While in Florence we stayed at the wonderful B & B inpiazzadelsigonoria. Being in Florence is always a wonderful experience, and staying at the B & B in piazzadelsignornia just moves the who visit to Florence up another notch. The rooms are very comfortable and tastefully decorated. The location you can't beat. It is one of our Great Places to Stay recommendations.
The drive into the centre of Florence is always a challenge. This year, with Chris & Carmen`s GPS unit we thought it would be a breeze. Well it had some problems. At one point putting us a blockout, a block behind the address we wanted. Close but not close enough.
In the end when we realized we missed the hotel by a block the otherway, it was a quick decision to drive down a street and then out into the Piazza Della Signoria. The fact that there was a wedding going on at that moment was actually a good thing. Although it blocked our access to the hotel, it created a diversion away from the eyes of the police. We were able to just stand by the car and wait until the hotel had made arrangements for a driver from the garage to take the car away.
The Piazza della Signoria was named after the Plazzo (Palace) della Signoria and it has been a focal point for the city ever since the 14th Century. The Piazza has a copy of David in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, a bronze equestrian statue of Cosimo I, the Fountain of Nepture as well as Hercules and Cacus.
It was in this square, in 1497 that Girolamo Savonarola and those who were following him, held the Bonfire of the Vanities, burning piles of books, gaming tables, fine dresses and works by a range of poets. There is a small marble plaque in front of the Fountain of Nepture that marks the spot where Girolamo was hanged and and burned in 1498.
Florence has a long history. Originally founded by the Romans, the city reached it peak during the 11th to 15th centuries when it became a free city. Being a free city sounds good, but it means there was a challenge to meet as the city would have to walk a fine line in meeting the desires of the Emperors and the Popes.
In the 15th century, Medici family ruled the city. They became the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The city did well under the Medici. In the 18th century the House of Lorraine replaced the Medici. In 1860 Tuscany became part of the Kingdom of Italy and Florence was designated the capital.
There is much to see in Florence but visiting the city can be a financial affair. As soon have found, while in Rome many of the churches and monument have no entrance fee, expect to pay in Florence.
The Ponte Vecchio is one of the sights and landmarks of Firenze. The stone bridge that now stands was originally built in 1345. Previously there was a bridge that dates back to the Roman times. The bridge today has 43 shops on three arches. This, in 1345 replaced a wooden bridge that was built in the 11th century.
Although most just walk over the bridge and admire the gold shops, up on the top of the medieval shops runs the Vasari Corridor (Corridoio Vasariano). This was built in 1565 to be the private passageway for the Grand Dukes that linked the Palazzo della Signoria with the Uffizi and then, across the bridge to connect up with the Pitti Palace.
While the bridge originally held a range of merchants, it was in the 16th century that the rulers of Firenze dictated that only jewellers and goldsmiths would be be allowed on the bridge.
The fact that bridge remains is special. During World War II during the war the Germans blew up all of the bridge in Florence with the exception of the Ponte Vecchio. To prevent use they piled up the stone and bricks from demolished buildings at each end.
At a minimum you have to see: the Cathedral Baptistery - just outside the Duomo and a building with some mystery as to when exactly it was built and by whom. The octagonal cupola, the marble floors, the doors which Michelangelo is said to have described as the gates of paradise ... you won't forget this place.
Also see the Cathedral Museum, the Bargello, the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi.
The Uffizi Gallery is on the top floor of the Palazzo degli Uffizi and is considered one of the most famous art galleries in the world. It has been years since I went through it, but I still remember the interior as well as the art. . It was originally built in 1511-74 not as an art gallery, but the offices of the Medici Grand Duke Cosimo I.
Later, the Medici placed their art collections in the Palazzo make it Europe's first real that was open to the public. First by reservations only, and it seems to have returned to that. Avoid line ups. Advance tickets can be reserved by phone with English speaking operators, or once in Florence at lest one day in advance. - go to the Uffizi reservation booth. Credit cards not accepted at the museum so bring cash. The Uffizi is closed on Mondays.
Fodor's says for the best three days in Firenze:
First spend some time in the central areas and see the Battistero, the famous doors are copies with the originals in Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, the bell tower, the cupola a top the Duomo, and Botticelli's epic Primavera and Birth of Venus at the Galleria degli Uffizi.
Then visit the Galleria dell'Accademia, see the frescoes at the Cappella dei Magi in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi and the Museo di San Marco. See San Lorenzo, Michelangelo's Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, and the Cappelle Medicee. Take in the Santa Croce or Santa Maria Novella churches.
See the Ponte Vecchio and walk around the Oltrarno catching the Brunelleschi-designed church of Santo Spirito and the frescoes in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine.
But the palaces are interesting also such as the Palazzo Vecchio, the Pitti Palace, the Medici Palace. We have visited the Pitti Palace on previous trips, impressive, you will never forget the ceilings. But we have to go and spend some time in the Boboli Gardens which are behind the Palace. In the gardens is a lack with an island garden, pathways, water features including the Neptune Fountain and the Grotta di Buontatlenti.
Save some energy to visit, of course, the Accademia to see the real David, and the Medici Chapels at San Lorenzo and the Casa Buyonarroti. Whew.
There is lots to take in.