Have you ever been to Florence fellow Steemians? No? Then come with me!
No worries, you can also join if you've been there already as I think it's definitely not enough to visit Florence only once. I'll be back very soon!
This time I'm not traveling solo. A good friend of mine wanted to go there for a long time so she joined me on my trip. My husband could take a couple of days off and joined us too. So we were three of us. The more the merrier!
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We had the earliest flight possible and we had to wake up at 4 AM - nothing special for me as I usually travel like this. But well, it was a bit challenging for the other two 😊 At the end we made it to the airport on time.
When we arrived in Florence we stored our luggage at the train station as it was too early to check in to our accommodation. I personally like staying in hotels but my friend prefers Airbnb and convinced me to try it. Well, I decided to give it a try but in the future I prefer to stay in hotels again.
Let's start our adventure!
The city is small and you can easily access everything in the old town by foot. You can also rent a bike but I would not risk it with such traffic 😊
Florence is just amazing! There is something breathtaking behind every corner. I knew it would be a beautiful city but I didn't expect that EVERYTHING will be stunning. Personally I like it better than Rome.
We will start out tour with Ponte Vecchio!
The old bridge over the river Arno in Florence was the only bridge in the city until 1218 and it was rebuilt after a flood in 1345. There were different shops on the bridge including butchers and fishmongers. They used to splash all the waste into the river which was causing unpleasant stench in the entire area.
When the Medici moved from Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti on the other side of Arno, they decided they needed a connecting route from one Palace to another that would enable them to keep out of contact with the people they ruled. The result was the Corridoio Vasariano, built in 1565 by Giorgio Vasari.
As they walked over the bridge they didn't enjoy the stench so much so they decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers will be allowed to have their shops on the bridge. You can find such shops there even now. The corridor is not open to public but I've heard that they are working on the renovation and it should be opened next year.
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Bridge nowadays is a lively spot during the day which changes to a meeting point in the evening and you will see there different street musicians and artists selling their products and MANY young people just hanging around and enjoying the atmosphere of the old city.
The views are beautiful! You have to stand in a queue for a while to get a good picture but it was not that bad.
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The weather was very pleasant. We were expecting it to be hot but the temperature was mild and it was cloudy. It even rained a few times during the day.
There were boats and kayaks passing by all the time.
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Who were Medici? You can find traces of them everywhere in the city so let's talk a bit about them.
The Medici family first attained wealth and political power in Florence in the 13th century through its success in commerce and banking. It was the most powerful family in Florence in 15th and 16th centuries. They gave Florence its Renaissance face and developed it into a thriving cultural center. They were generously supporting art and architecture in the city. The family died in 1737 when the grand duke, Gian Gastone, died without a male heir.
We were planning to have a relaxing day and wander around the city before going to Palazzo Vecchio but believe me or not, it's very difficult in Florence! We wanted to know all details about everything we saw! We still have a few days to explore so we tried not to stop everywhere but we couldn't miss the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata.
The Basilica della Santissima Annunziata
To me it doesn't even look like a church when you're standing in front of the building but once you go inside you will be amazed by its glory.
In the square there is an equestrian statue of Ferdinando I de Medici. The work started by Gianbologna and finished by Pietro Tacca (1608).
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The church was founded in 1250 and the present structure took shape between 1444 and 1477.
A legend says that Friar Bartolomeo, was having difficulty in painting the face of the Virgin, showing the Annunciation, when he fell asleep. After he woke up he found that the fresco had been finished by angelic hands. This was reported as a miracle and people started to build houses around the church as they wanted to be near the place where the miracle happened.
The church has a beautiful golden ceiling that is frescoed with the Assumption by Luca Giordano, and the high altar has a canvas by Giorgio Vasari showing St Luke painting the Virgin. On the other walls are works by Bronzino, Pontormo and Santi di Tito.
This is a place where I could spend hours just sitting on the bench and absorbing the atmosphere. But we had to leave as the celebration has started and we didn't want to disturb it.
