Almost all tourists to Florence, Italy follow a well-worn path to the top three sites, and we were no exception:
#1. The Duomo, also know as Santa Maria del Fiore, is the main church of Florence. One of its notable features is its dome – the largest masonry dome ever built – 45 meters wide (148’). Filippo Brunelleschi designed the dome in the 15th century, and, one hundred years later, Cosimo de’Medici commissioned Giorgio Vasari to paint frescoes inside the dome.
#2. The Uffizi Gallery required a love of art, patience, and stamina. Every artwork displayed was a masterwork, and we took many hours – and a stop at the café – to enjoy what we could before we had no energy left.
#3. Accademia Gallery is best known for “David,” possibly Michaelangelo’s most famous work. It seemed that many visitors came only to see “David,” and a few other nearby works, and then left. We found many more treasures there and agreed that the upper floor, while hard to find, was well worth visiting for so many treasures but particularly Jacopo Di Campio’s silk embroidered work from the 14th century.
We discovered on our first visit that Florence has so much more to see than can be done in a few days. That’s the reason we came back for a full month. After a lot of exploring, we have a few favorites we thought were of special interest and, sometimes, are not so crowded.
The Basilica of San Lorenzo is an architectural masterpiece. Filippo Brunelleschi built the Old Sacristy between 1422 and 1428. If we had to choose just one church to visit, this would be it.
The Bardini Gardens’ lilacs were in full bloom when we visited in April. The scent and the sight were breathtaking.
The Bargello was one of the quietest museums. We expected lots of sculpture (and there is), but we found a great deal more, including amazing miniature carved ivory pieces like this 14th century comb and an extensive collection of ceramic pieces. We stayed much longer than we expected and, even then, missed visiting an entire floor.
The Basilica of Santa Croce is the resting place for Dante Alighieri, author of the “Divine Comedy” in 1320, as well as Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and Galileo Galilei. We spent about two hours touring the complex.
We also had a modest search for the best gelato. For the first few weeks our frontrunner was Gelateria dei Neri. It was so crowded and so good that we went back again to be sure it was as tasty as we remembered. Yes! But then we stopped at the highly recommended Ettamo Gelateria, near the Central Market. No crowds there, and it was just a small storefront. Was it even worth stopping? Joe tried two flavors: pineapple-ginger and blackberry (both dairy-free), and Beth had coffee-hazelnut and chocolate-black cherry. Heavenly! Ettamo Gelateria vaulted to #1, without a doubt. For gelato – it was the very best of the best (of the 11 we tasted) in Florence.
No doubt this would be a different post if we had stayed longer. There are so many discoveries to be made in Florence! We welcome your additions to the list of Florence sites that shouldn’t be missed.