We woke up early in the morning to make the hour-long drive to Florence. When we stopped by the hotel’s front desk to pick up our keys, we started talking to the concierge about our plans for the day. We talked for a bit about Florence and he scribbled down the name of a parking lot on a hill overlooking the city which he promised would be our best access point—this proves that making time for conversation when traveling isn’t only fulfilling but oftentimes also very helpful!
As promised, the parking area at Piazzale Michelangelo served not only as a prime access point but also as a great introduction to the cityscape. We made our way down a series of stairs to the Arno River, which bisects the city and flows under a variety of beautiful bridges. We walked along the river until we got to the most famous bridge—the Ponte Vecchio. We made our way across, admiring the assortment of jewelry and souvenir shops that lined it on both sides. As we flowed with the crowds of people, we emerged on the other side at a central point in the city, with all the main historic sights a short walk away.
While we had originally planned on going to the Uffizi Gallery, we happened to be in the city on the one day of the week that it was closed. Not to be deterred, we continued on to the impressive Piazza della Signoria and visited the Palazzo Vecchio, which serves as Florence’s city hall. When we first started winding through the rooms of the palazzo, we were under the impression that we were in the building that housed Michelangelo’s David. As we slowly made our way through, eventually climbing to the top of the tower, we realized that we weren’t where we thought we were. However, the views from the tower were enough to satisfy our visual appetites!
With our bellies rumbling, we grabbed a quick light lunch at Ristorante Il Cavallino Firenze Piazza della Signoria before leaving the square to explore more of the city. We passed under the Arcone, the centerpiece of Piazza della Repubblica and a symbol of Italian unification, on our way to Florence’s famous duomo. The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is a striking cathedral with an impressive dome that towers over the city. We waited in a line outside the church for quite a while, assuming that it was simply the line to get inside. It wasn’t until we got to the door that we realized we were in line to climb to the very top of the dome!
After a steep 460 steps we emerged at the top with breathtaking views of Florence and the surrounding Tuscan countryside. What’s striking in cities like this is the consistency of building construction and the effort with which the community attempts to keep it true to history. We couldn’t see a non-red roof for as far as the city stretched and it truly added to the beauty of the landscape.
After a stop at the Baptistry of Saint John to admire its enormous sculpted bronze doors, we trickled through the back streets on our way back toward the river. We found our way to the car and drove back to Siena to spend our last night there, making sure to get back at a reasonable hour so that we could get a look at Siena’s duomo. We spent some time appreciating the very detailed façade before heading inside. Though the cathedral is actually unfished (Siena ran out of money before it could complete plans of making it the largest church in the world) it is still magnificent in its medieval design and construction.
We spent our last night in Siena enjoying gnocchi, tortellini, bruschetta, crepes, and gelato at Birreria Bavaria and Il Gelateria. We would be heading off to Cinque Terre early the next morning with a stop in Lucca where we would be putting our biking skills to the test on the city’s paved medieval walls!
Trip gelato count: 9