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?

Florence, ItalyRelax; 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!

Duomo, FlorenceAdventurous 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.

Back 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.


Diana M. Hechler, D. Tours Travel


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