TBT - Italy | Florence
Driving through Tuscany is everything I imagined it would be - rolling hills and perfectly conical shaped trees dotting the skyline with the occasional village or castle tucked right into the hillside. For the most part, we were on the autostrade (Italian highways) during our drive, but it still provided us with a very scenic route to Florence. But, once we got closer to Florence, we got lost trying to find our campsite, and had to try and fit the RV through single lane roadways while facing oncoming traffic that was trying to squeeze through. Those Italians are by far, some of the craziest, most least-cautious drivers I have ever seen.
Alas, after what felt like a very stressful end to our drive, we arrived in Florence near night fall and found a campsite to settle in. The campground was called “Camping Michelangelo”, and was in a very convenient location when it came to exploring the city. It’s a mere few minutes walk to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which is a large picture perfect lookout offering stunning panoramic views of the city below with its iconic terracotta rooftops. It even has a replica of the statue of David in the middle.
After a quick dinner and walk around the Piazzale, we headed back to the RV for some much needed sleep. Only, that’s not what we got.
This particular campsite was heavily populated with young 20-somethings on their post-university-backpacking-through-Europe-trip, so in order to cater to them, there was a very busy club located a mere two minute walk from the campsite. We could hear all the yelling and screaming and bass music as perfectly as if they were in the RV with us. This continued on until probably 3 am when the club finally closed.
It was mainly my mom who was bothered by the noise, so don’t let it deter you from staying here. The campground was in a GREAT location, and we could essentially walk on a beautiful paved path the entire way down the hill to the city core, without having to worry about alternate transportation.
We started out our first day in Florence taking some pictures from the Piazzale, and then made our way down the path to the city. Once you get down the hill, the path continues beside the Arno river and makes for a very lovely walk.
We walked along the river until we reached the iconic Ponte Vecchio and decided to cross there. The entire bridge is filled with small shops that sell mainly gold, and are closed using wooden shutters. Most of the shops even had what appeared to be a small apartment at the back that actually stuck out over the river.
Once we had crossed, we headed over to the Uffizi Gallery and waited in line until the museum opened, taking a few shots of the surrounding area. Once we got into the museum, they warn you that you are not allowed to take photographs, which ended up being beneficial because then you can just sit back and really appreciate the art.
Even though we got there pretty early, there were still a large amount of people in the gallery. The gallery houses primarily Renaissance masterpieces, some of which I studied in school, so it was almost surreal to see them in person. There were a number of paintings that looked vaguely familiar, or that I could identify by the style of the artist. For me, the most interesting painting to see was The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. It’s such a large and beautiful piece, so being able to see it in person was definitely awe- inspiring.
Aside from some of the more well known paintings, there were also hundreds upon hundreds of sacred and religious paintings. I swear that after we left that gallery, I could have painted you an exact replica of Jesus after seeing so many images of him.
It did take us quite a while to go through the Uffizi gallery, so we opted to not visit the Academia Gallery where the original Statue of David is located. We had already seen a couple of replicas, so we were content with that.
Our browse about the museum left us pretty hungry, so we started heading toward the city center and stopped at a restaurant along the way. I don’t remember what my parents ordered, but I got gnocchi with pesto and it was sooo good. I love a good pesto - it’s light and fresh, with perfect flavours of garlic, basil and Parmesan.
After we re-fueled, we headed towards the Cattedrale di Santa Marie del Fiore, and oh-my-God, when we caught sight of it for the first time, I was absolutely blown away. The cathedral, and adjacent Campanile di Giotto (Giotto’s Bell Tower) is just MASSIVE. I knew from seeing other photos of Florence that it was a large Cathedral, but seeing it in person and staring up at the towering façade, you gain an entirely new perspective. The outside is also so intricately carved with various different shades of marble that you can’t help but stand and stare in awe at the craftsmanship. It’s just so freaking beautiful and the sheer size of the building just commands attention.
Unfortunately, we didn’t go into the Cathedral or up the Bell tower as there were very long lines, but we were still able to appreciate it’s exterior beauty.
In addition to the Cathedral, just to the East (I think it’s East anyways), there is the Battistero di San Giovanni, which is also a rather famous religious monument done in a similar marble style as that of the cathedral.
After we took in our fill of the Cathedral and surrounding area, we browsed around in some of the shops, but unfortunately I was in a mood to not spend money, so we left empty handed.
We ended up going to the Bibliotecha Medicea-Laurenziana, which in English translates as the Laurentian Library and contains the private library of the Medici family. It was built to show that they were in fact, members of an intelligent and ecclesiastical society, and not mere merchants.
The library is actually attached to the Basilica di San Lorenzo, which we also went in and had a look around. My mom had a particular interest in the Medici family, so this was one of her places of interest. It’s also the principal burial place of all the prominent members of the Medici family. When you go in, you get a head set which you can play at certain parts in the Basilica and it provides information about what you’re looking at. They’re sort of annoying to use if you’re not interested in certain information that they provide, but it is a great way to reduce the noise from a potential tour guide, especially in a sacred place like a Basilica.
We then decided to browse around the city a little more and came to a group of museums featuring rocks & minerals, paleontology, and a botanical garden. I convinced my parents to go in, mostly because in addition to shells, I also love rocks and minerals. The Museo di Mineralogia e Litologia (Museum of mineralogy and lithology) was by far the best and had so many beautiful specimens in it. It was also deserted, which wasn’t surprising, considering it’s not the most interesting subject matter. It was nice though to not have to fight your way through crowds of tourists to be able to view a piece, and we got to see a lot of gorgeous rocks.
After those museums, it was getting rather late in the day, so we started heading back towards the camp ground and found a really cool living wall along the way!
We had another noisy evening, but woke up and readied ourselves for another day of travelling.
In the morning, we did stop at the Galleria Palatina for a quick look around. There were various lavishly adorned rooms for us to look through in this former Palace that had, at one point, been used by the Medici family. There were also hundreds of paintings by well known artists such as Raphael, Caravaggio and Titian.
On the way back to the campsite, we stopped at a local grocery store to pick up some things for dinner and lunch. It was there that I saw one of the strangest things ever. They had these meat popsicles there, which seem like a rather normal thing - meat on a stick- but they were so odd because it appeared to be ground meat that had been formed into a popsicle shape. Definitely not my idea of appetizing.
Once we packed up the RV and hit the road, we set out in a Northern direction headed for Pisa!
Overall, I enjoyed our quick jaunt into Florence. I’m sure there are many more things to see, but I’m grateful for the small amount of Florence that we did get to experience. I think we were also eager to head out because we knew that we would soon be travelling to Cinque Terre, which all 3 of us were eagerly anticipating.
Have you ever been to Florence? What was your favourite part? Let me know in case I ever decide to go back 🙂