Welcome to Florence. The capital city of Italy's Tuscany region.
Early Monday morning, we woke up to board a train from Venice to Florence. A short two hour ride, I managed to squeeze in some Netflix Black Mirror episodes on my iPad. Up until that point, I had never taken a train before. Being prone to motion sickness, I was a little bit nervous about the ride. Nonetheless, the train ride was a smooth and comfortable experience.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by a bustling train station in Florence. Having had struggled to drag our luggage on a 20-minute walk on the uneven cobblestone pavement in Venice, I was dreading our walk to our hotel in Florence. Ironically, our hotel was literally right across the street from the train station. After trying to figure out how to get around the construction across the street, we made it safe and sound.
The hotel was actually a bed and breakfast. Like any first timer, I wasn't sure what to expect. When we arrived, our suite was big, contemporary, clean, and spacious. Despite being across from the train station, the room was quiet.
After unloading our things, it was time for lunch. Being quite new to the area, we weren't sure what to eat. My brother recommended Mercato Centrale, a local food hall close to the Duomo. There, we dined on steak and potatoes, veggie burgers, and some salad. The steak was exceptional: juicy, thick, and flavorful.
Lots of street market vendors in Florence on the way to Mercato Centrale.
Following lunch, we headed to the Duomo. Wow. What a spectacle to see. The cathedral, the dome, the baptistry, and the bell tower were so massive a highly detailed. Up until that point, I had never seen something so grand in my life.
First, we headed to the Baptistry, where we were met with an elaborate ceiling painting depicting Heaven and Hell. Personally, I thought that it was a frightening mural to see. The Hell part scared me a bit. The depictions of the unclothed devils were gruesome and frightening with their humanistic physical traits.
Part of the frightening mural I was talking about. I took this photo on my phone, so it's a little bit blurry.
After the Baptistry, we went to the dome. Having passed through the Cathedral on the way up, we climbed 463 stairs to the very top. It was a very tiring experience. Much more so than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I don't recommend the climb if you're claustrophobic, have knee problems, or are afraid of heights. Once at the top of the dome, it provided some of the most spectacular city views of Florence. Probably one of the best. I'd probably put it in my top two places to go to the top (next to the Empire State Building in New York City). With the weather sunny and warm, the dome served as the perfect setting to take gorgeous panoramic photos of the city.
Following our descent from the dome, we grabbed one last peak of the Cathedral before heading to the museum exhibits. One piece of art that really intrigued me was the wooden statue of an aged and penitent Mary Magdalene by Italian Renaissance sculptor, Donatello. The amount of detail on the statue was incredible to witness. I could feel the solemnity in the sculpture. It was hard to look away.
Since the Accademia and Uffizi Galleries were closed that day, we decided to grab some gelato and take a look at the Michelangelo replica and the statue of Perseus with the head of Medusa in the city square instead.
A note on the gelato: Gelateria Dei Neri had the best Amaretto gelato that I had ever had in Italy. Wow. The cherries were so ripe and the creamy consistency of the gelato was so perfect. My friend recommended Gelateria La Carraia, but we didn't get a chance to make it there on time. I'm definitely going to visit that gelateria on my next visit.
Amaretto and Pistachio gelato from Gelateria Dei Neri.
Having spent much of the day sightseeing, we decided to retreat to our bed and breakfast until dinnertime. Around 8:30pm, we headed out to a popular local eatery, Trattoria Za Za. We were roughly seated around 9:45pm, where we dined on lobster spaghetti, steak, seared sea bass, steamed veggies, and wine. The food and the service were wonderful. We left with happy hearts and stomachs.
With the day already over, we retreated to our bed and breakfast before another train ride to Rome the following day.
Stay tuned for my next post: Rome!
Until next time.