Florence was the city that most of my friends had once lived in when they were in Italy. Before taking off, I got a few recommendations from them. I think Florence has been the only place I walked into and immediately fell in love with. As I visited recommended restaurants and places, I sort of felt like I was retracing the steps of my friends who must've experienced the same sense of wonder that I did.
ARRIVING IN FIRENZE
We arrived in Florence after a busy morning of packing up our belonging in Milan and giving our surrounding areas one more walk. Located only about two hours away by train, Florence feels quaint and majestic at the same time. It's the capital of the Tuscany region and everywhere you look seems quintessential in a calendar tourist sort of way. (Of course... if you take a closer look, everything is very old and needs repairs... still lovely)
Initially, I was surprised by how quiet Florence seemed compared to Milan and Venice. We took a few moments to admire The Arno calmly flowing through the city and the Ponte Vecchio, the stone bridge famous for having built in shops.
People were gathered alongside the river wall and leaning in funny ways to try and get the best photos of the bridge. I thought it was a funny sight.
PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA
There were dozens and dozens of people lined up for buying tickets to the Uffizi Gallery. After realizing that the line wouldn't be moving for a long time, my family decided to just spend our time browsing the surrounding area. We had plans for other galleries and time to see this later.
Instead of standing in line again for another museum, we strolled past it and had a lovely time exploring places like the square nearby called the Piazza della Signoria. Historically it was known as the prominent political hub of Florence. I believe it still is considered a hub today. I loved all the statues and the wide open space of the square.
CATHEDRAL OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE
I got distracted along the path with all the souvenir shops and alleyways. My dad walked quickly ahead and motioned for us to move faster. At this point, I admit I wasn't all that excited about seeing yet another duomo (cathedral church). I wasn't sure why he was in such a rush to go see it.
About ten minutes later, we turned the corner and my jaw dropped open. There in front of me was mind blowingly beautiful and complex work of architecture. While all the other churches before had been beautiful too, the Florence cathedral was something else. It felt like something else. It actually conjured up an emotional reaction of sorts.
I think it was the light colors and lavishness of the layout that stole my heart. We stood in awe next to hundreds of other travelers also admiring it. While there were lots of tourists walking about, there was a very chill and easygoing vibe in the air.
I squinted up every few seconds to look at the building again and again. Sure, there were pigeons and tourists everywhere. It was pretty warm. I was tired. But I still kept thinking, "Wow. Wow. Wow." When we were done circling the outside, we stood in line until we got a chance to take a peek inside. It was quiet and cool. The mural on the dome glowed.
It wasn't until I was inside that I learned we'd be climbing up the steps to the top of the cathedral. All of our legs were pretty tired from days so many of walking, but we still looked forward to the climb since we knew we'd get some impressive views and shots.
CLIMBING THE DUOMO
We were fools. The climb up to the top of the cathedral was no joke. Nope. Not easy at all. The 463 stair walk up was a lot more challenging than we could've imagined for our little tired legs. The only thing that kept us going? Well... the dozens and dozens of people walking behind us. (Hahaha) Afraid of making other people upset, we trudged on until...
Stunning, right? The sun was still blazing, but the high winds up at the top made it okay. It's easy to see why Italy and much of Europe continues to preserves and maintain the consistency they do in their historical treasures. It's the uniformity and consistency in roof tiles and colors that set the flavor of their world. (Note – I had a weird flashback to seeing Stanford University from up top.)
We completed our photo taking in about fifteen minutes, but we weren't about to go down anytime soon. My family and all those people that came up with us were exhausted from the climb. It was a tiring climb because the old stairs are still the same as when the cathedral was first built. The path was narrow and tricky too.
So... we all sat and soaked in our reward. Ivan listened to music and stared. My dad leaned back and read his travel book on Florence. Mom and I took pictures and talked.
GIOTTO'S BELL TOWER
After climbing down the 463 stairs again, we took a few moments to rest our legs. I enjoyed people watching as we decided what to do next. I had a hard time telling the difference between people who were from Florence and those who were visiting.
Soon, my dad triumphantly decided that we should climb the bell tower next to the cathedral. Noooo! Ivan and I started to retaliate. Our legs felt like jello and we were sure that we wouldn't be able to climb any more steps for the day.
Ignoring our complaints, my parents bought the tickets and shamed us (hahaha) into climbing up the gothic style bell tower. From the ground, the bell tower didn't look as intimidating of a climb as the cathedral. Little did we know that the bell tower actually had 414 steps to the top. Goodbye legs.
Every other level, we took breaks. People rested on the benches and stopped to admire the view inside the arches. The view from the top wasn't all that different from the cathedral's view except the lovely view of the cathedral itself. Meta.
Oh... and seeing little people.
GOOD FIRST DAY
We walked approximately 877 steps this day which doesn't even include how much we walked on the ground. After grabbing a bite to eat nearby and wandering the area for a few more hours, we called it a day.
Tomorrow was still fresh and waiting for us with new things to see and do. Things we'd hoped to squeeze all into the first day, but alas we'd arrived in the afternoon and the sun set quickly. All of us climbed into our beds very quickly. I wondered if I'd be able to move my legs the next day (hahaha).