Everyone told me, “You will love Florence!”
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore enchanted me from the moment I saw it. Topped by Brunelleschi’s dome, the duomo is remarkable to see in person. Its construction spanned from the late 1200s to early 1400s. Aren’t we lucky to be able to see it completed? The line to climb to the top was about one hour. My friend suggested that we take turns waiting and wandering about. He used his time to have coffee in a café where a local man started talking to him about the declining economy of the city. I found a side street where I bought a dozen postcards from a shop. I chose nine to send to friends, family, and colleagues, one for the collection on my wall, and a couple extra for good measure.
About ten minutes before we arrived at the entrance, my friend double-checked the sign in front of the door. He ran back and told me that they didn’t sell tickets there. We asked the people behind us where to buy tickets, and they directed us to the office down the street. My friend sprinted off and came back panting and bearing two tickets. I picked a good travel companion.
The ascent to the dome included narrow winding spiral stone staircases. Usually staircases were one way, but several of them, invariably the steep ones, were shared by people climbing up and people going down so that one side had to wait for the other to carefully make their way before continuing.
Prior to entering into the open air, we were treated to an expected interior view under the dome, which is covered with a fresco of “The Last Judgement” by Vasari and Federico Zuccari. I had never been so high up inside a church before.Outside, the view of the city was… well, look at it.We circled the dome and soaked in each viewpoint. We must have been there for an hour.After lunch that day, we took a very roundabout way to another vantage point of the city. I don’t want to talk about it. By the time we arrived, I was so hot and pooped that I immediately plopped down on the ground in the tiny piece of shade of a snack stand. My friend eventually asked if I wanted to go, and I said okay, but I’d better go look at the view for a bit first. I had to admit that it was striking. The best cure for long walks in the heat was gelato. My favorite flavor definitely became melone. Every time we went to a gelateria, I would stuff a napkin in my purse but not always use it. Days later, I would dig for something in my bag and find another papery gelato napkin.
In terms of food, we ate pizza and pasta and it was good but made me feel like I just wanted to eat fruit salad for a week when I got back.
On our last day in Florence, after seeing Michaelangelo’s David at the Renaissance-filled Accademia Gallery, we feasted on spinach pizza, artichoke calzones, cold eggplant, sundried tomatoes, and spremuta (freshly squeezed orange juice). Also, can I just say that Florence is cheaper than Paris? This lunch for two was 13.50 euros. Not dirt cheap but certainly less expensive than my city of residence. Our budget hotel room overlooked a quiet street walking distance from the action.Florence felt alive, with many different neighborhoods easily traversed on foot. As a friend had warned me, the city is filled with tourists, and lines to enter monuments and museums can be one to two hours. My mindset was that I wanted to choose one or two sites where we’d be willing to wait, and the rest of the time I wanted to explore the city and enjoy being outside. That’s exactly what we did. We didn’t go in the Uffizi Gallery or pay to see the Boboli Gardens, but we did nap on the bank of the Arno River, walk across the charming Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), and have a laugh on a warm evening while sitting on a bench outside a lit shop as gelato melted in our mouths.