25 June 2012

Team P’s Italian Adventure: Florence

The honeymoon continues! At this time two years ago, Mr. P and I were hanging out in Florence, a.k.a. Firenze, a.k.a. one of my favorite cities in Italy. Of the big cities we visited? It definitely takes the top spot. After the hustle and bustle of Rome, Florence was delightfully slower-paced.

Our first sight of Florence was the Mussolini-designed train station:

I mean... yeah, he did everything he could to buddy up with Hitler, but... I admit it, I like his style.

The rest of Florence, however, looks more like this:

That building is the Hospital of the Innocents, an old orphanage facing the Piazza Santissima Annunziata. It was just around the corner from our hotel, and to me it epitomized Florence (sans crowds). It was so pleasant there that one day we opted to buy sandwiches at a grocery and have a picnic sitting out on the plaza:

Here’s another one of my favorite shots from Florence:

It’s a charming little building, isn’t it! Looks like an apartment building or something. But can you read the sign by the door? Yeah, probably not. It says “Universita d’Firenze”. Translation: University of Florence, a school with 60,000 students. Huh! Well, that’s adorable.

But that’s not a sight you’d recognize from Florence, necessarily. This, however, you might:

The famous Duomo! Also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, I believe this was the first dome constructed in Renaissance Italy. To build it they studied another famous dome: the Pantheon, in Rome, built over a millennium earlier. Dude.

The front is more nineteenth century, updated with pink and green marble:

But the doors on the eleventh-century Baptistry are all Renaissance – a study in three dimensions in only a few inches of bronze:

The interior of the Duomo is actually rather plain, especially compared to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City:

Part of the reason for the sparseness is due to the sermons of the charismatic preacher Savonarola, who preached on austerity... but it’s also because all the sculptures were moved to the (not free) museum behind the Duomo. I rather liked its simplicity, actually. But the interior of the dome is pretty spectacular:

And I admit I have a soft spot for this side chapel:

Mr. P and I celebrated Mass there while in Florence! Sure, we couldn’t understand the priest’s Italian, but I certainly enjoyed staring at the 700-year-old marble floor, just thinking about all the Mass that had been said in that exact spot... and how I got to be there too.

Moving on from the Duomo, we also spent quite a bit of time around Piazza della Signoria and its many sights, like the town hall of Florence, the Palazzo Vecchio:

We didn’t formally tour the palace, but we did pop into one of the (free) courtyards. Here I am with a lemon tree, because Florence.

And outside the Palazzo is a replica of Mr. P’s namesake statue:

We did see the real statue in the Accademia museum, but this replica marks its original location.

Across from the Palazzo is the Loggia, which is essentially an open-air art gallery. And it’s free. Shown here is The Rape of the Sabine Women in the Loggia; later we saw a replica of this work in an admission-paying museum.

Speaking of admission-paying museums: we did several of those during our three days in Florence. And not one of them allowed photography on the inside. So, uh... here’s the outside of the Uffizi gallery, around the corner from the Palazzo Vecchio:

We did sneak a photo outside on a balcony in the Uffizi – here’s me with both the Palazzo and the Duomo in the background!

And once we were full of art, we went to the Museo Galileo for some science history (and, admittedly, major nerding-out on my part):

But really, just walking around Florence was stunning. I’m leaving out a ton of the things we saw, because around every corner was something else to see. Like a statue of Dante in front of the church where both Michelangelo and Galileo are buried:

And of course, the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge of shops over the Arno river:

Finally, there’s one topic I can’t leave out when discussing an Italian honeymoon: the food. Considering how much I love Italian food, of course I looked forward to every meal. But the most delicious meal I had on our honeymoon was this one:

Not a great photo, but my ravioli with walnut sauce and glass of Orvieto tasted amazing. If you find yourself in Florence, do yourself a favor and go to Trattoria ZaZa. And if you aren’t finding yourself in Florence, no worries – I’m trying to replicate the recipe and I’ll share it with you once I do!

Florence was a high point of the honeymoon, but there’s still Venice, Cinque Terre, and Milan left to go! Stick with me, dear readers: beautiful photography coming your way.