a first glimpse into the glory of florence

After our morning at the Uffizi, we walked across the narrowest part of the River Arno on the Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge.  It was built in 1345 to replace an earlier bridge destroyed by a flood.  The first shops here housed butchers, grocers, blacksmiths, and other merchants. In 1593, the Medici grand duke Ferdinand I installed goldsmiths and jewelers. The bridge has been devoted to these two trades ever since.

I wanted so badly to buy a small painting of Florentine houses on a hill with pencil drawings on one side and Leonardo-style backwards writing on another side. The artist wanted 65€ for the smallest painting and Mike wouldn’t go for it. Of course, if I had been on my own, I wouldn’t have hesitated.  I guess Mike protects me from my worst inclinations!


Ponte Vecchio


Ponte Vecchio

We walked across the bridge and got in the line for the Palazzo Pitti, or Pitti Palace, but as soon as we were admitted, we ended up bypassing the palace and going directly to the Boboli Gardens. The Pitti Palace was originally built for the Pitti family around 1460.  After it was sold to the Medici in 1549, substantial additions were made.

Giardino di Boboli, the Boboli Gardens, began to take shape in 1549, when the Pitti family sold the palazzo to Eleanor of Toledo, wife of the Medici grand duke Cosimo I.  I found the gardens boring, as well as under-maintained.  I guess I’m most enamored of Japanese gardens.  I didn’t find much appealing in these formal gardens. The landscape designers seemed too intent on taming nature. Because the garden sits on a hillside, it does offer some sweeping views of the city.

We exited by the Belvedere Fort and thought we were heading toward the Piazzale Michelangelo but we accidentally went down the wrong street: V. Di San Leonardo, a residential community; the road had walled-in homes and gardens on both sides.  It seemed to go on forever, all uphill, and we finally had to admit we were lost.  We met another guy who had WiFi (we didn’t) and he pointed out on a map where we were.

We passed the Chiesa di San Leonardo, a medieval “pieve” (church), restored in the 20th century.


Chiesa di San Leonardo


interesting motifs

By this time, we were hungry, tired and irritable, so we backtracked down the same road and down a steep hill to the river, where we stopped for lunch at the first place we found, Signorvino.


River Arno

The lunch spot was an ultra-modern wine bar with views of the river.  We both had white wine.  Mike had plain tortellini and I had a pasta like penne with asparagus and pesto.  We were famished!


Penne with asparagus


flowers along the way


Ponte Vecchio – again

After lunch, we followed Rick Steves’ Renaissance Walk in reverse, starting from Piazza della Signoria down Via de Calzaiuoli, which is the main axis of the city; it was part of the ancient Roman grid plan that became Florence.  Around 1400, as the Renaissance was underway, the street connected the religious with the political center.

In the center of the plaza is the equestrian statue of Cosimo I by Giambologna.


equestrian statue of Cosimo I

The Palazzo Vecchio is the palatial Town Hall of the Medici. The fortress was designed to store treasures and to keep out looters and rioters. The Fontana del Nettuno, or Fountain of Neptune, is made of marble and bronze.  It was commissioned in 1565 and designed by Baccio Bandinelli, sculpted by Bartolomeo Ammannati and other collaborators. The bronze sea-horses are the work of Giovanni da Bologna, often called Giambologna.

We walked past the Orsanmichele Church, originally an 8th century oratory and later, in 1290, an open-air loggia (covered porch) with a huge grain warehouse upstairs. The arches of the loggia were artfully filled in during the 14th century and two stories were added above; at century’s end, the building became a church.  The fourteen niches in the exterior walls are filled with statues dating from the early 1400s to the early 1600s.


Orsanmichele Church

Then we walked to the Duomo, Florence’s Gothic Cathedral with the third largest nave in Christendom.  Its neo-Gothic facade (from 1870) is covered with pink, green, and white Tuscan marble.  The church was begun in 1296 but it wasn’t consecrated until 1436.  After generations of work, the facade was finally completed in 1870 in the neo-Gothic style to replace the uncompleted original, torn down in the 16th century.


Florence’s Duomo


Florence’s Duomo


Florence’s Duomo


Florence’s Duomo

The Duomo’s claim to fame is its magnificent Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446). The dome rises 330 feet from the ground. It’s made of four million red bricks laid in a novel herringbone pattern, held together with eight white ribs, and capped with a lantern.

We didn’t climb up into the dome, with its “dome within a dome construction,” an octagonal form of inner and outer concentric domes. The outer shell is covered in terra-cotta tile, while the inner dome is thicker and provides much of the structural support. Completed in 1461, over a decade after Brunelleschi’s death, this dome was the largest since ancient Rome’s Pantheon.


the Duomo’s famous dome


the Duomo’s famous dome

Neither did we climb the 270-ft. campanile, or bell tower, with its 413 steps.  It was begun in 1334 by the painter Giotto.

Neither did we go into the Baptistery, the octagonal building beside the Duomo, or the Duomo Museum.



Finally, we went to Piazza di San Marco, where we caught the No. 11 bus to a stop near our apartment.  I knew where we were when I spotted the Pizzaman sign out the bus window.

We relaxed a bit in our apartment, having olive crackers, cheese and prosciutto, and white wine.  It was too cool to enjoy the terrace.

We made reservations to go to Osteria delle Tre Panche when they opened at 7:00.  They had long tables in a very tight space and Mike was hemmed into the corner.  When he had to get out, he had to ask four strangers to move.  What a tiny place.  The restaurant was in high demand and was noted for its truffles. For a starter, we had Crostini toscani – chicken liver pate with bread. I ordered Tortelli di pecorino di fossa al tartufo: “Fossa cheese” ravioli with fresh truffle.  The truffles were thinly sliced on top of the white pasta.  It was delicious, but I forgot to take a picture. 😦

Mike ordered an Insalata Andrea (salad with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, grilled vegetables, potatoes, avocados, and grilled chicken).  We shared our meals.

We sat next to a young lady from California who was ending her 3-month study abroad in college.  She spent all her time traveling everywhere, but she was ready to return home.  She ordered the same dish as I did, so I asked if I could take a picture when it came.  She said yes, but we left before her dish was served.

We also enjoyed a dessert with some kind of chocolate mousse and pudding and cherries (I think).  Of course, we had wine.

Back on our cold terrace, we had another glass of wine and enjoyed a lovely sunset.

*23,218 steps, or 9.84 miles (including our morning at the uffizi in florence, italy)*

*Tuesday, April 30, 2019*


On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.

This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Beyond the Hill.