We made it to Florence in the afternoon of Monday, September 26 and got started exploring right away.
We found one of the main piazzas in Florence and spent some time walking around before joining a free tour around the main parts of the city. The tour guide was very informative, but had a thick Italian accent, which made it challenging to understand her. Thankfully, the scenery itself was beautiful and what I caught of the tour helped bring context to what we were looking at around us.
These three statues were particularly interesting to me. The one on the left is part of an outdoor area displaying many different statues that have been in Florence since the Medici family was ruling. The middle statue is of David by Michelangelo. This is not the one he carved (that is indoors in another part of the city), but this is the location the statue would have sat when it was originally made, so there is an exact replica here. The third one looks so realistic, it's hard to believe it's only a statue. The look of the stone has a lot of depth, which made it very interesting. Florence is very famous for art and this was just a small taste of what we saw as we walked around.
For dinner, we went to a restaurant Lauren's friend had recommended. They had the famous Florentine steak, which Melvin & Brennan shared. They were both very excited about their dinner-it was quite the experience to hear the giant sizzling steak come out to the table! The restaurant even gave us each a shot of limoncello at the end of the meal. Overall, it was a great first day in Florence.
The next morning, we had tickets to climb to the top of the Duomo, Florence's famous cathedral. We arrived, got checked in, and began climbing the stairs.
About a third of the way up, we stopped in this room with these impressive statues. It was a good spot to take a break before continuing our climb.
We got to the next stopping point at the interior of the dome. There is a small pathway around the edge that you walk to continue up to the roof. We were able to look up at the beautiful mural inside the dome, as well as see the interior of the church.
It was a lot of steps! Some were steeper than this with a more narrow passage. It took some perseverance to get to the top!
The view was worth it! We had a beautiful day and were able to look out over the whole city of Florence. We were able to walk the whole way around the dome and look in every direction.
One thing that was interesting about the dome is that tickets are timed. You have about 45 minutes to climb to the top, take your photos and look out, then they send you back down (most of) the same stairs you walked up before the next group starts the process again. It's a well designed system to allow many people each day to look out from this famous site.
Brennan and I ended up staying in the walkway of the interior dome for a little while looking around. The mural is so complex! Being as close as we were to it made me realize the talent, skill, and detail that went into creating this work of art. I would love to go back again and have a guide tell me all about the details I missed looking at it on my own.
When we left the church and dome, we walked over to the baptistry- the large building in front of the church. It was built this way because the people who were not baptized were not allowed in the cathedral, but had to go somewhere to get baptized first. Everyone was allowed in the baptistry. Now, it is just another amazing piece of art and history for us to see.
The mural in the dome of the baptistry is not as ornate as the one in the cathedral, but it is still so detailed! All the walls are adorned with paintings and geometric design. It was very interesting to go inside.
We finished up the Baptistry and headed over to the Duomo museum. Originally, there were many relics and statues decorating the cathedral. Now, they are all on display in the Duomo museum. This was just one of the galleries at the museum.
After all this sightseeing, we were hungry! We got in a long line to get sandwiches from this famous sandwich shop, All'antico Vinaio. As you can see from the picture, the sandwiches were huge! The guys who made them were pros-they were so fast and had all the ingredients of every sandwich memorized. It was impressive.
After lunch, we went to the Uffizi Gallery. This literally translates to "Office Gallery"-it's where the Medici family ran Florence when they were in control. All the work was given to the city of Florence and is now a large museum with tons of art.
Brennan and I walked around and saw a lot, but we could have spent a lot more time here to see everything. Even the hallways were intricate and had murals all over the ceilings. We met up with Lauren & Melvin after finishing up in the museum.
That evening, we found a rooftop restaurant and got drinks as the sun was setting. It was so beautiful! We went to a pizza shop for dinner and had delicious pizza, then walked to a gelato shop near the water. It was a great night.
Wednesday, we had booked a tour of a vineyard with a wine tasting in Tuscany (about 30 minutes outside of Florence). Unfortunately, the weather not great for our vineyard tour. But, we were able to use umbrellas from the Airbnb and were still able to see the beautiful vineyards and production facilities at this small, family run winery. They make Chianti Classico wine here, which has designation just like champagne does in France. You know it is Chianti Classico if it has a black rooster on the bottle.
After we finished the tour, we were able to taste 4 different wines. I do not usually like red wine, but it was fun to taste wine that was produced where we were! We were also able to sample olive oil that was made from the olives grown on the property. In my opinion, the best thing we tasted was the pasta for lunch!
When we got back to the Airbnb, everyone was cold and a little tired. We took a bit to regroup and rest in the afternoon (while avoiding the end of the rain) and then went out to dinner at Trattoria Sabatino. It was a small, family run restaurant and we had delicious food! My favorite part of the whole thing (besides the food, of course) was the Italian grandma who looked disappointed in anyone who didn't finish their food. She had the most expressive face and we were all worried that she was going to be upset when we were so full that we couldn't finish all the food we ordered. Thankfully, she seemed to be fine with it as we got up to leave.
We finished the night by stopping at a gelato shop near our Airbnb. There's a reason it's a cliche to talk about gelato so much in Italy-it's so delicious!
The next morning, we woke up, packed up, and headed to the train station. We took a train with Lauren & Melvin to Rome, where we said goodbye at the station. It was so fun to spend time with them and get to explore several new places around Italy. I'm confident this will not be our last trip to Florence and hope this will be the first of many vacations with friends throughout our lives.
We're Brennan & Megan
Since June 2022, we have been traveling to learn more about ourselves and the world around us.