To begin any great tale, you must start from the very beginning. The night before our departure to Florence, I carefully planned out our transportation to Roma Termini (a.k.a the train station).
Jump on the tram at 6:10am, arrive in Largo Argentina at 6:20, hop on the 40 bus at 6:26am, and off to the train station. Easy.
Well, unfortunately on that lovely morning, it was down-pouring. I mean literally, it felt like buckets of water were continuous being dumped over our heads. We managed the tram ride to Largo Argentina, no problem (we have done this many times before). When we arrived at the bus stop we had three minutes for the first 40 bus to arrive. Perfect, right on time.
Well…so I thought.
A few minutes pass. No 40 bus.
The 64 bus rolls up to our stop, which could also take us to the Termini. But, we had heard many times over that it was not a safe bus to take. Too many pick-pocketers. Plus, it had more stops than the 40 bus did. Ironically enough, as the bus pulls away from the stop we realize our professors were on there, waving as the bus pulled away! Great, we should have taken that one.
Standing there shivering, as the minutes passed slowly by, every bus turning the corner, we could only hope would be ours. But they weren’t. The group was starting to lose hope, snipping at each other, trying to place the blame for this poor planning.
‘Should we just walk?’
‘I don’t want to miss the train.’
‘This is awful.’
‘Who’s genius idea was this?’
Precisely twenty-two minutes passed the supposed arrival time, the bus pulled around. Finally! Literally everyone made a big squeak of excitement. You could see the Italians at the bus stop shaking their heads. “Americans.” We all rushed onto the bus and made our way to the Termini, safe and sound.
Once we arrived in Florence, everything was a piece of cake. On our first day out we were able to easily navigate our way around the city. The streets were laid out in a relatively functional pattern. Most streets were on a grid; some had a few twists to them, but not quite as winding and intense as Roman streets.
The streets in Florence functioned a little differently than Rome. In Florence, most of the roads do not have a defined sidewalk. Pedestrians just walk where they please. Because there is very little vehicular traffic through the major areas, the idea of mixing the two seems to work well. People were not speeding around driving like maniacs like they do in Rome. The traffic in Rome is crazy, you never know if you’re going to see a smart car flip into reverse in middle of the road and fly 30 feet backwards to make a turn that was missed.
Since we managed to run ourselves ragged in exploring every detail of the city, it would take a small novel to completely describe all the wonderful experiences we had, so here is a small summary of the weekend:
Following our scavenger hunt of required sketches, we went along a fairly simple path that hit all the major attractions over the course of four days. Starting on the first day, with Palazzo Medici, where the scale and mass of the building was completely overwhelming. The size of one stone stood half the height of my short, five-foot self.
Continuing on our journey, nothing could have prepared me for the astonishing view that came into sight as we made our way into the square and saw the Cattedrale di Maria del Fiore, also known as “il Duomo.” Yes, I have seen a million pictures of it, but to actually be there, gazing at all the intricate detail of the spiral columns and vibrant green and pale red colored marble, covering the entire cathedral left us in complete awe. No words needed. It was amazing.
After we pulled ourselves away from the remarkable cathedral we made our way to Piazza della Signoria. There we came across Palazzo Vecchio, Loggia dei Lanzi, and Piazzale degli Uffizi. The piazza was huge, and to my liking, was not made of cobblestone. As a matter of fact, most of the streets throughout Florence were nicely paved with evenly cut rectangular stones. No gaps for my heels to slip in and send me stumbling forward. As much as I love Rome, it was delightful not having to focus on every step ( if you do not already know, I’m extremely clumsy).
From there we made our way through the Porta delle Suppliche, and crossed the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge, covered in haphazardly formed medieval buildings, which contain some very expensive jewelry shops. Making our way back to the hostel we went through Piazzo della Repubblica and stopped to listen to some jazzy street music.
On Friday, we toured San Lorenzo, including the Basilica, Old Sacristy (by Brunellischi), New Sacristy (by Michaelangelo), and the Laurentian Library (by Michaelangelo). Then we explored the Uffizi Museum (holding the only panel work of Michaelangelo in Florence). All of it was incredible; we did not want to leave any of them!
The following day we made the grand climb to the top of the Duomo in Santa Maria del Fiore, and found ourselves in a serene daze over looking the 360 view of Florence. Around lunchtime, we managed to find time for shopping through the street markets surrounding San Lorenzo, where you can find some top quality leather jackets, purses, and wallets for a reasonable price. After a days work of finding the best deals in town (and of course completing some sketching assignments), we made the steep hike to the top of the hill to see San Miniato. We listened to the chanting monks (check out the entertainment blog to hear a recording) and enjoyed the spectacular view that rivals the view from the top of the Duomo.
On our final day we spent most of our time losing ourselves in the beautiful gardens of Palazzo Pitti. It was calming and quite an enjoyable end to our journey of Florence.
Whewww…. what an adventure! Enjoy our slideshow of our journey through Florence!
(To read captions of the photos, play in full screen and click show info)