TravelHoundz italy

Florence (10/27-28)

October 29th, 2006 · No Comments

From masterpieces by Michelangelo to the Ponte Vecchio – the Medici Family brought the best to Firenze or ‘Florence’ making it a fantastic stop for beautiful art and architecture (along with great food and a little shopping).

For photos, click here.



We stayed a little ways outside of the city center at Hotel Ungherese. (With the traffic laws in Florence, it is actually illegal to actually drive/park in the city center) The hotel was warm & pet friendly. Plus, they made some of the best cappuccinos we have ever had. Zookie made quick friends with the hotel owner, and she shared stories about her “puppy” which she pronounced “poopy.” It was too funny to correct the tiny mistake.

Trying to see Florence in two days, especially if you haven’t been there before, is just exhausting. In addition to all the sights, described below, we did have some authentic travel experiences–mostly thanks to Zookie!

Traveling with a dog in Europe is great because it gives you the opportunity to interact with people that you never would otherwise. All during our trip, old Italian men, little Italian children, and locals and tourists of all ages wanted to meet our fabulous pup! Unfortunately, we don’t speak Italian, so we couldn’t really communicate with most people, but we knew that Kane means dog, and besides, we can tell when Zookie has an admirer that wants to make friends with him. (We did learn to say “Posso potare mi Kane destra?” which means “Can I bring my dog inside?”…invaluable when we were trying to bring Zookie to dinner, in shops, or on buses–where he was technically not supposed to go.)

No where in Italy was this Zookie fan club more apparent than in Florence. There was the old man in Piazza della Republica, who kept tricking Zookie by whistling. Zookie couldn’t figure out where the funny noise was coming from and kept looking around to find its source. Then, there was the Italian family with the toddler who really wanted to pet the doggy, but was still a little afraid. And the funniest experience was when three old Italian women actually stole Zookie from Dan when they were riding on the bus into Florence. Dan was trying to keep Zookie from investigating these women’s shopping bags, when, suddenly, one of the women just took his leash and brought him over to their seats! Hilarious, especially because neither party could communicate with each other!

We visited a lot of sites in and around Florence so listed below are some of the major highlights. Each day we jumped on a bus that took us right to the heart of town where the Duomo towered over the central piazza. Day or night the scenary was beautiful.

Bargello Museum – full of Renaissance sculpture including two versions of David by Donatello and Verrocchio, stark contrasts to the more famous interpretation by Michelangelo. We spent a morning checking out the highlights before we hit the ultimate in Italian painting, the Uffizi Gallery.

The Uffizi Gallery – Florence was at the heart of the Renaissance and the Uffizi can take you on a walk through history as realistic art evolved during the Renaissance. Some of the best Italian paintings are found within the ‘U-shaped building, including the Madonna and Child by Gioto (example of flat art during medival times) and Birth of Venus by Botticelli (Epitome of the exploding realism in art).

Ponte Vecchio – the famous bridge over the Arno River. While touring the Uffizi, we caught a glimpse of the secret passage that the Medicis used. We also took a stroll with Zookie on the bridge covered with small traditional shops that still sell gold and silver.

Accademia – a fantastic collection of sculpture including Michelangelo’s masterpieces. We stared in awe at just how beautifully he carved David out of a block of marble. This statue is amazing to see in person (unfortunately they don’t allow photos in the museum). They also have a interesting collection of the The Prisoners. These massive statues still remain from the unfinished commission for Pope Julius II (he also commissioned Michelangelo for the Sistine Chapel). The statues look as though they are coming to life, trying to break free from the marble they are still encased within. The most impressive part of these marble rocks is that Michelangelo was known to work completely freehand and chipped away at the stone from front to back until he was satisfied.

Baptistery – Known for its famous bronze doors whose panels were sculpted by Ghiberti who won a contest to earn the project. Brunelleschi lost the competions, fortunately since he went on to design and build the dome that covers the Duomo.

Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore) – beautiful architecture and impressive science behind the facade. The structure that sits atop the dome is about the size of the Baptistery building, which gives you a sense of scale. The Duomo was actually built with a hole awaiting a dome in its roof…nevermind that this was before the techonology was available to span such an area. Brunelleschi solved that problem, and many others copied this first Renaissance dome in years to come.

Duomo Mueseum – contains Ghiberti’s original (and Bruno’s) panels submitted for the Baptistery door competition. It also showcases a Pieta statue that Michaelangelo originally carved for his own tomb and a unique Donatello statue of Mary Magdalene carved from wood.

Medici Chapels – You can almost see into the mind of Michelangelo while visiting here. He had free reign on the architecture, sculpture, and subject matter. These partly unfinished chapels/tombs celebrate the Medici family patrons who supported M through numerous commissions during his lifetime. You can even see the sketches and scribbling of Michelangelo and his assistants as they filled in the architectural space with sculpture and paintings.

Church of Santa Maria Novella – filled with beautiful frescoes as well as signs of the growing Renassaince. The inside of the Church was built to magnify the visual impression – the floor is slanted upwards as you work towards the altar. Also, the collonade narrows as you appoach the altar making the Chruch seem longer, taller, and more grandiose.

Eating in Florence

We also had some fantastic cuisine. Our favorite dinner meal in Florence was at Il Cibreo. Rich, filling Tuscan plates made this place a winner. We actually ate at the Trattoria, which does not accept reservations, has equally good food, and lower prices. (Via Andrea del Verrocchio 8r. 055-2341100)

We also dined at Filipepe, which has a more upscale Mediteranian menu. (Via de San Niccolo 39r 055-2001397)

We also enjoyed a great meal at Osteria de Benci a well known trattoria with great desserts (Via de Benci 13r 055-234-4923)

We did not make it to Acqua al Due on this trip, because we did not make a reservation in time. This was a favorite places from one of Kim’s previous trips here. And, they surprisingly opened a second location in San Diego, which we have be
en to. Great pasta. (Via della Vigna Vecchia 40/r 055-284170)

Oh yes, and we did some shoping for leather goods. Kim found a good deal on purses while Dan finally bought another pair of shoes (at least they are Italian and stylish). We also spent a few hours touring the many street markets as we walked around the city.

Tags: Italy

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