6 April 2017 – Exploring Florence……… in sunshine & rain! [Italy]
After our late night arrival into Florence, we were excited to spend the day exploring the famous city. There was plenty of sight-seeing, plenty of Italian food and plenty of gelato!
Our very nice Florence apartment was very comfortable but suffered from late night revelers at the pub on the corner (which didn’t bother us as we were so tired ) and then a random barrage of ambulance and police, with sirens blaring, going past the apartment a bit after 7am so we were all up by 7.30am.
As we’d gotten in so late there were no breaky supplies except what the host had left – some crackers and jam for the kids, which they thoroughly enjoyed. The adults settled for some coffee before we mustered up the energy to head out exploring.
Our first port of call was a wander down to the nearby Mercato centrale food market. Mercato Centrale Firenze is a large indoor market with plenty of variety of Tuscan cuisine. We were keen to get some breaky but first we had a wander around looking at plenty of delicious things. The kids loved looking at all the food and seeing how many treats they could score. We got suckered into trying some bread with truffle oil and truffle cream which we all loved and ended up buying some of the truffle cream.
Then we purchased some food and some of the best coffee of the trip and headed outside for breaky. Soren had requested some delicious lemon tart, Astrid had an orange and chocolate muffin and Anto and I had some breaky pizzas that were really good.
We decided to revisit the indoor market later in the day and purchase some supplies for dinner. We then explored the outdoor section of the Lorenzo market which was every leather product known to man, and more scarves than you could poke a stick at.
As we wandered through, every leather store claimed to ‘have Anto’s jacket’. Which resulted in a lot of laughter from all of us, but the stall holders were good-humoured about it. We did manage to secure Anto a belt (of which there were literally 10,000 options) as he’d forgotten to pack one and apparently hadn’t been eating enough and his pants were falling down.
Anto’s pants now belted, we walked down to explore around the Palazzo Medici Ricardo, which is a renaissance palace surrounded by some interesting sculptures, statues and fountains. On the walk down we’d spied a bucket-load of gelato shops but were trying to hold the kids off gelato until we’d done a little more sightseeing.
Next stop was the Piazza del Duomo. Like most of Italy’s tourist hotspots there were people everywhere, even pretty early in the day. Anto and I aren’t massive church or architecture fans but I’d have to say that the cathedral is one of the most impressive buildings we’ve ever seen. The cathedral boats the famous renaissance dome that can be seen from pretty much anywhere in the city. From the Piazza though, we were impressed with the size of the building (it’s enormous) and the intricacy of the renaissance architecture. It was quite amazing.
We’d decided not to climb the Duomo as it has quite a large number of steps and is apparently dark and difficult for kids. The lines for visiting the cathedral and the baptistery were already long, and we had plenty of other areas to explore in our only full day in Florence, so we wandered around the Piazza but couldn’t stop staring at the magnificent building.
Our next stop was Piazza della Republica, which is built on the site of city’s first forum. Of most interest to the kids were the horses and carriages trundling through the square and the antique carousel. Much to their disappointment he carousel wasn’t yet open so we promised to return later in the day.
As we left Piazza della Republica it was an interesting walk through the nearby streets. There is a mix of buildings that look like they have been there hundreds of years and some built in the last 40 years. Right next to each other. There was no shortage of shopping opportunities but we were on a sight-seeing mission so kept on walking……..
Next Piazza on the list was Piazza della Signora to see the (replica) statue of David and all the other resident statues. Piazza Della Signora is an L-shaped square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. There are 9 impressive statues dating to the 16th Century. It was fairly impressive being able to wander through so many famous statues in one place, outside of a museum! Soren was mostly impressed with the statue of Perseus with the Head of Medusa. All he could keep saying was ‘there is a knife, a really big knife’!
Finally it was time for gelato. After missing out in Pisa the day before, it had felt like a long wait. It turned out to be the first of many, many Italian gelatos on the trip. Being right in the Piazza it was probably one of the more expensive gelatos, but we didn’t care! The kids requested a mint choc-chip and Anto and I shared a tiramisu. Both were nice but the kids was the winner by a long way. We enjoyed our gelato while keeping an eye on the statue of David. Not the worst gelato spot ever!
As we left the Piazza della Signora we wandered past the famous Uffizi gallery. If you are an art lover then this is the place to go (it also has the original statue of David). Art galleries with small kids are really hard work and we’d decided when planning our trip to Florence that we weren’t even going to bother with any galleries and just enjoy the general sight-seeing and culture. It was only mid-morning and the lines for the gallery were already snaking the entire length of the building so we were rather glad we weren’t standing in them.
You can actually get a pretty good view of the Ufizzi building from the other side of the River Arno. We spent some time walking along the edge of the river and got our obligatory tourist shots of the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. Probably the second most famous landmark in Florence after the Duomo! It definitely looks different to your average bridge.
Since we’d been enjoying our walk around we figured that we’d keep walking and make the trek up to Piazzale Michelangelo. This famous square has the postcard panoramic view of Florence. It was actually a really interesting walk up. There were some lovely cobble-stone streets and cute restaurants on this side of the river ….. and then an awful lot of stairs. With a gelato buzz the kids pretty much ran the whole way up and didn’t complain once (they were moving so fast we couldn’t catch them!). We stopped in the free Rose garden part-way up, which is rather pretty and also gives excellent views over the city.
