Ah Florence, the epitome of the classic Italian experience. Without a doubt, Florence was my favorite city in Italy. Unlike Venice and Rome, Florence seemed to preserve a bit of its authenticity. Something about the city still seemed old and unexplored. Don’t get me wrong, there were still guys selling selfie sticks in the streets, but the streets of Florence just seemed to be a bit quieter. It is the perfect city for adventures.
We stayed on the opposite side of the Arno river from the city center. It took us about 30 minutes to walk into the city, but when your walk looks like this, you really don’t mind it at all. 🙂
The anticipation to see the famous Duomo was killing me! Since we arrived late at night, I wasn’t able to set eyes on this giant until the morning. As you can see in the photo above, I got some sneak peaks before standing in front of it. But wow. Being in the presence of that building is something. I really didn’t realize how big it was until I was standing in front of it. Here, please share in my POV.
This building was massive, man! The detail and colors decorating the outside were unlike anything I’ve seen before (and let me tell ya, I’ve seen a lot of churches over these 4 months!) Like the Sagrada Familia, this church was unconventional in a beautiful way. However, the inside of the church was just OK. It was fun to spot the giant peeking through small side streets as I explored the city (see the thumbnail pic!)
Additionally, I had the opportunity to attend (English!) mass here on the Saturday night before Palm Sunday. It was such a treat to celebrate mass in English after many months of being challenged with understanding the Spanish mass. I took advantage of the English priests and decided to go to confession after mass. Man, it was great!! Confession usually scares me (who enjoys going back and remembering and recounting all their wrongdoings) but I really felt so light and so…joyful after. It was really a special experience and I wouldn’t have wanted to have it anywhere else. The Duomo really became a part of my story after that mass and I can’t wait to go back and visit one day and look back on this really great memory.
To turn things totally 360, let’s take a sec to discuss another Italian religious experience…GELATO!!! I’ve had good ice cream before. In fact, I’ve even tried American ‘gelato’ but nothing, NOTHING compares to this Italian culinary work of genius. I was told by my mother that when her and my father went to Italy my father became obsessed with this stuff. Dad, I totally understand the addiction!! While I ate lots (I won’t quantify that) of gelato, the best was down a small side street in Florence at a place called ‘My Sugar’. I got peanut and Chianti chocolate flavors. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G
Oh look! I casually mentioned Chianti…let’s take a sec to talk about that! I know very little about wine (especially reds) but what I do know is that Chianti is now my new fave! We got an amazing glass in the indoor food market, Mercato Centrale, along with some fresh pasta with pesto!
A few more highlights from my adventures in Florence…
- ThisWe caught the sunset over the Arno as we were setting out to walk home. Wow. Tuscany sunsets are really something! Better yet, it was awesome to see everyone standing along the bridge, drinking a glass of wine enjoying the sunset too. I feel like sometimes we forget to enjoy the simplest of things in life. I think Europeans in general are really good at living in the moment and enjoying time with friends, family and nature.
- Piazzale MichelangeloThis place was a bit of a hike but so very worth it! About 30/40 mins from the city center (and an hour walk from where I was staying) this look out point simply took my breath away (okay, that also may have been a result of climbing up all the stairs to get here!) I enjoyed walking through the small, residential Italian streets to get here as much as I enjoyed the view. Below is an example of the places I passed on my walk. Closing thoughts: Florence was really, really great. In addition to the activities mentioned here, I also toured another church, witnessed a half marathon, shopped local Sunday markets tucked in small corners of the city, met up with a friend from school, toured my school’s Florence campus and ate really great food. I also got hit on by a very aggressive Italian man at Piazzale Michelangelo, but let me tell ya, it’s not too hard to scare men off when you start speaking a mix of Spanish, English and Italian. Sorry sir, no entiendo! 🙂