Up at 6:30 with a bit of a wine headache, I decided to finish my laundry in the tub and tidy up the room a bit. Baba was up early too, and while she got ready for the day I fell back asleep for a while before hauling myself to the shower in order to make it to our continental breakfast.
The breakfast room was beautiful: there were large round dining tables to sit at and a long buffet table in the middle serving hot food, with frescoes all over the walls and a trompe l’eoil on the ceiling. They were serving champagne and classical music was playing in the background. The food was much better than the last place.
After breakfast, we decided to head out on a walking tour of Florence. The lady at the front desk gave us a tourist map, highlighting all the major sights. We first stopped at the Catedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and after seeing the line up all the way down the cobblestone street, paid a few euros to a tour guide who would take us inside, skipping the line. Before entering and covering our shoulders, the guide told us how the 1800s facade was newer than the rest of the building, which had 11th century architecture and 15th century stained glass. Inside, she explained that the eyes of horses on the wall would follow us as we walked and they did. During our tour through the medieval cathedral, we could see people high above, walking around the dome. I wanted to climb up there, but that would be another day.
We walked to another square not too far from there: the Piazza della Signoria. The first thing that we saw was The Nettuna, a beautiful maritime fountain. There were many more statues in the square, including David by Michelangelo (not the original), and Perseo holding Medusa’s head. From there we took a quick look inside Vecchio Palace before going into the Uffizi Gallery. The gallery had painting after painting and statue after statue. The building itself was quite interesting, particularly looking up at the ceiling.
The most interesting part of the gallery was the octagonal La Tribuna, featuring some of the most important renaissance paintings and antiquities. It is the oldest modern museum in Europe. The walls are lined with crimson velvet. The ceiling is made of mother-of-pearl shells and gold; it’s quite a sight to see. Outside, we rested from the heat at a restaurant with an outdoor patio, the Rivoire. It had fans that blew mist over us while we ate the most delicious Neapolitan gelato (what I wouldn’t give to be back there eating that ice cream).
Down the road, underneath a section of the Uffizi Gallery, we arrived at the Arno River. There was a walkway along the road next to the river, covered with archways. From there we had a great photo op with the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence. We started over the bridge and were astounded by the little shops along either side. It looked so quaint from afar, but was bustling with tourists. You can thank Adolf Hitler for the excellent view from the bridge itself of the Arno River because he particularly loved it during his visit there, so Mussolini had the windows knocked down on one side for a better view. The shops on the bridge were filled with a wide array of jewelry that you could see displayed in the windows.
Not too far from there, we came across Pitti Palace. With only a few hours left open to the public, we chose to only go through the Boboli Gardens out back. Starting in the courtyard of the castle, we made our way uphill and upstairs. Statues were all in a row, facing towards the center of the green lawn and an obelisk. There were perfectly trimmed hedges all around, and we began to walk through the maze of them. We soon found ourselves on a hilltop, overlooking the beautiful city of Florence. The sky was blue, with little white fluffy clouds dotting it. Other hills could be seen in the distance. There were little trees around, and a central fountain that was dry. We ventured back into the maze of hedges, and from there we found a pond filled with fish, which had a statue of Neptune in the middle. From there, you could see a grand staircase leading straight back to the palace, and further upwards, a statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, could be seen. It was here that we took a break.
At this point, I had yet to see the part of the Boboli Gardens from a picture on Pinterest, and I pushed Julianna and my Baba to keep going. When we finally found it, I was thrilled. There was a long pathway going downhill with unique statues periodically on either side. There were the tall, straight trees that are found so commonly in Italy behind the statues. At the end there was a gated pond with an island in the center and a fountain in the middle of it surrounded by potted plants. We rested there on benches shaded by the overhanging hedges. It was quiet and calm.
Between the Uffizi Gallery and the Boboli Gardens, I had seen more statues that day than in my entire life. I never wanted to look at another marble bust again. I believe all three of us were in agreeance on this, and wanted to head back to modern civilization. We were parched, the sun was hot, and there was no water to be found on site (Note: bring your own water bottle out, no matter how annoying it may be!). We took the long way back to the entrance through the trees, stopping by a few bathtub statues (I don’t know what their obsession was with tubs). We found this little drinking fountain near the end and Julianna and I both said, “screw it!” and drank from the stream of water, despite the fact we might get sick. We didn’t.
As soon as we were out, we stopped by the first street vendor we saw and bought a refreshing bottle of water. We made a quick detour to Piazza del Mercata Nuovo on the way back to the hotel, just to check things out. The whole thing wreaked of leather. There is a bronze boar there, and if you place a coin in its mouth and it falls out and then you rub its nose, it will bring you good luck.
Back at the hotel, we freshened up (typical) and ate across the way at Ristorante Pizzeria Lorenzo de’ Medici. We shared two scrumptious pizzas and drank ice cold Coca-Cola’s. Down the street, we went into a grocers to pick up a few bottles of water, wine (for only 2.50 euros!!!), beer, and mouth-watering pastries. We ate these, then tried to rest up before our big Tuscan tour the next day.