After a little more stair climbing we reached the top and got rewarded with a pretty impressive view. It was a little hazy but we could make out all the landmarks we’d spent the morning wandering around. After quite a few days in the very flat Netherlands, the kids were pretty taken with the mountains in the background.
It had warmed up into a lovely Spring day. We liked the look of some of the restaurants we passed before the stairs up to Piazzale Michelangelo so headed back down to find ourselves a nice Italian lunch. We picked a restaurant that looked interesting and sat outside enjoying the nearby Wisteria that seems to grow everywhere in Florence.
This restaurant turned out to be a good find and it was one of our favourite meals of the trip. Astrid was keen to try a calzone with ham and cheese and we all (including our lovely waitress) found it amusing that it was bigger than her head! Soren ordered the coccoli fritti with proscuitto, a Tuscan specialty. Coccoli fritti are little savoury deep-fried and salted dough parcels served with stracchino (soft cow’s milk) cheese. They were amazing and apparently even better with prosciutto, according to the meat eaters. I had a bruschetta, which was simple but well don. Soren, who had been refusing to eat tomatoes for a couple of months decided he likes Italian tomatoes, and loves bruschetta. Anto ordered a pasta with ragu and a chianti, while I sampled the local moscato. Our poor Italian meant we accidentally ordered the kids a pellegrino orange drink which they didn’t complain about at all. It was a really fantastic and rather memorable lunch.
Full of food we wandered back along the opposite side of the River Arno. We didn’t find it all that impressive compared to many of the other amazing rivers in Europe, but it was a nice day to be out walking.
Next stop was the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace), another renaissance palace that is now the largest museum complex in Florence. Despite the lack of greenery or comfy places to sit, it was obviously the place to hang around in the afternoon sun as there were people everywhere. There were also no shortage of souvenir sellers.
We hadn’t intended to visit any of the museums inside the Pitti Palace but did want to visit the Boboli gardens which are situated in the complex. You couldn’t buy a stand alone ticket to the gardens and ended up with some museum entries included, and after a fair bit of walking we were debating whether the kids would be up for it, for the price.
Just then, there was a clap of thunder and all the souvenir vendors started covering up their wares and instead started offering umbrellas and ponchos! Decision made, we headed in the direction of the Ponte Vecchio for a walk across the bridge and some more gelato.
By the time we reached Ponte Vecchio it was raining quite a lot and we hadn’t bought any wet-weather gear or an umbrella with us. Luckily the bridge provided a bit of shelter and some views to the Santa Trinita bridge.
The rain was over as quickly as it started and we wandered back to the other side of Piazza della Republica to find Il Porcellino, the famous statue of the pig that has become a symbol of Florence. It is believed that rubbing its snout is good luck and will ensure a return to Florence. At this point it seemed to just ensure another downpour!
It was still raining but we dashed across to the carousel and let the kids have a ride. It kept them (and Anto) out of the rain. I was instructed to take photos so didn’t fare as well! Astrid and Soren were the only kids on the carousel at the time and would have stayed there all day.
We did manage to locate a sheltered spot in our search for for another gelato. We figured we’d done enough walking to earn it. We’d gone out without the ergo for Soren and he’d walked the whole day, without being carried. Afternoon gelato was a pistachio and a lemon sorbet. The pistachio was the winner but both were good.
While we were waiting for the rain to taper off we went and found Anto some bike shirts (to add to his collection of bike T-shirts and riding jersey’s) in market stalls. Anto was having a good shopping day!
The sky was looking ominous and a thunderstorm was brewing. It was so different to earlier in the day. We left Piazza del Duomo and dashed back to Mercato Centrale before the next storm.
Mercato Centrale was supposed to be open from 8am until midnight but as we arrived it had closed up and we were informed that today was a half-day! Not something they had advertised. This ruined our plan for purchasing some fresh asparagus and pasta for our dinner.
It was now after 4pm and we’d been walking since 9am so we decided to head back to the apartment before the kids refused to walk any more. Soren had a play while Astrid did some homework and Anto went and located a supermarket. In the end he whipped us up some mushroom pasta with the truffle butter we purchased from the market, and some crusty bread and butter and local wine. It ended up being a rather Italian dinner to end our day in Florence.
While we didn’t do any of the museums or art galleries, we managed to see pretty much everything on our wish-list in Florence. It’s a very walkable city and we enjoyed our day out wandering, despite the afternoon’s inclement weather. We also had the morning of the next day in Florence, before our train to Rome, so had time for a little more exploring of Florence, in hopefully nicer weather!
Daily statistics for Thursday 6 April 2017 in Florence, Italy – the temperature range for the day was 6 to 18 degrees, with a mean of 12 degrees. The morning was glorious and sunny but we had thunderstorms in the afternoon. The total walking for the day was 13.7km, and the kids both walked all of it!
Up next, the last bit of our Florence stay and a an afternoon exploring and sailing in Rome…………