Three Days in Florence . . . Day One

Other than spending many hours thinking about my blog, writing it, checking my stats, Twittering, Pinteresting, cooking, traveling, (still) following my grown up children’s activities, loving my husband, brushing my wonderful dogs, reading, listening to Adele, doing some interior design work for friends, and daydreaming, I also teach Italian language, give Italian cooking demonstrations, and design customized tours of Italy!

Today I am sharing with you My three days in Florence.

I have an architectural degree so, naturally, when I prepare a tour package more detailed information on art and architecture are included. I also like to include maps with highlighted walking paths to help reaching each destination. Art and musical events are always part of my planning and, of course, also my favorite places to eat and shop.

I take pride in the fact that My suggestions are solely based on My personal experiences and preferences. So, when you follow My Tour you will walk the same path I walked, you will possibly enjoy the same view I did, and you will eat some of My favorite gelato!

Today’s post will only include day 1, look for day 2 and day 3 next week (even better register you email to follow my blog)!

Tre Giorni a Firenze

DAY ONE:

If this is your first time in Florence you should always start your tour from Piazzale Michelangelo and from there enjoy your first magnificent view of Florence! Start to pinpoint all the landmarks below you and admire the landscape . . . across from you, on two hillsides, is the town of Fiesole.

From Piazzale Michelangelo walk up to the church of San Miniato al Monte. This is one of the best-preserved medieval buildings in Florence. Bishop Hildebrand had the present Basilica built in 1018 on the site of a fourth century chapel. The façade is inlaid with white marble from the Apuan Alps and green marble from Prato.

Giuseppe Poggi, the architect of Piazzale Michelangelo, in 1865 also designed the Giardino delle Rose (Rose Garden) which is located below Piazzale Michelangelo to the West, along Viale Giuseppe Poggi. I have discovered this garden last spring and I spent a lovely afternoon walking through the paths. The giardino is of course most beautiful in May when the roses are in full bloom. It features around 370 variety of roses, some of which go back to the 1500! There are also a Japanese garden and sculptures by the Belgian artist Folon.

If you enjoy gardens, in this area of Oltrarno, beside the well known Giardini di Boboli, you will find the Giardino Bardini (Bardini Garden)

Within the garden, there are the homonymous Villa, which houses an art museum, and a café, from whose porch, I have enjoyed sipping wine while admiring the view. You should do the same!

Walk to the Lungarno and cross the Ponte delle Grazie. From this bridge you will have a great view of Ponte Vecchio.

Continue on Via de’ Benci and arrive to the immense Piazza Santa Croce. The Piazza is a thirteenth-fourteenth century Mediaeval urban project. Because of its large size, the Piazza has been traditionally used for religious and civic events, including the famous jousts and the game of Calcio Fiorentino (Florentine soccer) in period costume; this tradition started in the fifteenth century.

The focal point of the Piazza is the Basilica di Santa Croce, the biggest Franciscan church in the world!

While the façade dates from the nineteen century, the church was built between 1295 and 1443. It is a great example of Gothic architecture. The church’s wooden roof, however, gives the space a more welcoming feeling.

Along the walls are the altars and funeral monuments of illustrious Italian personages: Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and many more. The tomb of Michelangelo is guarded by three sculptures representing Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Past Michelangelo is Dante’s cenotaph-but not his remains. Interesting is the tomb of play-writer Giovan Battista Niccolini. This tomb struck  me with its resemblance to the Statue of Liberty in New York. Even the name is a reminder of the New York landmark, Statue of Liberty of Poetry. The sculpture in Santa Croce however, was completed by the Italian artist Pio Fedi in 1877, while the  Statue of Liberty in New York was inaugurated only in 1886.

Statua della Liberta di Poesia

Photo courtesy of Saralee’s World

Beautiful are the chapels with fresco by Giotto depicting the History of Saint Francis. Walk to the beautiful Chiostro di Brunelleschi (cloister), enter Cappella Pazzi and Santa Croce Museum where you can admire the Crucifix by Cimabue. The Crucifix shows the signs of the damages of the 1966 flood.

From Piazza Santa Croce take a six minute walk along Borgo de’ Greci and Via de’ Gondi and arrive to Piazza della Signoria, dominated by Palazzo della Signoria, better known as Palazzo Vecchio.

The Piazza, along with its Loggia dei Lanzi  – on the South end – today serves as an open-air museum teeming with tourists, postcard stands, horses and buggies, and outdoor cafes.

The statuary on the piazza is particularly beautiful: Giambologna’s Equestrian Statue of Grand Duke Cosimo I (1594), a copy (original is in the Bargello) of Donatello’s Marzocco, another Donatello’s replica, Judith Beheading Holofernes.

Farther down, on either side of the Palazzo’s entrance, are Michelangelo’s David, a 19th-century copy of the original now at the Galleria dell’Accademia and -ugly in comparison – Baccio Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus.

Under the Loggia, at the front left corner stands Benvenuto Cellini‘s bronze masterpiece, Perseus (1545), holding up the severed Medusa’s head. On the far right of the loggia, stands the copy of  Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines, the original statue has been moved to the Galleria dell’Accademia.

