After leaving Scotland a couple weeks ago, we spent a week in Tuscany, exploring Florence and the countryside. Italy is one of our favorite countries to visit, and being back in the country to explore was a real treat.
In this two-part series of Tuscany, I’ll focus first on our highlights of Florence. It is here where we stayed the entire time, even when exploring the countryside.
The theme of this trip was all about art, and of course, Florence has lots to offer. We saw plenty of Renaissance paintings from artists like Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Vasari, Raphael, and Botticelli to name a few. With Nick’s knowledge of Renaissance art and art in general, I was lucky to get my own personal insight to the paintings, analyzing differences from the 13th century to the 18th century.
The Uffizi is famous worldwide for its outstanding collection of ancient sculptures and paintings from the Middle Ages, and is the second most visited museum in Italy, next to the Vatican Museum. Paintings from the 14th century and Renaissance period at the museum include some masterpieces by Giotto, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio. Though only two floors, there are ninety-nine rooms to peruse. You can spend all day at the Uffizi. We spent four hours there, and we didn’t even cover everything, though we did see all of what we wanted to.
Tip: Buy your tickets ahead on line for a designated time to guarantee your entrance. The Uffizi is that popular, and you may not get in otherwise. Skip the audio purchase. It is not any more informative than what is written at the museum, or get a guidebook instead.
The Medici Chapel is famous for its fresco by Pietro Benvenuti, and the sculptures of the sarcophagi, Dusk and Dawn and Night and Day, sculpted by Michelangelo. This was the least busy out of the museums we visited.
Though we booked ahead for the Academia Gallery, we only had two time slots to choose from. It was that popular here as well. For good reason though, the David sculpture by Michelangelo is a masterpiece, immaculate. You’d have to see it in person to truly appreciate the perfection.
Duomo, Florence Cathedral
Right smack in the main attraction of the city center is the Duomo. It is in this area where it is brimming with people taking photos of the impressive architecture. The line to the cathedral is always long because it is free to get into; however, I bet it would be just as long with an entrance fee. We opted to see the inside of the cathedral differently by climbing the cupola for a 360 view of Florence.
Tip: Climbing the Duomo is hot and humid. You’ll be climbing stairs packed with a bunch of people, and at times be prepared to stop as they can only admit a number of people in at certain points. At this point, the humidity, lack of fresh air, and proximity to others could make some people claustrophobic.
Leonardo da Vinci Museum
The Leonardo da Vinci Museum is worth a visit for those interested in his principles. Da Vinci was quite a genius: not only was he an artist, but he worked on engineering and machinery, human anatomy and physiology, and scientific studies. He was considered the first scientist of his time.
This small museum portrays Da Vinci’s prototypes for some of his ideas. Some of it is hands-on. The information provided gives you insight into his life and who he was. It was interesting, but it is not so in-depth as we’d like.
Ponte Vecchio Bridge
The illustrious Ponte Vecchio Bridge is the oldest and most famous bridge in Florence. It is shown in the background of our photo below.
Michelangelo Plaza provides a beautiful viewpoint of the city. A replica of David lives here as well, but it is nothing like the real David.
Our go-to place to eat at was at #RAW. This raw vegan place is the only healthy place in the city. Once we visited the place on our second day, we ate there every day for one meal, had our daily juice and shots of turmeric; we wouldn’t eat anywhere else. For a raw cafe, it was simple but had great execution. It was tasty, healthy, and had the right balance of fats for gourmet raw. We enjoyed eating here, and the staff is super friendly as well.
You can’t go to Italy and not have gelato! We ate gelato in between meals, twice a day. Though there are plenty of vegan gelatos around the city, we only went to three places: Eduardo, Le Botegghe di Leonardo and #RAW. All three places are all natural and organic.
Eduardo is quite popular and is thought to be the best in Florence. We thought so too at first. The vegan options are tasty and are water-based, except for the almond flavor which is made with rice milk.
Le Botegghe di Leonardo became our new favorite because it has unique flavors and all of it is water-based and yummy. Our favorite combos were dark chocolate and cherry, but every flavor is superb. Leonardo is situated away from the touristy section, so it is a hidden gem. Those who are lucky to stumble upon the shop will add it to their favorite list.
#RAW has raw gelato that is cashew-based. Though yummy, the gelato here is heavier, and we couldn’t binge out on it. RAW’s version is more of a dessert, a decadent treat.
That sums up our time in Florence. We enjoyed our time here tremendously. My next post will cover the Tuscany countryside, visiting the different towns (and more) along the way.
Tip: Visiting Florence requires at least four full days, especially if you’re visiting museums. Expect lots of walking and work. If you’ve been to Rome, it’s kind of like that. Be sure to plan ahead with places you’d like to visit, then purchase the tickets ahead of time. This is crucial for some of the museums if you want to get in, especially peak season.