We fell in love with Florence. It was quintessentially Italian, and wasn’t as overrun by tourists as Rome and Venice would prove to be. A few extra days there would have been perfect, but two days were all we had. We scheduled as much as we possibly could there. We stayed at an Airbnb for only $40 for a private room just around the corner from the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. The Airbnb was hard to find even with the address. It was a great location and the host was very friendly and knowledgeable. He gave us a lot of great tips about where to eat and sightsee.
Advance reservations for the Galleria dell’Accademia where Michelangelo’s David resides and the Uffizi Gallery are recommended—for good reason, we discovered. Our 9am reservation at the Galleria dell’Accademia served us well, as we barely had to wait in line for the museum to open. That gave us just over an hour to enjoy David and the museum—which was perfect, as the crowds were not yet at capacity—to make our 10:30 appointment at the Uffizi Gallery. The Palazzo Vecchio was stunning, and the panoramic city views from the tower are second to none! Have some small Italian coins in your pocket for the elderly beggars because they won’t leave you alone until you give them something.
Viewing Michelangelo’s David in person was an awe-inspiring encounter with the finest of Renaissance sculptures. The museum is beautiful, and his David commands the focus at the end of the vestibule. The museum lights and opaque skylights above it create a soft, even light on the masterpiece.
We upgraded our 10-year-old Nikon D80 to a 40mp Sony a7rii for this trip, and it was worth it for the photos we captured here alone. This new gear allowed us to have a 40 x 60” canvas printed of our favorite photograph. Admiring this representation of the Biblical hero David firsthand was profoundly enriching, and now we can admire this masterpiece daily.
Piazzale Michelangelo is a stunning square with panoramic views of the city. It’s as if everything tasted and smelled better than expected. We fell in love with Florence’s sights, architecture, art, food, and each other all over again. It’s also less crowded and less touristy than almost any other world-famous city we’ve visited. Although we’ve only been to five cities in Italy so far, it’s our opinion that Florence is one of Italy’s best kept secrets.
It’s a great city for leather jackets, but don’t purchase anything at the markets. Instead, seek out the small hidden stores owned by locals. Make sure the item says, “made in Italy” and that it is made by local artisans, or it may not be true leather. You can expect to pay a little bit more, but why would you go all the way to Italy to purchase something of substandard quality, not made by local Italian artisans, that you could get anywhere for the same price? Everywhere we visit, we try to support the true locals.
The pizza and gelato were always excellent, as you can imagine, and we located the “hole in the wall” sandwich shop that the Airbnb host recommended. There we had the best $5 sandwich, which was full of meat and healthy proteins, along with a small plastic glass of wine for $1.
Emille, a lover of perfume, scents and essential oils, found the Santa Maria Novella, the most beautiful perfume store we’ve ever visited. Further research indicates that this pharmacy is the birthplace of perfume in Europe. It is a must see, and they welcome photography. Emille picked up a wonderfully woody, dry, dark and musky fragrant perfume called “Tobacco Toscano” featuring tobacco, vanilla, amber and leather scents.
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