Packing Up & Setting Off Again For “EUROPE: Round Two”
Off we go to Florence! Our second trip around Europe has begun!
I’m not going to lie, Ben and I were UNBELIEVABLY exhausted by the time we returned home for Christmas! It was so so lovely to take a much-needed relaxing break and be able to spend time with the friends and family members we missed so terribly while we were away.
On the 22nd of January, we set off again for the next leg of our adventure – to beautiful Florence, Italy. We arrived at our sweet Airbnb apartment nestled in the quiet Via di San Niccolò, about a fifteen-minute walk into the centre of Florence. We could step out of our apartment, turn a corner and be faced with the stunning Ponte Vecchio. This view definitely made our frequent trips to the local market more enjoyable! Our apartment was quaint, quiet and traditional, with wooden beams and a stone staircase, and was such a perfect start to our next adventure!
The Beautifully Intricate Santa Maria del Fiore, Handsome Neptune & The Towering Palazzo Vecchio
One of the key sights of the city of Florence is the beautiful Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral with its magnificent dome which can be seen from all over the city. The gothic structure dates from the 13th century when construction started. However, the famous dome wasn’t added until the 15th century, and yet it still wasn’t finished until the 19th century.
Entrance to the beautiful cathedral is free, however, lines are usually incredibly long! Ben and I got caught in the rain, on the day we visited, but that didn’t stop eager visitors (many of whom without umbrellas) from standing in a queue that wrapped around the entire cathedral!
A short walk from the cathedral is the towering Palazzo Vecchio and the Fountain of Neptune which is placed just below the fortress. Palazzo Vecchio is seen by the residents of Florence as a symbol of civil power and the fortress itself offers a trip back in time through three separate historical eras. The Palazzo Vecchio combines art and history through Roman ruins, a medieval fortress, and Renaissance paintings.
The Fountain of Neptune is a stunning sculpture in the centre of Florence’s Piazza della Signora. The sculpture shows the God of the Sea on a chariot being drawn by horses and was erected between 1563 and 1565 by Bartolomeo Ammannati and Giambologna. The sculpture is also known as the “Biancone”, roughly translated to “Great White”, in relation to the sculpture’s brilliant white marble material.
Pretty Pitti Palace
On one of our days off of work, Ben and I took the opportunity to visit the Palazzo Pitti, or Pitti Palace, which is a huge Renaissance palace housing some of the most important. museums in Florence.
The first floor includes the Palatine Gallery, a collection of 16th and 17th-century paintings – including may by the artist Raphael, in addition to the Royal Apartments, containing furniture from the 19th Century.
Spread across the ground floor and mezzanine is the Treasury of the Grand Dukes which displays household treasures of the Medici family, one of Florence’s most influential families. Finally, occupying the top floor of the palace is the Gallery of Modern Art, which holds a variety of Tuscan paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Uffizi Gallery & Becoming Leonardo Da Vinci for a Day
If anyone knows me well, they know that I am a HUGE Renaissance art nut – my favourite artist being the incredible Michelangelo! So Ben and I were so excited to visit the Uffizi Gallery in the historical centre of Florence, overlooking the beautiful Arno River and Ponte Vecchio bridge.
The Uffizi Gallery, or Galleria degli Uffizi, is one of the largest and most renowned art museums in the world and houses priceless artworks and sculptures primarily from the period of the Italian Renaissance.
Following our visit to the Uffizi Gallery, Ben and I continued our artistic day with a visit to the Leonardo Interactive Museum – a hands-on exhibition dedicated to the works and inventions of Leonardo da Vinci, situated a short walk from the Cathedral Santa Marie del Fiore. There were workable replicas of his mechanical designs, in addition to reproductions of his famous paintings and drafting sketches. It was such a unique and memorable place to visit and we highly recommend it!
Ponte Vecchio Over Arno & The Breathtaking Views From Piazzale Michelangelo
Ben and I were so incredibly lucky to be able to walk to the supermarket each day and capture the breathtaking Ponte Vecchio on our way there. The Ponte Vecchio is the oldest and most photographed bridge in Florence and dates all the way back to Roman times. It has three main arches and houses the famous “botteghe”, or shops, along its length. These shops used to be for butchers and food sellers, however now they are full of beautiful jewellery shops – a bit of a change with the times!
Our apartment was beautifully located, not just because of its proximity to the Ponte Vecchio, but also due to the fact that the Piazzale Michelangelo was only a short walk from behind our accommodation. The Piazzale Michelangelo is a 19th-century piazza with a PHENOMENAL panoramic view of Florence and the surrounding Tuscan countryside. The piazza is named “Michelangelo” due to being decorated with replicas of the artist’s sculptures, including the statue of David, which takes prominence in the centre of the square.
Cooking Like the Florentines
In keeping with our developed tradition of taking part in a cooking class in each country we visit, Ben and I took part in a wonderful private cooking class in the heart of Florence. Florence and Italy, in general, is well known for its various foods and we had the most AMAZING time tasting as many different dishes as possible! Some of the dishes were pizza/pasta related, however, there were a few “curveball” foods, including double hot dogs and rose gelatos!
However, our favourite meals in Florence were (unbiasedly!) those we cooked with Laurence in our Airbnb cooking experience! Laurence greeted us outside her apartment and made us feel completely welcome and at home in her kitchen! We made two types of pasta from scratch – ravioli and tagliatelle, and two sauces for each pasta (lemon butter sauce for the ravioli and gorgonzola sauce for the tagliatelle).
It was such a fun and educational experience, and one to tick off my bucket list! We would highly recommend Laurence’s class whenever you visit Florence and we have included the links to the experience as well as the recipes learned down below!
Michelangelo’s Masterpiece, David
On one of our final days in Florence, Ben and I had the amazing opportunity to visit one of my favourite pieces of art: Michelangelo’s David. We queued up for a long time, around the block outside of the Accademia Gallery, in which the masterpiece is housed. The sculpture is one of the world’s most famous works of art and was crafted during the Italian Renaissance between 1501 and 1504.
The incredible statue is constructed out of brilliant white marble and presents the Biblical hero of David. Due to its subject, the statue became a symbol of the defense of civil liberties. Michelangelo’s David is one of the most recognised pieces of Renaissance art and is regarded as a symbol of strength and beauty.
I was in awe of the sculpture’s beauty the entire time. I didn’t want to leave!
Florence is definitely one of mine and Ben’s favourite cities so far! The vibes and atmosphere it projects are unlike anywhere else.
Something else happened in Florence…but you’ll just have to wait to find out what!
We will be moving ancient histories from the Romans to the Greeks for our next city – Athens! In the meantime, book a flight to Florence and marvel in its historic beauty.