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Sightseeing in Firenze (Florence)

(written by Dave)

Florence is massive and full of so much history that it would take months to see everything properly.  We had one day.  Okay, that’s not long enough, especially when one of the things we like to do is to find little corners of non-tourism like cafes and shops.  We settled on seeing the Opera di Santa Maria (the Duomo), the Ponte Vecchio bridge and whatever else we stumbled upon.

We started at Opera di Santa Maria.  This is the most famous church in Florence and by far the skyline’s most dominate building.  Construction on this church started in 1296 so it pre-dates Christopher Columbus’s sail to America by a long shot.  That’s pretty old in anyone’s book.  It took over 150 years to complete which is pretty impressive if you consider that folks didn’t live as long back then.  At least 4 generations of architects and builders had to work just to cover the building period.  As for the construction skills, with no power tools, cranes, or the like, I have no idea how they built it.  From the outside it was impressive.  We climbed to the top and were even more amazed.  They allow full access to the top outside where 360 degree views of Florence and the surrounding Tuscan hills can be found.  If you fear heights, this is not the place to go.  And there is no lift.

Next stop was the Ponte Vecchio bridge.  This is the oldest bridge left over the river Arno.  It was first constructed in 996 but the current structure “only” dates from 1345.  That’s just crazy.  How can a bridge built with hand tools and pulleys still be standing almost 700 years after it was built?  They don’t allow cars on it as in the seventeenth century they added shops and turned the bridge over to gold and jewelry sellers [editor’s note – funnily enough we didn’t come away with any of the jewelry].  It is the only bridge left standing on the river by retreating German troops.  Rumor has it that Hitler was a fan of the structure.  We enjoyed looking at the bridge, plus had a bonus show from the rowing club just up river.  It looked like a nice spot for a row.

We eventually had to get some lunch and after much discussion picked a sandwich shop making fresh-cut sandwiches.  There are so many choices for eating and everything looks so good, it really is hard to settle on one place.  Our fresh parma and warm pork roast choices turned out perfect.  But you can’t have lunch in Florence without a café macchiato and gelato.  Picking the coffee stop is easy, we have not found anywhere that makes a bad macchiato so where you buy  doesn’t seem to matter.  For gelato we followed the advice of our hotel manager and were also not disappointed.  The only trouble with eating here is that like the tourist sites, the food options would take months to try everything.

We tried to visit one of the neighborhood museums after lunch but it was closing soon so we decided to take a break.  I went in search of the tourist office and a better regional map.  Nancy did some packing and planning for tomorrow and the rest of Italy.  While I was out, I stumbled on at least two more open piazzas with churches at one end and lined by cafes and statues of various famous people.  Florence really is a case of you walk around a corner and something 500 years old hits you on the head.  I took some more photos and was successful on the map.

We enjoyed our whirlwind day in Florence.  We barely scratched the surface on what there is to do and see.  Enjoy the photos as I took a lot today.  Had we more time on our Schengen visas, we would probably stay a few more days.  (take note any Schengen officials out there – you want more tourist dollars, let tourist stay longer than 90 days).  Tomorrow we are off to Siena with a 70k ride through the hills of Tuscany planned.  After Siena we are not sure of the route, more planning required – but we are likely only 4 days from Ancona and the ferry to Greece.

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7 responses to “Sightseeing in Firenze (Florence)

  1. Ooh, I liked the view from the top looking down the roof. Very cool.

  2. Love the pictures with your perspective! Very unique. Dale and I had fun in Florence renting a 1960’s era Fiat 500 for an afternoon…tons of fun!

  3. Thanks for the great history lesson…

  4. Wonderful photos. Brings back memories. Florence was a great city. After driving the Fiat 500 we did start noticing quite a few of them around. Mary Jo and I both took turns driving and they were loads of fun. We only encountered some gentle hills and were sight seeing so quite adequate for that.

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