Ah, there’s nothing like an AutoGrill morning. We started our day at the local truck stop once again this morning. The cappuccinos are hot & caffeinated, the brioches are delicious & flaky and the store is so handy for any little things you may need. Huzzah AutoGrill!
After we created our AutoGrill commercial (not really, but we love it so much we would if they asked!) we headed into Florence, or Firenze in Italiano. Florence is the home of the Renaissance. Near the end of the Dark Ages, the people of Florence believed a brighter age was before them. It was here the long awaited rebirth, or Renaissance began. Florence underwent a cultural explosion. So in other words, it’s an art town. You may recall that we are not the greatest art aficionados, so this isn’t really our scene, but we did find plenty to entertain us.
Florence is home to Michelangelo’s David. This sculpture is the symbol of the Renaissance. Michelangelo was commissioned to carve a large scale work for the roofline of the Duomo. The sculpture ended up placed more prominently in the city before being moved indoors in the 19th century. Today David can be found in the Accademia. Not being huge art lovers we skipped seeing the actual masterpiece. It was too expensive & involved making a museum reservation. We did get to see replicas at various locations throughout Florence, including the centre of the Piazzale Michelangelo.
This square site high above the city and happens to be where we parked. It was suggested to us by our VRBO host and we are glad we got the tip. From here we were able to see all of Florence below us.
But just seeing the city from above is not enough, so we hopped onto the City Sightseeing bus tour! It has been awhile so Kristin & Justine were missing the uber-tourist bus experience…and Harvey & Bev needed to try it out at least once while they were here! As usual it took us past all of the major sights that sprawl across the city. However, the main sights in the center are surrounded by too many tight squeeze or pedestrian streets so the bus can’t go right past them. That’s why we hopped off (because that’s what you’re supposed to do on a hop-on/hop-off bus!) and did a walk of the historic center.
The main site for us (the non-artisans) in Florence was the Duomo. This cathedral has the 3rd largest nave in Christendom. It was huge! When this church was built the technology was not available to construct a dome to cover the huge hole in it’s roof. But the huge hole didn’t have to wait long before a local architect rose to the challenge. In only 14 years Filippo Brunelleschi constructed the largest dome since Rome’s Pantheon. The outside of the church is covered with pink, green and white Tuscan marble. It creates amazing patterns and is carved into many designs & figures. All of the statues are done by world famous artists, the two most renowned being Michelangelo & Donatello. That’s both of our favorite Ninja Turtles! Kristin always loved Michelangelo’s devil-may-care, fun-loving attitude and Justine loved that Donatello’s color was purple. Does anyone actually know why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would be named after famous historic Italian artists? We offer participation points for an answer!
The Baptistry, located just across from the Duomo, is one of the oldest buildings in Florence, built between 1059 and 1128. It is just as elaborately decorated as the Duomo beside it. The most exciting part of the Baptistry was the bronze doors. Elaborately carved by Lorenzo Ghiberti, Michelangelo said the bronze doors could be the gates to paradise.
In the afternoon heat we took in the San Lorenzo market sprawling around the Church of San Lorenzo. It had hundreds of stalls spread throughout the area. They were all selling various apparel, from shoes to belts to masks to purses. There were a lot of leather merchants who we learned (from Rick Steves) were likely Iranians selling South American leather that was tailored in Italy. We delighted in the scarf dealers! There was one helpful man who even taught us how to best wear the scarves!
We stopped for lunch at McDonalds. Did you know the menus change when you change countries? Well they do…for example, you can get deep fried olives here.
Then, to get our moneys worth on our ticket, we rode the second loop of the sightseeing bus. This loop went out of town and up onto the hill adjacent to the city. This allowed great views of Florence and the opportunity to see the adorable town of Fiesole. It had adorable old homes and grand villas that have to cost a fortune! Fiesole is actually older than Florence and they used to be quite competitive with one another. Now it’s obvious who has won out…but Fiesole was still worth a look!
We killed some time in the afternoon people watching by the church. It was interesting to watch the street vendors pedal their illegal wares (and then run whenever they spotted cops coming) and tourists gawking at the sights around them. We picked a random restaurant on the street for supper. The only qualifications were that they offered bruschetta as an antipasti and had a great assortment of pasta. Here are our dishes, Kristin & Harv had penne with mushrooms, olives & creamy tomato sauce, Justine had tortellini with bolognese sauce & Bev had spaghetti with bolognese sauce:
The walk back to the car after supper was one of the best parts of the day. Yes we had to climb a bunch of stairs, but we went along an awesome path that included the Ponte Vecchio bridge. It is a skinny little bridge that is lined with jewelry shops on either side. The shops often hang out over the water to fit! We also got a view of the city all lit up when we reached the piazzale. Gorgeous!
Love, Luck & Leather Goods,
K&J + B&H