There are two fountains in front of the church called The Fountain of the Marine Monsters. These are two masterpieces of Pietro Tacca’s (1577-1640) late mannerist style. You can enjoy the great detail of the sculptures.
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Now is the time to head back towards Ponte Vecchio to visit Palazzo Vecchio that is located nearby.
The construction of the Palace began in 1299. The current appearance of Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) is mainly due to Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici and his wife Eleonora of Toledo who they decided to turn the palace into their residence. The court of the Medici was transferred to the Palace and all rooms were decorated by famous artists such as Michelangelo, Giorgio Vasari and Donatello. The Palace is guarded by Michelangelo’s David (copy).
The Palace was originally called Palazzo Ducale. So why is it called Palazzo Vecchio now?
Well, Eleonora didn't find it a suitable representative residence for the family and wasn't happy living there so Cosimo moved their residence to Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Ducale changed the name to Palazzo Vecchio and became the government offices and the place where valuables were kept. They also built a private corridor connecting Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti (it's 1500 m long) that I have mentioned before. Imagine how much power and money they had!
The Loggia of the Lanzi
A small open - air museum also known as Loggia della Signoria is located next to Palazzo Vecchio so you can admire various works such as the Kidnapping of the Sabines and the Perseus with the head of Medusa . Make sure to stop there before going to Palazzo Vecchio. There is no entrance fee.
Another statue that you can see there is Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus . It's a marble group of Roman times, a copy of a Greek statue, which originally stood at the southern end of the Ponte Vecchio.
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The Rape of Polyxena was sculpted by Pio Fedi in 1868. It was placed alongside several sculptures from the Renaissance, a great compliment to his work.
There are many more to see and I really recommend to book a tour guide to learn more about them. It is very interesting especially if you love history as much as I do.
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Let's go inside of the Palace. Many museums in Florence are opened until late so it's better not to go there in the morning to avoid many tourists. In summer the tower is opened till 9 PM and the museum till midnight. We went there around 7 PM and it was almost empty. The entrance fee for museum and tower is EUR 10. We have also paid EUR 4 each for audio guide and I'm glad we did.
Let me tell you it is HUGE! We spent there more than two hours and by the end of the tour we were not even able to pay much attention as we were so tired from all the information and looking up the ceiling. Expect to look up the ceiling all the time. Get your neck ready 😊
The Palace is my absolute favorite in Florence.
Thanks to Medici it was transformed into a fascinating labyrinth of institutional chambers, apartments, terraces and courtyards.
We first went to the tower to be able to take some picture as it was getting a bit late. As I mentioned in my prior articles I am a bit claustrophobic and I can tell you this is a very easy climb. The staircase is wide and there are many openings in the walls so that the air is flowing there and you don't feel like being in a closed space. Also it's 'only' 223 stairs so it takes a few minutes to get up the tower. I can imagine it could get a bit challenging if many people would be going up and down but if you go in the evening you should be fine.
The views are worth every step you will take!
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You can walk around the tower to get 360 degrees views of the city.
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I like to see different light from the different parts of the tower.
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We took some selfies and went back down to the museum.
The largest and most important room in terms of artistic and historical value inside the palace is Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred). Originally Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti were selected to decorate the walls of the hall with battle scenes depicting victories of the Republic.
Leonardo began to paint the Battle of Anghiari, while Michelangelo used another portion of the wall for the Battle of Cascina. None of their work was however completed.
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There are dozens of different rooms and apartments in the Palace. Some of them with beautiful views like this. It was almost 9 PM and the sky was getting pink.
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After the amazing but tiring visit of Palazzo Vecchio we headed to the train station to pick up our bags and back to our apartment as it was a long day for us.
There are more adventures to come tomorrow and we need to get some rest.
I hope you enjoyed our first day in Florence. There are a few more to come so stay tuned!
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All pictures are taken by Nikon D3200 AF-S NIKKOR 18-55 mm 1:3.5-5.6 G II.
Thank you for reading!