo mozzarella), meatballs, and arrostocini (traditional Abruzzo meat skewers). Of course, lunch wouldn’t be complete without beer and Aperol Spritz – the restaurant plates were all different and hilarious!

Our table was in the left corner of the overhanging terrace.
This plate says - last one, I promise

Uffizi Gallery

We met Paolo, our Uffizi Gallery tour guide.

Medici lion in the Loggia dei Lanaza
The Rape of Polyxena by Pio Fedi
Hercules and the Centaur Nessus by Giambologna
Perseus by Cellini
Annunciation by Da Vinci
Madonna del Cardellino by Raphael
Grotesque - strange figures - was common with Roman Emperor so Medici copied.
The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
Adoration of the Magi by Fabriano
Doni Tondo by Michelangelo
Portinari Altarpiece by Van Der Goes

After Uffizi, we walked to the Basilica di San Miniato. We had hoped to hear the Gregorian chants before heading to dinner, but mass ran late. We waited 30 minutes but then had to leave to go to dinner. Still, we were able to get one last city view of Florence.

Each country we visited had its right-of-way rules between cars, bicycles, and pedestrians. Usually, it was pretty easy to navigate although it did take some nerve to assume cars would stop in Italy if you stepped out into a crosswalk where there were no traffic lights. But this area in Florence just made me laugh. Why would the pedestrian and bicycle paths have to crisscross on a straight street? And who has the right of way? The bicycles or the pedestrians walking in the crosswalk?

Romantic Italian Evening #2

Just two nights ago, we attended a classical concert featuring Vivaldi. Tonight, we started with dinner at Trattoria Sant’Agostino. We selected Penne with Ragú and Gnudi butter and sage as our appetizers. Mark had the Sant’Agostino fried nuggets (chicken, rabbit, and veal brain), and I chose the Chianti beef filet.

From the restaurant, we walked to Santa Monaca Church to attend a romantic Italian opera. There were three performers – a Soprano, a Baritone, and a Pianist. Afterwards, we strolled back to the hotel taking in the night views. We had a wonderful time in Florence.

We walked 15.8 miles today.

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