After a goodnight’s rest from the 17-hour Flix Bus from Paris, I woke up refreshed and ready to explore Florence. My plans for the day: 1) Breakfast; 2) Walk to the Post Office and ship the things I don’t need for the next 9 days; 3) Take a Renaissance Walk through Florence; 4) Dinner; 5) Buy small souvenirs and enjoy an authentic gelato on my walk back to the hostel where I stayed.
This is the 3rd city on my 1st Solo European Adventure. Actually, my original plan was to take a morning train to Milan and find La Scala Opera house then get lunch before taking the train back to Florence. But my itinerary changed since I didn’t go exploring when I arrived in Florence yesterday afternoon. Instead, I took a nap because I was exhausted from the long bus ride and getting lost finding the hostel. My 1st visit to Milan will be on my next trip to Italy.
Had breakfast then went to the post office. Once I shipped my things, I was ready to explore Florence using Rick Steeve’s Florence Renaissance Walk map. Here are the classic landmarks I passed along my self-guided walking tour. The first stop, Piazza del Duomo:
It was a sunny and warm spring day full of tourists when I reached Piazza del Duomo. After walking around the magnificent Duomo, I continued along Via Calzaiuoli where an abundance of shopping, restaurants, and landmarks can be found along this popular pedestrian street. In one of the intersecting streets I saw a beautiful archway. When I walked toward this arch I found my next stop – Piazza della Repubblica. I discovered many more piazzas (open public square) all over Florence, as I wandered the rest of the day. Piazzas are equivalent to the neighborhood hang out, that’s typical in Italy and all over Europe. After wandering around a few minutes, I walked back to Via Calziuoli and stepped inside Orsanmichele. This landmark was originally built in 1337 as a grain market and was converted into a church between 1380-1404. The atmosphere I felt inside Orsanmichele was serene. After a few minutes of prayer, I walked around the church to see the (replica) sculptures displayed in the niches around the outside of the church. The Christ and St. Thomas bronze statue was sculpted by Andrea del Verrocchio in 1486 while Donatello carved the marble statue of St. Mark in 1413. The original sculptures that occupied these niches can be viewed at the Museo di Orsanmichele.
As I continued along Via Calziuoli, I eventually arrived at the Piazza Signoria considered to be the political heart of the city. On this busy piazza full of tourists, I found the Palazzo Vecchio and replica of David’s sculpture in front of the palazzo, Uffizzi, and Loggia dei Lanzi.
After taking a few pictures and recording a video, I walked in between the Palazzo Vecchio and Loggia dei Lanzi and found my next stop, the Uffizi Gallery. The queue to enter the gallery was too long. So I chose to visit the courtyard instead since I didn’t want to spend the few hours I had left standing in line.
The last stop along my self-guided walking tour of historic Firenze (aka Florence) was the Arno River located outside of Uffizzi Gallery. I lingered to shoot a video of me singing “O mio babbino caro“ the famous aria (song) from the opera “Gianni Schichi” by Giacomo Puccini. Since the Arno River is mentioned in the song, I wanted to see it and sing this aria while I was there. Unfortunately, I wasn’t satisfied with the video of me singing along this river. Here are some pictures of me singing with the Arno River in the background. You can click this link to listen to my recording of this song.
Later in the afternoon, I wandered around to find a nice Italian leather bag. Afterwards, I walked along quaint side streets that led me to Mercato Centrale, in the middle of a piazza of course, to enjoy my 1st authentic Italian dinner. This central market is equivalent to an American food court but with a market atmosphere to shop and savor Italian cuisine.
On my way back to the hostel, I looked for the Ponte Vecchio, another landmark mentioned in “O mio babbino caro.” It was sunset by the time I got there. This medieval bridge, dating back to the 12th century, was filled with lovers enjoying the romantic atmosphere while a musician serenaded them with “Your Song” by Elton John. I stayed to listen until the end of the song and then walked back to Piazza Signoria to buy my 1st authentic gelato in Italy and enjoy it on my walk back to the hostel. I was tired when I got back to the 4-bed all female dorm room that was cool and comfortable. Before falling asleep, I remembered thinking, Wow, I just wandered the streets of Florence! Someday when I revisit I can really savor everything this wonderful city has to offer.