You can view all posts from my trip to Italy here.
You may have read last week’s post where Verona didn’t win my love, but thankfully, Florence more than made up for our disappointing experience. We had an awesome time visiting the Duomo, seeing beautiful buildings, touring Tuscany (stay tuned for that post!), and eating the most amazing food at the best restaurant in Florence!
We took two trains to get to Florence and got there in the late afternoon, and our Airbnb was about two blocks from the train station, so convenient! Since we left Verona earlier than we had planned (we really didn’t like it), we arrived at our Airbnb a little early and didn’t have a way of contacting our host, so I would suggest getting your Airbnb host’s phone number or some way to contact them before you arrive (we were Airbnb newbies). Our Airbnb host was very nice, and the apartment was so cute! I loved all the different color schemes and chandeliers.
After dropping our stuff off, we set off to see the famous Duomo! Its full name is the Cathedral del Santa Maria del Fiore, but everyone refers to it as the Duomo.
Santa Maria Novella
After feeling claustrophobic in the crowds in Venice, I was a little nervous about all the tourists in Florence, but it actually wasn’t bad at all. There were crowds around the Duomo, of course, but it was a very large, open space, so it didn’t really feel crowded. There were also quite a few street vendors and artists around the Duomo (I don’t know how I didn’t get a picture of all the artwork!) and most of them were surprisingly reasonably priced! And these artists were incredibly talented and it wasn’t cheap artwork at all. I got a couple of small pieces for only a few euros each, and my friends got some, as well.
I took TONS of photos of the Duomo (no surprise there!), and my pictures don’t do it justice! I loved the pastel pinks and greens on the cathedral, and I had never seen a building like it before. The dome is so famous because it’s massive and they were having problems building it, so to get it to work, they actually built an inner and outer dome for more support. We didn’t get to go inside the Duomo, but I bet the dome is even more impressive inside!
You can get a sense of the crowds of people
After craning our necks to gaze at the Duomo’s splendor for a while, we went right next door to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. I don’t know anyone who’s been to the museum before, but it was great! My art major friends got their fill of amazing artwork while I geeked out about all the fun facts about the history of the Duomo and Florence. I didn’t realize the Medici family played such a big part in the Duomo, and I found it all fascinating.
A replica of the front of the Duomo
Penitent Magdalene by Donatello
You can go to the top of the museum and see the dome up close!
This is the equipment they used to build the Duomo
This is where our day really turned into an adventure. We didn’t realize how late it had gotten, and the one thing I really wanted to do in Florence was get pictures of the sunset. It rained in Venice so we couldn’t see the sunset there and the mountains in Bassano del Grappa blocked a lot of the sunset, so this one night in Florence was my only shot.
We wanted to go to Piazzale Michelangelo to get photos of the sunset, and it didn’t look like it was that far from the Duomo, but we didn’t realize the last part was uphill. And I mean straight uphill. I can’t do this story justice, but this hike killed us all. We were trying to power walk as fast as we could, but the hills were killing us (and I walk at least a few miles in Philadelphia every single day, so I’m not in bad shape). The last part of the fun hike was straight up a hill of stairs. My friend Morgan and I were leading since we have the longest legs and we were panting and dying by the time we got to the stairs, and a friendly man told us that we better hurry because we only had a few minutes before the sun set. My lungs were on fire and my thighs were basically jello at this point (I’ll admit, I was using the hand rail to propel myself forward), but I was not about to miss sunset after I had gotten this far, so Morgan and I powered through and just barely made it to the top. I couldn’t catch my breath for the longest time and my chest hurt like crazy, but we made it!! (And that guy totally lied, we had more than a few minutes before the sun went down)
And it was so worth it (be prepared for tons of photos).
There was a big crowd at Piazzale Michelangelo and a lot of people were taking tons of selfies, so I would definitely suggest getting there early to claim a spot. And also so you don’t die sprinting on your way up
After catching our breath and getting feeling back in our thighs, we very slowly meandered over to Osteria Santo Spirito for dinner. If you visit Florence, you MUST visit Osteria Santo Spirito. It was my favorite meal in Italy! Every single dish we tried was absolutely delicious. And the best part was that you could order half portions of entrees so you could try more food! It was reasonably priced and just incredible. It wasn’t very crowded, but I think almost everyone in there was American so it kind of felt like being back in the U.S. (but it wasn’t a tourist trap like some Venice restaurants).
We hadn’t had gelato since Venice so we finished our night with a quest for gelato. Gelateria Santa Trinita was open later than most places, and it was one of the best gelato places we went to Italy, and one of the cheapest! My friend Mariah tried black sesame gelato, which I had never heard of, and it tasted a little like peanut butter. All the flavors were delicious, so definitely go to Gelateria Santa Trinita when you’re in Florence!
Photo by Mariah
So when you visit Florence, make sure you check out the Duomo and the museum, get to your sunset spot in plenty of time, and eat at Osteria Santo Spirito and Gelateria Santa Trinita! Stay tuned for more posts about Florence and Tuscany! 🙂