My Favorite Destinations: Florence, Italy
by Diana M. Hechler
Everyone knows that visitors to Italy should make a pilgrimage
to Florence, cradle of the Renaissance. But what if you can’t
tell a Michelangelo from a Michelob? Is this city going to
totally intimidate you?
although the “heavy hitters” of art permeate the
city, Florence offers something for everyone. Consider making
a trek up to the top of the Piazzale Michelangelo on the south
side of the Arno River. From this big hill overlooking the
city, the views of the Duomo dominating everything else are
unforgettable. May I suggest an overpriced Cinzano or Limonada
while you take in the vista? After all, you ARE a tourist
and you might as well enjoy it!
souls can climb to the top of the Duomo itself or to the top
of Giotto’s bell tower next door for another great view.
While it’s true that Florence is crowded these days,
you can save yourself some time and aggravation by purchasing
tickets to the Uffizi Gallery in advance. Your ticket will
state the date and time of your reservation.
If you happen to find yourself in the Piazza Signoria, admiring
the copy of the David, why not venture inside the Palazzo
Vecchio to see the painting of Arnolfo di Cambio receiving
the keys to the city back in the 14th c.? As a long-suffering
public servant, Di Cambio laid out the formal boundaries of
the city which are still visible today.
in the square, be sure to look up at the windows to the left
of the Palazzo Vecchio. The loyal followers of the messianic
priest, Savanarola, were hanged upside down from those windows,
while their fallen leader was burned on a giant pyre in the
square. Art lovers will want to visit Santa Croce church where
Michelangelo is buried. There’s a good story about why
he’s buried in Florence, considering that he had been
living in Rome for many years. At the news of his death, some
”concerned” loyal Florentines made a hurried night-time
trip to Rome, snatched the body, and returned it for burial
in his native Florence. No, he did not belong to the Pope
and Rome but to the city that nurtured him.
Finally, all visitors to Florence should take the opportunity
to sample gelato (ice cream) liberally. Try Vivoli (via del
Stinche) and Festival Gelato, in the heart of the city. My
favorite flavor? “Nocciolo” or hazelnut.
If you’re traveling with kids: Find out about the
Pazzi Murder plot that took place in the Duomo on Easter morn
against Lorenzo and Giuliano Medici. Drama! Blood! Guts! Guaranteed
to engage the interest of the most recalcitrant young visitor.
In general, be sure to dig out any old postcards, pictures
and stories in advance of your trip. Discussion and visual
cues about what’s in store will reap enormous rewards
once your children see the sights in person.