Just Traveling Thru

A Visit to Florence, Italy

After Rome, we took the train to Florence a beautiful city; full of amazing architecture, historical sites and various art collections residing in various museums. Yes, Florence is only 270 kilometers north from Rome on the Italian E35 Autostrada, but the train service between the two cities is frequent & fast and our game plan called for us to rent a car only while in Florence.

To insure that you see as much as possible in the time that you have available, it would be a good idea to have a detailed account of what Florence is all about. There are online sites where you can get advance tickets for entry into various museums, which will allow you to bypass the line of people waiting in line to buy tickets.

 Some Quick Facts about Florence 
  • Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany Region of Italy.
  • The population of the city was estimated at just over 379,000 in 2014.
  • Florence has a humid subtropical climate experiencing hot and humid summers and cool damp winters.
  • Florence is located 174 miles (280 km) north of Rome.
  • The city's total area is 39.54 square miles (102.4 square kilometers).
  • Florence Italy is often referred to as the "cradle of the Renaissance". It was home to the great Renaissance artists Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael; as well as the home to the great astronomer Galileo.
  • One of the most famous tourist attractions in the city is its domed cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo). Completed in 1436 it remains the world's largest dome constructed of brick and mortar in the world.
  • Perhaps the most famous sculpture of all time, Michelangelo's David, is located in Florence; at the Accademia Gallery.
  • The Uffizi Gallery, located in Florence, is one of the greatest art museums in the world. Among its many treasures are works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
  • Built over the Arno River in Florence is a famous attraction, the Ponte Vecchio Bridge (also called Old Bridge). This medieval stone bridge is known for the shops that are built on top of it.
Ponte Santa Trinita

This is the view of several bridges that cross the Arno River from as we crossed the Ponte alla Carraia. The first bridge is the Ponte Santa Trinita and the second is the Ponte Vecchio. The City of Florence is on the left, and the condo we were renting is up the hill to the right.
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,083 inhabitants in 2013, and over 1,520,000 in its metropolitan area. Because the city center is "pedestrian only", we would typically walk from our condo to the city, crossing over whichever bridge that would bring us close to our destination.
We picked up our rental car here, as Florence was going to be our "home base" for a series of day trips in & around this area. We were fortunate to have a condo rental that provided for vehicle parking, it is not the "norm" and it is seriously difficult to find a parking spot in Florence.

Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge")

This is a medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. It was first constructed in 966AD, but has been destroyed during some of the incredible River Arno floods dating back as far as 1345AD.

Vasari corridor from Palazzo Vecchio to the Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi Gallery is a prominent art museum located adjacent to the Piazza della Signoria in the Historic Centre of Florence. One of the most important Italian museums and the most visited, it is also one of the largest and best known in the world and holds a collection of priceless works, particularly from the period of the Italian Renaissance.
The Vasari Corridor is a kilometer long passageway that connects the Uffizi Gallery to the Pitti Palace. Today, the corridor still connects the two buildings but it is set up as a small museum separate from the famous Uffizi Gallery.
NOTE: Do not wait until you arrive in Florence to obtain tickets to enter the Uffizi Museum, get your tickets online or you will be standing in line for a while. The Museum limits the number of people inside and so the entrance line grows quickly. Do a Google search for "Uffizi Tickets", here is one place.

Piazza Santa Croce

East of Piazza della Signoria and not far from the banks of the Arno, Piazza Santa Croce is one of the largest squares in Florence. It is located near the National Central Library, and takes its name from the Basilica of Santa Croce that overlooks the square.

Florence Cathedral

Formally known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore in English "Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower"), it is the cathedral of Florence, Italy (Italian: Duomo di Firenze).
It was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to a design of Arnolfo di Cambio and was structurally completed by 1436, with the dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.
The dome that covers the Florence cathedral is known as the Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome and when it was designed, it was the largest dome in the world. Click here to read more about this huge dome and the problems they went through to construct it. Remember that the Dome construction began in 1420 and they obviously did not have anything but intellect, pens and paper to design and build it.

Statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici

Statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici who became head of the Florentine Republic in 1537 at the the tender age of seventeen and conquered his way to being named the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1569.
Click here to read more about this fascinating person and the impact he had on Italy.

View of Florence from our Condo

This is a view of Florence from the condo we rented. As you can see, the condo is in a hilly area south of the River Arno. This is looking north, and the mountains in the distance are the Appennine Mountains and the Campigna National Park. We drove through those mountains when we drove to Maranello (see the Ferrari Factory section on this page).

How we navigated Italy in 2007

And this is how we got around Italy in the days prior to cellular-based mapping systems! It is difficult to remember for some of you, but paper maps were very important back then.

Hiking up to a local Restaurant

Another view of Florence as Celeste and I hiked up the hill from our condo rental to a local restaurant. The condo was across the street from The Boboli Gardens, and the street we were walking on rises up from the Porta Romana and ends near the Forti di Belvedere.

Map Usage

This map was so useful & so necessary, as the Florence streets would often have roundabouts, and were super narrow! We drove through roundabouts that would have six and sometimes eight roads that entered the circle. Talk about difficulties in figuring out right-of-way !
Florence is "pedestrian friendly" because the historic city center is closed to traffic except for residents, taxis and buses. Great news for walkers and cyclists, not so great for drivers.

This was our condo in Florence, within walking distance of the Arno River and a mile from Fort Belvedere. Since it was on the south side of the river, we did not get all the tourist traffic from the city, there were only "locals" up here. Immediately below the condo on the Via Romana, was an excellent Espresso Shop that we frequented each morning.

We had our own deck area in the rear, where the washing machine was located. Parking could be a challenge, but it was easy to pickup on the ebb and flow of people looking for parking spaces. Since no one came here except for people that lived here, it wasn't a challenge to find a parking spot.

This concept of staying in a central place and day-tripping from there, worked so well for us, that we have continued to follow this method on subsequent trips to Europe.



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