Florence really is the essence of Italy. With great food, delicious wine, museums, famous churches, an art haven, squares with statues by Michelangelo, and being the birth of the Renaissance period. Tuscan, only a stones throw away is the topping on the cake. Rome is great for the ancient culture but if you want art, beauty, and romance Florence is the place to be.
Visiting here in the past we skipped out on the museums and just indulged in the outdoor nature of the city. Getting lost in the alleyways and exploring open squares at leisure was so enjoyable. The most amazing structure from the outside is the Duomo, which is a cathedral that stands tall over the city with its magnificent Renaissance dome. It comes out of nowhere on the city streets and crowds of people stand around it with jaws dropped. Entering the churches is always funny watching everyone cover their shoulders and knees with scarfs or cotton ponchos because of the dress codes. The dome paintings in the Duomo are quite superior to other churches we have seen, as they look 3D. There is an option to climb the dome or the clock tower for 10€ each for a view of the city but we chose to hike up the minimal amount of stairs to the Piazza of Michelangelo on the opposite side of the river for free and the best panoramic view of the city.
Another church we visited in utter amazement was the Church of Croce, which houses the tombs of any famous people from the Renaissance era such as Galileo, Machiavelli and many more. Here was also a traveling exhibit of the stages of Dante’s Inferno, which was impressive and disturbing all in one. Visits to the leather markets were Katie’s favorites as she bought a long wished for Italian leather jacket, gloves and shoes. Zane sprung for some gloves and let Katie do the indulging for her belated birthday gifts! Staying about a half an hour outside of the city center we stumbled upon the best park with runners, bikers and old shirtless men without a self-body image care in the world! The park and trails were endless and y’all know how happy we are when we get a chance to have outdoor trail runs. This time around we were especially thankful for these mind-clearing runs as the mixture of emotions of only having a week left in this adventure were starting to creep in.
Loving dinning and drinking we found a self-service restaurant called ‘La Proscutteria’ with numerous legs of jamon hanging in the window and treated ourselves to a huge cheese, meat and truffle spread platter paired with Italian wine. Then we came across a newly opened microbrewery having some missed IPAs and purchasing some swag to bring home. Surprisingly, they do a collaborative brew with Oscar Blues in Lyons, Colorado!
Deciding not to rent a car we took a guided tour to the Chianti wine region and were pleasantly surprised as we always have such low expectations for tours. The drive through the countryside along the olive trees and vineyards was just like the movies. Visiting a winery in a castle that had bottles from 1904 with a panoramic view of Chianti Classico and Super Tuscan vines was surreal. During group tasting of wines and olive oils we met a couple from Montana who now live in Seattle who know people Zane went to high school with, small world!!
From Florence we took a train to La Spezia then another quick 8-minute train to Riomaggiore the first town from the south in the National Park Reserve of Cinque Terre on the western coast where we spent our few final days abroad.