Our road trip in central Italy was coming to an end, and we were eager to come to discover one of Europe’s most historic, enticing and perhaps most touristy cities.
How we got there and where we stayed
We had planned on spending the next, and last, couple of days in Florence (Firenze). Being a densely built city from the Renaissance it made no sense to bring a car into the centre. Therefore we delivered the car at the rental agency office outside the airport and took a taxi to our hotel. The car rental agencies are not located at the airport, which is very small, but a few hundred metres outside. Pay close attention to the signs or you will, like us, miss it. We ended up driving a huge detour just to return to the right place.
In Florence we had booked three nights at the Residenza d’Epoca Palazzo Galletti. This charming and elegant city palace dates back to the early 1800s and has been restored with modern amenities while holding on to its original atmosphere. It only has four suites and seven double rooms, and has a delightful breakfast room in the basement. Its city centre location was perfect and service was impeccable.
Planning our visit
There are many attractions in Florence, most of which date back to the Renaissance. The historic city centre is not very large, and may for the largest parts be discovered by walking. In addition to choosing the most interesting sights – there are too many to cover all in only a couple of days – all visitors will have to face the challenge of waiting in line. Long lines. Florence in August is struggling under the burden of heavy tourism. The large amount of day-trippers or multi-day visitors are all aiming for the most sought-after attractions: The Cathedral (Duomo), The Uffizi Gallery, The Accademia Gallery, the Ponte Vecchio bridge to name but a few.
Planning our visit we had decided to buy tickets for two tours, and then do the rest on our own. There are several “skip the line” agencies offering just that, in addition to a competent guide and also transportation to the less accessible points of interest.
I had unfortunately been struggling with an unruly belly for the last few days, and was forced not only to skip the line, but also the majority of places on my tickets. My partner joined the groups on both days.
Our first day in Florence was booked through an agency called Ciao Florence. They boasted a nine-hour tour, advertised like this: “The most comprehensive tour of the Cradle of Renaissance. An entire day to discover Florence and its amazing views (Piazzale Michelangelo and Fiesole, with its fascinating history and important artistic works of art (Uffizi Gallery, Accademia Gallery, Piazza Signoria, Basilica di Santa Croce, Duomo and Baptistery) and its famous savoury Tuscan cuisine.”
We concluded (especially my partner who followed the guide all day) that it was well worth 115 euros. I made it to the first magnificent viewpoint overlooking the river Arno and the historic city, the Piazzale Michelangelo. I also forced myself to join the group past the line of “ordinary” tourists into the Accademia Gallery. This art gallery hosts the original David statue by Michelangelo as well as a number of other sculptures and paintings from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Some of the later sights on this tour I had seen before, and would visit the following day.
Our second day in Florence was another “skip the line” tour, this time to the cupola of the cathedral, the Duomo. Taking on the challenge of 463 steps was not within my reach this day. Luckily I had been there before and was this time able to switch to another tour. I was guided around the inside of the Duomo and the Baptistry in the adjacent building on the square. The inside of both cupolas are fantastic. Moreover I found the strength, and got the ticket to visit the Museum dell’Opera on my own.
On the night of our arrival we had been walking the streets around the Duomo, and this last afternoon I was fit enough to join my partner on a walk through several other areas in this historic part of Florence. Piazza di San Firenze and Piazza della Signoria are especially noteworthy. We crossed the Ponte Vecchio into the neighbourhoods on the other side, and settled for dinner at the quiet Piazza Santo Spirito. This is where few(er) tourists venture. Back in the main tourist arteries we settled for a late coffee at the upscale Piazza della Repubblica.
The historic centre of Florence is a World Heritage Site. In addition I had this dream of visiting a couple of World Heritage Medici villas including the famous Boboli park on the other side of the River Arno. Alas, that will have to wait until next time.
The following map shows the places and attractions on this road trip. The best impression of the map is when you expand it into a new tab, and then zoom in and out as you like. Click the markers to get more information and links to further reading.
The road trip in 2017 is described in the following articles.
- Day 1: Getting a digital detox in Italy
- Days 2-3: Almost spoiled visits to Spoleto, Assisi, Urbino and Cortona
- Day 4: The essence of Tuscany from Pienza to Florence
- Days 5-6: How to survive Florence (THIS)