Loggia dei Lanzi

Take time to visit Palazzo della Signoria. The Palace stands out for its fourteenth-century architectural shape that makes it resemble a real castle.

Today it is still the seat of the Municipality of Florence. The visit to the museum starts in the Cortile (courtyard) by Michelozzo, which is adorned with frescos and stuccos. From here you will be directed into the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the five hundred). The Salone was built in 1495 for wanting of the Dominican friar Girolamo Savanarola, to accommodate the representatives of the Great Council – 500 members – which was the organ of government of the city. On this floor, remarkable is the Studiolo (little study room), of Cosimo’s son, Francesco. A tiny room rich of paintings. Some of the paintings conceal cabinets where Francesco kept his many collections.

A steep stairway leads to the gallery that crosses the Hall of the Five Hundred. From there you reach Eleonora’s Apartments. Beautiful is Eleonora’s private chapel adorned with frescos. The second floor houses other apartments and halls. I particularly enjoy the Hall of geographical maps. The cabinets in this room are decorated with 53 maps, oil paintings, which give you an idea of the geographical knowledge in the sixteenth century.

The visit continues on the mezzanine where you will enjoy a collection of paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages and Renaissance left to the city of Florence by Charles Loeser.

NOTE: The Studiolo is not always open to the public and often can only be visited by booking the Palazzo Vecchio Secret Passage Tour. I highly recommend this tour which will also takes you to the Stairway of the Duke of Athens – escape route – the Tesoretto – Cosimo’s study room – and the trusses of the ceiling of the Salone dei Cinquecento.

From Piazza della Signoria you can walk one block on Via Calimaruzza and arrive to Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, a street market where you can manage to find some good deals on leather goods. Don’t forget to rub the nose of the Porcellino (Piglet – to me it really looks more like a wild boar). It’s a copy of a seventeenth century’s work by Pietro Tacca. He had copied it from an ancient Roman statue housed in the Uffizi Gallery. The Romans had copied it from a Greek statue in bronze. Anyway, it is said that if you rub the Porcellino’s nose, you will return to Florence one day . . . you don’t want to miss the chance!

Walk to Via Porta Rossa and turn left on Via dell’Arte della Lana and you will be at the church of Orsanmichele.

Orsanmichele is a very distinctive church. It actually doesn’t even look like a church, doesn’t even have a bell tower! Before the arcades were walled up, this was an open portico: the loggia of the old grain market; the space above was used as granary. Orsanmichele is the only monument that served both religious and civic life.

The statues of the patron Saints of the guilds, standing in the outside’s niches, are copies; the original works are exhibited in the museum upstairs. The museum can be accessed through a masonry spiral staircase built into the corner pillar of the church. However, it can also be accessed through the enclosed masonry catwalk connecting to the turreted Palazzo dell’Arte della Lana (guildhall of the Wool Guild).

Between April and September, you can enjoy classical music performances in the inspiring settings of Orsanmichele. You can check this year schedule at Orchestra da camera Fiorentina.

Well, that’s it for today. I know what you are thinking: ‘A lot to see in one day!’  Yes, but how couldn’t you? You only have three days!

My favorite stops to tickle your taste buds:

These are within today itinerary

GELATO:

Cantina del gelato, Via De’ Bardi, 31

Vivoli, Via Isola delle Stinche, 7r

Perchè no! Via dei Tavolini, 19r

WINE BAR (and food pairing):

Le Volpi e l’Uva, Piazza dei Rossi, 1

LUNCH or DINNER:

Cantinetta dei Verrazzano, Via dei Tavolini, 18-r

DINNER:

Osteria De’ Benci, Via de’ Benci, 13

RELATED POSTS :

Three days in Florence Day Two

Three days in Florence Day Three

9 comments on “Three Days in Florence . . . Day One

  1. restlessjo says:

    I can’t bear to carry on reading. In all our trips to Italy I still can’t understand how we never made it to Florence or Rome!

  2. Debra Kolkka says:

    Lovely, lovely Florence. I will have just one more day there I think before I go back to Australia. It is starting to become really crowded now. I like it best in the winter, when I have it almost to myself.

    • I couldn’t agree more! Last April I was there for five days and I felt sorry for the Florentine . . . It looked like they didn’t own their city anymore. Still beautiful!!! I might be there in November and I hoping for quieter streets. Enjoy your last day in Firenze!

  3. Karen says:

    I sounds like you have a wonderful and busy life in Italy.

    • Karen, I live in US, in Maryland. My relatives are all in Italy and I am lucky enough to be able to travel there often!

      • Karen says:

        Nice to know…when you mentioned “walk the paths that I walked” I thought that you lived in Italy.

      • Sorry, if I was not clear in my post. What I meant to say was that I design the tours based on my own travel experience. I travel frequently in Italy and following my tour you will actually walking the same paths I did.

      • Karen says:

        Not a problem at all…I enjoyed the post whether you live in the US or in Italy and I know everyone else will.

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