You already know that I travelled through Italy thirteen years ago. On that trip, the order in which we visited the major cities was Venice, Rome and finally Florence. Back then, Florence was my favourite city by a landslide. This year it took a huge hit in the ratings and landed squarely in third.
Looking back, I can clearly see why Florence2000 scored so high with the judge (me) and yet faired so poorly on this trip. As with Venice, time and circumstance have altered my perspective.
In 2000, I hated Venice because I spent my time fighting crowds the middle of a broiling St. Mark’s square. I then spent the next day and a half in Rome. I’ll skip over those details until another post, but just let me say that it was exhausting! There were too many must-sees and not enough time to see them.
After these few jam-packed days, our arrival in the Tuscan hills of Florence was a breath of fresh air. Literally. Our hotel was a refurbished monastery in the hills and, after the humid canals of Venice and the vehicular exhaust of Rome, the fresh smell of the gardens was heaven. Also, our sightseeing in the city proper was at a leisurely pace with a significant amount of free time. As I quietly sat watching the Arno river flow by, I felt myself relax for the first time in days.
Florence was followed by quaint and quiet Lucerne, Switzerland which further replenished my soul. By the time we reached Paris my heart was soaring and, in my mind, it was all due to Florence. Just thinking of the Duomo was enough to transport me back to this tranquility.
This year? Not so much… sadly there was just no way for the actual city to measure up to my remembered Florence of yore.
Florence is the prettiest of the three cities, no question in my mind. As you can see, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is spectacular.
It was begun in 1296, and the entire structure, including the incredible octagonal dome (which is why it is commonly called the Duomo), took almost 200 years to complete. The engineering required to build the dome is mind-boggling as is the intricacy of the multicoloured marble façade.
The panoramic view from the Piazzale Michelangelo is magnificent and the art collection of the Uffizi Gallery is hard to beat. And, as everyone will tell you, Michelangelo’s original David that is housed in the Accademia really is incredible to see in person. The copies scattered throughout the city just aren’t the same.
On this trip, however, the city paled in comparison to my newly beloved Venice. La dolce vita seemed to be missing. Florence is a must-visit for the beauty and the art… but once you’ve seen and appreciated, feel free to move on.
We also had a round of bad fortune in Florence which solidly secured the last place finish. On the afternoon of our second day, we made the mountain trek up to visit the beautiful San Miniato al Monte. This church was built 1000 years ago and the ceiling alone is worth the climb.
Unfortunately, while we were there, my husband’s Android tablet was stolen which resulted in an evening on the hotel’s computer changing passwords and securing our personal information.
When we woke up the next day I had full-blown cold which drained me of all enthusiasm and energy. Our stroll up through the hills of the Boboli gardens of the Palazzo Pitti felt more like a climb up the Matterhorn.
So, I will admit that Florence’s ranking suffered due to these hiccups (and my asthma) but I’m standing firm on the decision.
But I still love to sit and watch the Arno flow by.