October 22, 2013

Tuscany - Part 1 Florence

As I mentioned last week, we just returned from an amazing two week vacation to Tuscany.  There are so many amazing places and highlights from the trip to talk about that I'm going to break it up into several posts to make sure I cover it all.

One definite highlight, and the largest city we visited during out stay, was Florence. We could easily spend a week there and still not be done with it.  Architecturally, it was easily one of the top five cities we have ever visited. Florence has SO MUCH history and therefore amazing little niches and piazzas and sculptures and frescoes EVERYWHERE! It really is a bit overwhelming just trying to pick out what it is you want to see and do.  Not to mention all of the museums and galleries and tours you could do.  Being as we were with two young kids and the grandparents, we opted for a cursory walking tour of our top picks, leaving room for whatever else we could discover along the way.
Common knowledge is that driving into Florence is a nightmare, and with a nearby train station in Viareggio running to and from the city every hour, we easily hopped on the train and chugged right into the heart of the city.  The bustling Santa Maria Novella railway station certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the busiest in Europe and was absolutely packed with travelers from all walks of life.

Cooper and Lily enjoyed their own seats on our train ride.
Walking the streets of the old town was quite enjoyable. The city was even better than I could imagine; rustic, old, full of amazing art, sculptures, frescoes, and oozing with charm.

Lily enjoyed the city via the ergo carrier
Cooper opted for the stroller.

Our first stop was the Piazza Della Repubblica, one of the oldest squares of the city, which has a beautiful carousel in the middle that proved to be big hit with the kids. 

Ha ha! Frank pointed out the lovely art behind Cooper's head!
Winding our way past some unbelievable architecture in the Palazzo Vecchio, then through an extremely high end shopping district, we made our way to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore which is the main Cathedral in Florence and has the largest brick dome ever constructed.  At first glance, the cathedral appears to be painted white, green and red but is actually faced with three different colors of Carrara, Prato and Siena marble.  Simply amazing.  Besides the amazing dome and marble it also has a free-standing campanile, or bell tower which is gorgeous and very unique.  You can walk up 420+ stairs to the top of the dome for amazing view, however, there was a huge line and the kids were getting weary. Lunch was in order. We ended up stopping at Robiglio, right down the street from the Duomo with seats outside and ate a delicious meal with locals (always a good sign) who had just finished a 5K race.

Amazing toy store the kids loved and you can see the Cathedral in the background.
 After lunch, we wandered down tiny streets with fading frescoes to find the world's best gelato and put the claim to a test. Here we are at Gelateria Vivoli. The verdict? Yes, best ice cream/gelato EVER! I got the dark chocolate with candied orange pieces. Yum.Cooper had lemon with real lemon chunks throughout. Although, Graeter's Pumpkin ice cream does compete...

After ice cream, we headed to Piazza Signoria, the focal point and political hub of the city, full of amazing famous statues such as Michelangelo's David and the city Town Hall. Pretty unbelievable. All these amazing statues in one giant square! They were much bigger and impressive than I had envisioned.This one below of Perseus with the Head of Medusa was particularly interesting to Cooper, of course. So much, that he woke up with a terrible nightmare about it later that night. Pretty understandable!
David carrying his sling
Our last stop ended up being the famous Ponte Vecchio. The old bridge is a Medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno river famous for having shops built along it, as was once common in medieval times (see first photo at top of the post). Now all the shops are touristy, selling jewelry and post cards, but in the medieval times, butchers and local craftsman sold their goods on the bridge.

We walked and shopped our way back to the train station with a sleeping four year old in the stroller and a very tired toddler on my back.  The train was a welcome rest for our weary legs. Lily waved and said "Ciao" to all she passed having picked it up quickly from the locals who doted on her.

 Ciao Florence! We hope to return one day!

No comments:

Post a Comment

We would love to hear from you!