This weekend I went back to Italy to visit a good friend of mine who’s studying in Florence (or Firenze, as the Italians say. Why don’t we just call cities by their real names?). Before I left, my host mom warned me before that Italy always seems to be having problems with their trains. Sure enough, when I arrived in Ventimiglia (the first stop in Italy after crossing the border from France), I was told I’d need to take a bus to another train station in Albenga, then I could take a train to Genova, then Pisa, then Firenze. Since I don’t speak any Italian and the man directing me to the bus spoke minimal English, I didn’t understand the type of bus I was supposed to be looking for…so I missed it.
Instead of spending Friday night in Firenze (for free), I had to pay for a hotel in Genova. But I got there pretty early and was able to get a good night’s sleep, which was probably more than I would have gotten if I’d made it to my friend’s apartment since her roommates would have woken me up when they got back from the bars. And, most importantly, I arrived in Firenze pretty early the next morning, so I still had all day Saturday and Sunday to spend exploring the city with my friend.
She’d warned me that it’d been raining a lot there, but lucky for us the weather turned out to be sunny for almost the entire weekend! First we went to her apartment so I could drop my backpack off. She and her roommate have an incredible view:
Then we walked to the Duomo di Firenze, or the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. We walked through the inside of the cathedral, then climbed the cupola (dome). We walked right below the Last Judgement paintings on the cupola’s interior, then went outside where we had a wonderful view of Florence. The cupola took 14 years to build. Designing and building it was unusually challenging because of its octagonal shape, and because it couldn’t have any buttresses for support. Brunelleschi designed the cupola, which is actually an interior dome and an exterior dome connected by wood, stone and iron rings that provide the support that buttresses usually do.
Inside the Duomo
View of Brunelleschi’s cupola
Next we climbed even more stairs to get to the top of Giotto’s campanile (bell tower). Though the cupola had given us a very impressive view of the city, the view from the campanile was even better (because it was higher). Before this I hadn’t realized how small Florence is! We could see the edges of the city and pretty far into the countryside from up here. My friend said it only takes about 45 minutes to walk from one end of the city to the other.
View from the top of Giotto’s campanile
The Baptistry is currently under construction, but there’s a small museum nearby that has Michelangelo’s Pieta and Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise. They’re both so incredible to see in person after reading about them!
Next we went to the Giardino di Boboli, right behind the Palazzo Pitti. It reminded me of visiting the gardens at Versailles. The garden is like a giant maze, with paths winding in all directions. We took some great pictures imitating the statues there, and other pictures that are mere attempts at capturing the bright green of the garden.
Giardino di Boboli
We ended the day with a very filling dinner at a family style restaurant with my friend’s apartment-mates. We had bread and olive oil, roasted vegetables, a mix of meats with mozzarella, three different types of pasta and three bottles of wine. It only cost each of us 15 euros! I wish I could find a place with that good of a deal in Antibes…
The following day we visited the Piazzale Michelangelo, which required climbing more stairs, but it was totally worth it. From the square we could see the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo and the Basilica di Santa Croce. Then we walked through a rose garden, which usually has over 350 different kinds of roses. Unfortunately the roses weren’t blooming yet, so the garden wasn’t that exciting, but I’m sure it will be when the season’s right!
After a quick lunch we went to the Uffizzi Gallery. Although every painting and statue in the gallery is beautiful, I particularly loved seeing the artworks I’d studied in AP Art History, such as Spring and The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, and the Madonna with the Long Neck by Parmigianino.
The last place we visited was the Basilica di Santa Croce. We arrived too late to go inside, but the façade is plenty beautiful so we sat outside and admired it for a bit, which also allowed us to rest our legs. Some guy trying to sell bracelets came up to us while we were sitting there and tried to guess where we were from and what language we spoke. Neither of us said anything; we just looked at each other and laughed. I don’t know whether or not he believed we didn’t understand him, but it got him to leave us alone!
Standing outside the Basilica di Santa Croce
For my last dinner in Florence, my friend and her roommate took me to their favorite pizza place: Gusta Pizza. I had an entire Margherita pizza for just 5 euros! It tasted better than any other pizza I’ve ever eaten; the ingredients were all so fresh. I wish I could have stayed in Florence for the rest of the week…
But I have another midterm this Thursday, so I had to get back. Besides, Antibes is pretty great, too 🙂 And the weather seems to be improving!
2 responses to “Firenze”
Lucy, great photos! What a wonderful visit.
Lucy, So fun to read about your adventures, as we are planning our own visit to Firenze in June. It was supposed to be last Spring when Connor was there, but that fell through due to an accident. 🙁 Hey, maybe you will run into some of your ASB friends/classmates there. Maria Black is there for the 2013-14 year, and Connor Nelson is also there this semester. You guys are world travelers! Enjoy and stay safe! 🙂