After a whirlwind few days in Rome, the next stop on our European adventure was Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. Florence was also home to some of the worlds greatest prodigies, including; Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci.... the list goes on. (No relation to the Ninja Turtles, of course.)
Just a short 90 minutes on the train, and we were there. That's the amazing thing about European travel, it's all so compact and accessible. Traveling through Asia is a different story altogether!
(***The Agony and the Ecstasy should be required reading for anyone planning a trip to Italy, or anyone else, for that matter. The book is a superbly written biographical novel of Michelangelo, which I could hardly put down, and was a perfect way to get into the spirit of this trip. I had so much more understanding and appreciation for the history of the region, as well as a glimpse into Michelangelo's genius.)
Upon arrival, we grabbed a quick bite before heading to the Uffizi Gallery. Anytime is a good time for pizza!
The sausage meatballs were especially fabulous.
Pizza in the piazza, with a fantastic view of Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral,
and Brunelleshi's famous duomo.
Moving along....A full size replica of Michelangelo's famous David stood guard at the Uffizi Gallery,
but the kids were not studying David.
They were mesmerized by a very strange cupid instead.
A cupid who handed out business cards,
and gave kisses. Creepy? You be the judge!
The Uffizi Gallery is home to the world's largest collection of Italian Renaissance art. The priceless works were long and extensive, but some of our favorites were; Boticelli's Birth of Venus,
Michelangelo's Holy Family,
and Venus de' Medici, in the center. The building itself was almost as beautiful as the art!
But Benny's favorite? The centaur! He had so many questions.
(***P.S. - A museum hack with little ones... Give them a camera and they will stay engaged and entertained for hours!)
The museum also held pretty great views of the Ponte Vecchio, Florence's oldest medieval bridge.
After getting our fill of paintings and sculptures, it was time to work off some of that pizza with a climb to the top of the duomo. (My sister Pam decided to sit this one out, as she had been carrying four-year-old Clara on her back for several days now!)
Yep, a climb to the very top. The fence directly above the red tile was our destination.
But first, there were lots of steps to climb- 463 to be exact!
Higher and higher we went, and could periodically check our progress through small windows.
Finally, we made it to a small catwalk which surrounded the entire base of the dome.
The view of Giorgio Vasari's Last Judgement, was incredible from that vantage point.
But, we were not there yet. More steps, which were almost straight up at this point, to include this slightly domed ladder.
Ahhh, finally at the top. The sweeping views of Florence down below were magnificent.
Eva was slightly uneasy about being up so high with just a small railing enclosing us, but she persevered.
My thrill-seeking Ella loved it, however.
I was amazed at the gorgeous details and quality of workmanship, even at the very top. A place that very few would ever see. I probably would have slacked off by that point!
Though the number of people allowed at the top was limited, it was still hard to get a picture without any photo-bombs. Every time I tried to get a selfie, the family behind me was trying for the same picture. We finally laughed at the spectacle of it, and just offered to take pictures for each other instead.
Ahhhh, much better.
After enjoying the view and the breeze, it was time to head down- the same way we got up.
However, on the route down, we walked a different catwalk, this one directly adjacent to the painting on the dome.
We were SO close and could really study the painting well, which was completed in 1579 and depicted the last judgement. It was SO high off of the ground, I have no idea how such a feat was even accomplished.
The colors were incredible too!
In a side room, an example of possible scaffolding was modeled. Don't know if I would trust it!
As a way to deter vandals, small tablets were installed in the stairwell, to be signed. Then, a visit to the website will show your signature in all it's glory, forevermore.
Sad that this even needs to be addressed!
Whew, we made it, and our legs were feeling great! Just enjoying a quick breather while waiting for my sister Pam to meet up again.
Some street musicians were playing Ave Maria, a beautiful song that fit the mood perfectly.
The inside of the cathedral was not as ornate as some of the others, but still gorgeous. I actually liked the simplicity. We also got a really good scope of where we had just climbed. The first catwalk was just beneath the round windows, and the second catwalk was just above the round windows. Eeek! I was glad to have two feet on the ground!
Little Clara was mesmerized by the beautiful candlelit trees.
Also, just outside, was a replica of Lorenzo Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise, a bronze masterpiece depicting scenes from the New Testament, and said to be one of the greatest works of art ever made.
Walking back to the hotel, we passed right through the leather market.
Florence, and the entire region of Tuscany, is world renown for leather products,
and the leathery smell was heavenly.
Even after a busy day, it was all smiles on the shuttle to the hotel.
Time to crash!
Rise and shine. Today was our date with David.
But first, we popped into Mercato Centrale for a quick look at the food. I loved browsing the various olives and olive oils,
fresh pasta of all shapes,
mounds of mushrooms,
enormous wheels of cheese,
and freshly baked biscotti.
There were also some more unusual choices such as pigs feet,
not to mention the cow stomach, snout and testicles. Uhhh, maybe we'd seen enough.
Upstairs, for the less adventurous, the market had amazing food stalls with dozens of already- prepared Italian delicacies. Definitely more my speed!
But David awaited....no, not this David, though I did appreciate his accordion music,
Michelangelo's phenomenal masterpiece.
David is seventeen feet tall, and was finished in the year 1504. I had seen pictures all my life, but never realized the scope of his size until seeing him in person.
The sculpture was awe inspiring, and knowing a bit of the back story (read The Agony and the Ecstasy, ASAP!), made the brilliance of Michelangelo even more pronounced.
The expression of a pensive David, about to conquer Goliath, was perfectly captured. With a mere sling and stone in hand, he was calm yet focused and completely confident in God's power, therefore unafraid to face the giant. A lesson of faith even today.
So many of the other sculptures we saw had a blank stare, with no feeling. But David was very much alive.
Absolutely perfectly, if not divinely inspired, and a joy to behold.
The small museum also had some of Michelangelo's later works which were not completed. Through the study of cadavers, his grasp of musculature, and the male form, were unparalleled.
Since Matt had already seen David on a previous trip, he sat outside with Pam's kids, while we had our date. After we all met up again, it was lunchtime. What's for lunch? You guessed it!
This pizza was phenomenal. The tomato sauce was so fresh and plentiful, that it was almost like thick and creamy tomato soup, poured over bread. But in a good way!
And don't forget dessert! We had a tough time choosing a gelato place. We wanted to sit down, but many of the shops either didn't have tables, or wanted to charge about $12 per cone.
As we sat deliberating our choice, a friendly bystander overheard and directed us down an alley to a less visible shop, La Strega Nocciola.
Good decision! The gelato was the best of our entire trip, (and we had tasted a few!), and the owner was so kind and friendly, which was not always a given.
No complaints from the kids either!
So even though there were no tables, we sat on the benches near the cathedral, and enjoyed a gorgeous Italian afternoon.
(***Speaking of treats- I kind of want this five gallon container of Nutella installed in my kitchen. Complete with a spigot.)
Time to get back on the train. We grabbed some sandwiches from Mercato Centrale, and had a moving picnic on the way to our next destination.
Florence was everything I'd hoped a Renaissance city to be, and then some. Superb works of art, spectacular architecture, and the best gelato in Italy. Who could ask for anything more?!
Up next, we journey to the alluring and romantic....Venice.