We arrived in Florence (called Firenze by the Italians) late Saturday afternoon. When we got off the train, we easily found the taxi stand and were whisked away to our apartment. Unlike all of our previous apartments/hotels…we are staying right in the heart of the historic district. Our cab driver drove down teeny, tiny, twisting little roads packed full of tourists…he just barreled through, honking his horn and pushing them out of his way. To our advantage, we are staying on that one little street that is just shy of the touristy area. One side is a more quiet Florence,…the other has tens of thousands of people (and that is not an exaggeration…there are LOTS of people here).
But our apartment is beautiful. It far exceeded our expectations and photos do not do it justice. It is a centuries old building, with exposed wood beam ceilings….but all totally renovated and modernized a few years ago. Two sisters bought the building and renovated two apartments to rent out. They used some of their mother’s antique furniture combined with very modern appliances and fixtures. It is roomy and suits us perfectly.
We got a pretty late start to the day….once we checked in and unpacked it was nearly 5PM. But literally steps from our apartment is the Palazzo Vecchio…the “town hall” or translated “old palace” of Florence. Built in about 1299, this building had a similar purpose to what I showed you at the Doge’s Palace in Venice (go back and see that blog post) …this building was meant to awe and intimidate and show the power and wealth of Florence. It was the Duke’s residence and it where the town leaders met…as well as where foreign ambassadors would have come to see just how powerful Florence really was. When you walk in any of the rooms, the ceilings are full of frescoes and ornamentation…continuing down the walls. Not a square inch is left plain.
After touring the interior of the Palazzo Vecchio, we decided to climb to the top of the bell tower and get a view. It was a little over 250 steps up and then another 250 down. But the views were great.
After a long climb down, we ended up in the first floor of the Palazzo….where we discovered the archaeological area. Apparently, when they built the Palazzo Vecchio back in 1299, they just built over the ruins of an ancient Roman Colosseum/Arena that had once been on the site. Archaeologists are now unearthing the foundations and remains of that stadium (seen red in the photo below) and you can go down and have a look.
And upon exiting the Palazzo Vecchio, you walk out on to the Piazza della Signoria…which is where the original statue of David (by Michelangelo) once stood…today it is a replica and the original is in the Accademia Museum. Just to the right of the David statue is the Loggia dei Lanzi…with its collection of important sculptures. Having seen all of this art work in history books in college…it was amazing to see with my own eyes.
And to end the evening, we put on our tourist caps and pulled up a chair at a highly over-priced trattoria right on the Piazza della Signoria, enjoyed a cocktail and had a pretty good dinner while looking out over history!
After dinner we took a stroll around the area. I had always thought people were joking when they said that gelato shops are everywhere….but seriously….they are EVERYWHERE in Italy. You can’t go very far without finding a gelato shop. And we have all three had our fair share…but Lena has consumed an unmentionable amount of gelato on this trip.
And that was our first day in Florence! I am ONE day behind on my blog. Our internet connection in Florence is quite spotty and I was unable to upload any pictures last night. We’ve actually already had another entire full day in Florence…but we are headed out tomorrow for a day trip to some Tuscan hill towns and a winery. I will check in later!