I am not an early bird, not a morning person. Period. IF I have to, I wake up early, but if not, even when traveling, I am not one of those strong enough to wake up just to watch the sun rise. Luckily, the friend traveling with me its just like me regarding waking up time. So, on our 2nd day, we were out of the B&B by 9h00, a totally acceptable time by my standards. We had decided that we would activate our Firenze Card and make the most of it, visiting Palazzo Vecchio, Galleria dell’ Accademia, Museu Dell’Opera, Battistero and Galleria Uffizi.
We left the B&B and crossed the road to take a bus to the historical center. The buses run every 5 min and soon we were in the center. We stopped at Piazza San Marco and headed to Piazza Del Duomo. As the day before (and all days in Italy), we stopped often to look at the beautiful buildings, to have a coffee or simply to admire the vibe and the shops, caffes and restaurants.
After getting to the Piazza del Duomo and having a strong black coffee at Don Nino, we headed to Palazzo Vecchio, to validate our Firenze card and to start our day.
The Firenze Card may seem a bit expensive (72Euros) but I guarantee that, if you intend to visit museums, churches and other paid buildings, as well as using the public transport system (excludes the train), it is totally worth it. I purchased mine online and received a voucher by e-mail to be printed and exchanged for the card at any of the collection points in the city. It can also be purchased in authorized selling points. The card has a validity of 72 hours, counting from the validation date and time. It includes the entrance ticket, the surcharge for exhibitions and the reservation with priority access for all the museums in the Firenzecard Circuit (72 museums – so literally a cost of 1 Euro per museum). If you add an extra 5 euros it also includes the public transport .
With the card you do not need to make any reservations with the exception of the Duomo Cupola, which you have to book in advance. When getting to the place you intend to visit, you skip the line and go to the priority access following the “Firenzecard” signs and show your card to the staff of the museums. I promise you, it saves a lot, but really a lot of time, as cues are immense specially during the tourist season.
For more info, the Firenze Card site is great and provides all info needed: Firenze Card website
Palazzo Vecchio is located in Piazza della Signoria, which is one of the most popular squares in Florence. The square actually got its name from Palazzo Vecchio that is also called Palazzo della Signoria.
The square is lined by buildings that played a political role in the history of Florence. The Uffizi Gallery also seats on the same square and in the past it housed administrative offices and the Tribuna . The Loggia dei Lanzi, located in a corner of the square opposite Palazzo Vecchio was used for ceremonies. It is now a gallery that shows statues and antiques from the Renaissance.
At the entrance of Palazzo Vecchi there is a replica of David, the famous statue from Michelangelo (it is on the exact same spot the original stood until it was completed in the 1500’s), as well as the statue of Hercules and Cacus from Baccio Bandinelli. At the square there is also the Fountain of Neptune which sadly was covered as it was going through maintenance works.
Like many of the museums and historical buildings I visited in Italy, Palazzo Vecchio is way less impressive outside than inside. Once you put you feet inside, its mind blowing. The paintings, the walls, the ceilings, everything about it is magic. It’s room after room covered in magnificent paintings, amazing sculptures, and ceilings beautifully and intricately carved. I could not stop looking at ceilings, seriously, its just breathtaking. We started with the underground level, where you can admire the remains of the theater of Roman colony. Palazzo Vecchio was built on top of the theater, that dates back to the 1st century. The underground floor offers information and a film that explains the historical context as well as what to look for.
From there we went to the first courtyard, that depicts frescoes from Vasari, the Putto with Dolphin replica on top of a fountain (the original is on the 2nd floor); the second courtyard that contains the pillars that sustain the Salone dei Cinquecento, and from there to the Vasari staircase that leads to the magnificent Salone dei Cinquecento already on the second floor. It was constructed in 1494 and it’s covered in paneled ceilings and frescoes in its impressive 52 m of length and 18 m of height.
Still on the second floor, there are the Chapel of Signoria, hall of Justice, study room, Lillies room and the Apartments of the Elements. As you go from one room to the other, the decoration, frescoes, ceilings and themes change. You get transported centuries ago, you feel the life of medieval times, the rennaissance, the Medicci, the tales and tells about Florence, the dark games of politics, the genious of Michelangelo, Boticelli, Vasari and Donatelo.
From there we decided to climb the 416 steps (yeah….here starts my endless step climbing in Italy…I NEVER climbed so many stairs or walked as much as I did during these 10 days) of the Arnolfo Tower. The Arnolfo Tower is one of the most impressive towers in Florence, with 94m of height, narrow steps, not easy to climb, but when tou get to the top, you see how much worth it was. Florence at your feet, 360º of beautiful landscape, bridges, monuments, buildings, gardens, you name it. The tower was named in the honour of Arnolfo di Cambio, the architect that designed Palazzo Vecchio. The views from there are breathtaking, and I will let the pics speak for themselves, instead of tiring you with my endless description of everything I saw.
From the Palazzo Vecchio we decided to go along the river for a walk, and as we were already starving, had lunch by a charming, not so turisty restaurant. From there we walked around Ponte Vecchio, and then headed to Galeria Dell Uffizi, as time was quickly running out and we still wanted to visit Galeria Dell’ Accademia and unas cositas más that I will show on the next post. Stay tuned !!!