When I began booking a trip to the homeland of my ancestors, I expected big, BIG things. And I was not disappointed – literally, at all. However, I was surprised when the train pulled up to a station in Florence. The northern Italian “metropolis” is perhaps one of the best known destinations in the entire world for art, beauty, culture, and food, but I didn’t realize just how little the city is like a city.
Florence isn’t anything like Rome, or Paris, or some of the other major markets in Europe. In fact, it isn’t like any other city I’ve ever seen. It’s quaint and quiet and has an air of relaxation to it. Obviously, it is swimming with tourists, but if you – as a tourist – can get yourself away from that, it is one of the most exquisite cities on the planet (US equivalent examples: Savannah, GA/Colorado Springs, CO/Columbus, OH).
It goes without saying that there is much more history and art than those cities I just mentioned. And it’s hard to convey the sense of serenity one feels strolling through the twisting and turning, narrow streets that date back over 1,000 years (note: this was the only city in which I got lost more than once and typically I’m very good at urban orienteering). So why go to Florence? There are so many reasons!
- Take a leisurely walk along the banks of the Arno River, cross over the Ponte Vecchio (a covered bridge full of shopping stalls), or head up one of the winding mountain roads toward the Piazzale Michelangelo for a breathtaking view of the skyline, including the Santa Maria (aka the Duomo)
- Pull up a chair at a corner sidewalk cafe for a cappuccino to soak in the ambiance of the old, medieval central district
- Visit one of the many museums – including the Uffizi Gallery, the Galleria Dell’Accademia, and Palazzo Vecchio – to look upon the works of the Renaissance masters (the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, the Annunciation by Da Vinci, Michelangelo’s David, the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna)
- Take a short train ride to Pisa for some fun photos of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Get lost (figuratively or literally), because the town is so small – cittadina translates to “small town” in Italian – you’ll eventually find your way to your destination or back to your hotel
There is a lot to see and feel in Florence, even if it doesn’t feel like the city has a lot to necessarily “do“. I highly recommend stopping by though, as there is nowhere like it in the entire world!
Hasta La Proxima…