Day 10 – Firenze (or Florence)

Daily Wrap-Up

One Word
  • Barb: Reminiscence
  • Mike: Lexi
  • Jen: Familia
Two Words
  • Barb: Riso gelato
  • Mike: Piazzale Michelangelo
  • Jen: Florentine rendezvous
Three or Four Words
  • Barb: Old familiar places
  • Mike: Foreign city, familiar faces
  • Jen: Flooded Arno harbors wildlife
One Sentence
  • Barb: Wow, I can still find my way around Florence (sort of)!
  • Mike: It was fun to see Il Duomo so soon after reading about it.
  • Jen: Il Duomo is much bigger and greener than I expected.

We made our first foray into Firenze today to be personally introduced to the city by our niece, Lexi, along with Barb, our full-time tour guide. Lexi’s a junior at Elon University, currently studying in Florence. Her friend, Dani, was visiting, too. Barb also studied nearby when she was in college, and she’s been back several times since then.

We had plans to meet Lexi and Dani in front of Il Duomo. We arrived and parked in the Piazzale Michelangelo, which afforded a great view of the city.

Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo. Il Duomo is the massive building just right of center.

Lexi, with her superior knowledge of Florence’s public transportation and her skillful use of Italian, got us on a bus to Fiesole and a scenic lookout above the city on the northeast side.

Florence from Fiesole

Florence from Fiesole. Dark clouds rolled over the city while we watched, but the rain stayed away while we walked.
I think the gray day makes this picture look like a painting.

The view of Florence from Fiesole

The view of Florence from Fiesole. We can see the whole valley from here.

We continued up the hill to the monastery where we heard the monks singing and got to see the tiny rooms where monks used to study, write, and contemplate.

Back down in the city, Lexi took us to her favorite sandwich shop for lunch, All’Antico Vinaio. It’s a tiny shop (Are you sick of me saying things are tiny? Look at the picture and tell me what you think.) that gets lots of business. People were lined up outside. The concept is a bit like Subway in that you can just go down the line and tell the guys behind the counter what you want on your sandwich, but the comparison ends there. The ingredients are fresh and interesting, and they pile them on. When Barb was having trouble identifying what she was ordering for herself and Mike (who waited outside with the backpack because the place was too small for a backpack), the young guy waiting on her took matters into his own hands. He said in English with enthusiasm and confidence, “I’ll make you a good sandwich. Do you like spicy?” Her only request was that the two sandwiches include meat.

All'Antico Vinaio sandwich shop in Florence

Ordering lunch at All’Antico Vinaio sandwich shop in Florence.

Because it was wet, we took the sandwiches back to the apartment Lexi shares with eight other girls and dined in their kitchen. The sandwiches were great. And huge. (Look, I didn’t say tiny!) Mike, Barb, and I had leftovers the next day.

Lexi had a test review to attend, so we said goodbye to her and headed out to walk around the city and visit Il Duomo, which is on the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral. Mike and I read Brunelleschi’s Dome just before coming, so seeing the dome in person now is especially meaningful. We want to wait for better weather to climb up to the dome, but we strolled around and through the cathedral.

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral

The Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. They seem to be cleaning parts of the exterior, which are, indeed, in need of it. The outside is so ornate, I could spend hours looking at all the patterns and carvings.

The Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral was centuries in the making. The Baptistry was built in the 4th century, making it one of Florence’s oldest buildings. The Campanile (bell tower) was designed by Giotto in 1334, but not completed until 1359, 22 years after his death. Brunelleschi’s dome was completed in 1463, and the frescoes decorating the dome’s interior were added in 1572–4. A marble facade was added to the front of the cathedral in 1871–7.

I’ve seen pictures, and I knew the cathedral towered over surrounding buildings, but I was still surprised by the enormous size. (Hmm…things in Italy seem to me either tiny or enormous.) I also wasn’t expecting it to be so green—and pink—which it is only when it’s clean. I think keeping the exterior white, green, and pink may be a never-ending job. Where they seemed to be working on it, the green stone looked almost black.

The dome on Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral

The dome and part of Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. It’s more pink and green in real life than it appears here.

The outside of the building is unbelievably ornate. I could spend hours looking at all the different shapes, patterns, colors, carvings, and ornaments. By contrast, the interior is surprisingly plain—elegant and beautiful, mind you, but comparatively plain. It doesn’t have the wall-to-wall frescoes that some other churches have.

Santa Maria del Fiore Interior

Inside the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral. This is the fresco on Brunelleschi’s dome.

As we walked around the city, we happened upon this workshop where the business seems to be making replicas of statues and pillars. I wish it had been open; I would have loved to see workers in action. However, it was the middle of the afternoon on the second Monday of the month, and…I have no idea when people work in Italy.

Workshop where replicas of statues and pillars are made.

An interesting workshop in Florence where they appear to make replicas of statues, pillars, and other ornaments.

On the way back to the car, we spotted what looked like beavers in the flooded Arno River. Closer inspection revealed them to be nutrias.

Nutria on the Arno River

Nutria on the Arno River in Florence

We also spied a pretty blue kingfisher, coots, egrets, and herons. Who knew Florence had so much wildlife?

The Arno River from Piazzale Michelangelo

Looking back on the Arno from Piazzale Michelangelo after our first day in Firenze.

The Parking Lot David

The Parking Lot David

Categories: Italy, Travel