Italy 2011: Day 4

I just got back from an amazing ten day vacation in Italy with my folks! This is Day 4 of our trip.

On Monday, our fourth day in Italy, we checked out of our hotel and headed for the Termini. I had a nasty surprise when I went to grab my suitcase: the collapsable handle was stuck inside! We weren’t far from the Termini (certainly too close to take a taxi!), but we weren’t close enough for me to carry my suitcase. Luckily, I had a big woven belt in my things, and I looped that around the handle. Dragging the suitcase by the belt was heavy and unwieldy. It certainly wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was the best one that I had … until, standing in the Termini, I realized that I could piggyback my suitcase to my mom’s!

suitcase success!

We arrive in Florence, after the jump!

Navigating in Rome had been easy for me. Not only had I already been there, but Roman monuments are easily distinguishable from each other, which helps you determine your location on the map. In contrast, we got off the train in Florence and had to huddle on the corner with our map to attempt to orient ourselves. We were in a section where the streets came together at angles, and all the nearby attractions were just big churches. It seemed hopeless, but, once we figured out where we were, we were easily able to find our hotel.

We stayed at the Hotel dei Macchiaioli, an understatedly elegant boutique hotel only a minute or two from the Duomo. We were starving after our train ride, so we dropped off our bags and headed immediately to lunch. The desk attendant had recommended Trattoria Za Za, as had both my Rough Guide and my folks’ Rick Steves guidebooks. It was a beautiful day in Florence, we had a lovely lunch out in the sun!

lunch at Trattoria Za Za

After lunch, we began our sightseeing. We started with the Duomo. None of us planned on climbing to the top of the Duomo (my parents weren’t sure it would be worth all the stairs, and, as for me, well,
I don’t do heights), so we just walked around and looked at the interior of the church. The dome itself was pretty amazing, but the rest of the church didn’t impress me much. It was almost that the structure was too large to appreciate any of the art inside. We also visited the foundations of Santa Reparta underneath the church, which was interesting, but not very well presented.

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, aka The Duomo

underneath the dome

golden doors of the Baptistery

We snuck a peek at the golden doors of the Baptistery and then moved on to Santa Maria Novella, the church we spied near the train station. The church is entered through a pleasant walled yard and stuffed with amazing art and monuments. If we had been permitted to take pictures in there, I would have a ton to show you.

After we left the church, we walked down to and along the Arno River. We made our way to the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge so old that it was first built during Roman times, and posed for a few pictures.

Ponte Vecchio

with Mom on the Ponte Vecchio

We then decided to visit the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence. When planning our visit, I had included this only on the list of “maybe” attractions, but this turned out to be my favorite thing in Florence! The huge fortress dates from the thirteenth century and most of the rooms are available for touring. Some of the rooms are still used for government purposes, which I found fascinating. Imagine working in such an old building! The rooms we saw were amazing, and the ceilings in particular were works of art. It seemed every inch was covered and detailed.

sample of a ceiling in Palazzo Vecchio

I don't know what this is, but it's terrifying

Chapel of Eleonora da Toledo inside Palazzo Vecchio

another ornate wall in Palazzo Vecchio

We had dinner that night at
Giglio Ross, a restaurant recommended by our hotel. This was probably the most fun meal of our trip! It was a cute and cozy space, and the staff was lively and entertaining. They didn’t have our table ready when we arrived for our reservation, so they set us in the back with some free prosecco. It was a great start to the evening! Our dinner concluded with some delicious chocolate cake (for Mom and I) and some local firewater (for Dad). It was pouring by the time we left, and we got soaked on the way home, but at least we didn’t have anywhere else to go that night!

Coming up next: We see a lot of art.


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