[This is a story back when I was doing study abroad in Paris. We took a week trip to Italy, with our second stop being Florence. We stayed a few nights, touring, walking around the pretty spots, checking out a few bars, and taking a nine mile run up a mountain. Two of the folks on the trip, Matthew and Nick, are Italian-Americans with connections to the city. This bit’s somewhat lengthy so I divvied it up into two parts. Again, it’s always fun to note what you thought was important to note. Old writings can be commented upon on their own merit, even separately from the topic at hand. In any case, enjoy!]
Florence is stunning. It and Paris are the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen hands down. There’s a reason it’s the study abroad capital of Europe, if not the world. There are so many Americans there, it hurts sometimes. Fraternity gear everywhere, people speaking obnoxiously loud, girls falling over drunk in the streets. Probably the one thing the city has against it.
(“So, like, today is my 21st birthday, so you better let me in this bar.” – Hammered Girl with Valley Girl Accent)
Seen from up above, the whole city is gorgeous; seen from the city center it just might be better. Florence was one of many city-states fighting for regional power in Tuscany along with Pisa, Lucca, etc. The Medici family came in, threw money at the fan and created some of the world’s most beautiful churches and some of the world’s most corrupt popes. So the bad came with the good I guess, but we mostly have the good now, so thanks.
The two most obvious attractions are the cathedral (Il Duomo for short) and Ponte Vecchio (or old bridge.) First, Ponte Vecchio. It’s the oldest bridge in the city, and the only one that survived WW2. After the Italian people were fed up with Mussolini’s fascism, he was overthrown in 1943 in the middle of the war, and Italy was deemed an open territory by the Nazis, who quickly came in and occupied. In 1945 at the end of the war, the Allies came in, and the Nazis nearly destroyed Ponte Vecchio; however, like in Paris, they decided it was just too damn pretty so instead left other parts of the city in ruin, and so the bridge is the original still.
Other parts of the city were rebuilt using largely the same materials from the rubble left behind, so some of the other bridges are reconstructed, which is cool. Ponte Vecchio as stated, is a bridge, but it has all these old shops lining the edge, held up by diagonal supports overhanging from the sides. It almost looks like they should all fall down. All of the shops seem pretty darn high end. Matty’s dad actually bought a gold chain for a half grand when he was in college from the very spot, and after much deliberation…we passed on it.
The other huge attraction is the cathedral. It is the most beautiful facade I’ve ever seen, on any building, ever. (I would’ve said the most beautiful church, full stop, but the interior of St. Peter’s in the Vatican takes that prize.) I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and there’s a couple of places in Italy that used similar architecture, as well as in Versailles actually.
Basically it’s white marble primarily, with green and pink multicolored marble throughout. It’s also in the Gothic style, minus the flying buttresses but with the pointed arches and such. It’s a really cool mix, and 500 years on, it is still the world’s largest dome from brick and mortar. The marble facade was added years later, but it’s still just a stunning building. You can go up to the top of the dome and see out over the city for ten euros, but we passed on it, which ended up being a great decision since we found other perches from which to see the city.
I call it Assassin Creeding. Just finding the highest point we possibly can to, get the layout of each city and rotating 360 degrees until we figure out where to go next.
The first spot we found was on the south side of the city, south of the river. There’s a massive hill looking out with a church on top, so we figured why not let’s head up there, and we did this trip twice. Up there, it’s a shade touristy with water bottles being sold and some shirts and such, but really not that bad all things considered. People sat along a large set of stairs and could watch the sunset, while a woman was setting up to play guitar. (A little upset we waited so long to hear her sing, because my god she was awful.)
We continued up the second day to the little church, and it had the same polychrome marble facade elsewhere in the city. Really stunning from up there, but unfortunately it was cloudy, so it was a subdued sunset. We’d have to wait for Rome to get the full Italian sunset experience.
This is a two part series on my visit to Florence. Keep reading on here!
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