Day 6: Florence was our favorite stop on the whole trip through Switzerland & Italy. It was a much more laid back atmosphere without the hustle and bustle of Rome, but not the touristic qualities of Venice.
After a short walk from the train station, we checked into our Air BnB. Actually the hostess met us and walked us through everything in the apartment and gave us many great tips on what to see and where to eat. This was quite a bit different than our last experience with our Air BnB in Venice, where we had a broken air conditioner that was never fixed during our stay there.
We grabbed lunch at a small deli near the Duomo. What was so cool about this particular deli was the fact that the worker gave us samples and a brief history of each meat and cheese prior to him building our individualized sandwich. Nearly all of the products are locally made in the surrounding areas near Florence. Once the sampling was done, we had to make our choice of which type of fresh bread to use to complete the masterpiece. I wish there was something similar in America, but something tells me it would never work, since everything is based on speed and this process was by no means a speedy one. Europe operates at a much slower speed than in the states. This gentleman was truly a sandwich artist.
They do offer a Bell Tower climb, but we opted for the Duomo climb since that is the focal point of the architecture of the city of Florence.
We did take the short tour of the museum in the basement of the Duomo, but for us the main attraction was the Duomo climb. We booked a 6:00 pm climb, so we had to wait in line for awhile, before we would be led into the building. This is when we were able to enjoy the rest of our delicious and skillfully crafted sandwiches, while watching people interact on the square.
The Duomo climb is 463 steps with some very tight quarters along the way. This is not something someone who doesn’t like heights or tight spaces willingly signs up for, but my wife was a trooper and did it knowing it would be an amazing view once we got to the top.
About halfway up the climb there is a very small catwalk just below the inner dome. This catwalk is not more than 2-3 feet wide and doesn’t feel the sturdiest. I can honestly say that this is the most nerve-racking part of the whole climb.
Once you get to the dome portion of the the climb, the ceiling drops significantly and you have to climb the stairs bent over. The quarters are so tight, you actually have to wait for other groups coming down, because there isn’t room for two people to pass each other.
Above is the view of the last set of stairs that pops you out on the top of the Duomo and a breathtaking view of Florence and the surrounding Tuscan countryside.
Now she is happy she made it to the top of the climb, but she isn’t getting too close to the edge of the railing either.
The climb down was pretty quick since we didn’t have many people to pass trying to climb to the top. The close quarters of the Duomo and very little air moving inside the stairways made it pretty sticky and I can see why some older climbers faint on their way to the top.
After a short walk from the Duomo, we arrived at the Gallery of Academia. This museum is fairly small, but there are plenty of famous and noteworthy pieces of art housed there. It’s wasn’t overwhelming like some museums, but it had a nice collection of artwork. Michelangelo’s statue of David was obviously the featured piece.
After a lot of walking and climbing stairs we were ready for some good food and a nice gelato and call it a day. As you can see from the picture above, we were getting a little goofy from being on our feet all day.
Day 7: Prior to our trip, I honestly can say I was looking forward to our Tuscany Vespa Tour the most. I had done some research and from everything I had read it was usually everyone’s most memorable experience in Florence and oftentimes of their entire time in Italy. So needless to say, we were very excited for our day out in the fresh country air of Tuscany while riding a motorized scooter.
After some quick practice on the Vespa, our guide led us through the countryside, while stopping at several vineyards and olive groves along the way. Our day would also take up to an castle which now produces wine and olive oil.
As you can see our guide was very energetic, but also a great wealth of information about Tuscany and the process of making wine.
The views from the top of the castle were absolutely stunning.
Tuscan wine, with an amazing view. Does it get any better than this?
Our guide had us grab some of the grapes growing near the castle wall and try them. They had small seeds in them, but the taste was so sweet and delicious.
After our Vespa tour, we wanted to explore a little more of Florence, so we took the advice of our Air BnB hostess and walked to the park on the far side of the Arno River and climbed the long walkway and many more steps to the top where the park was located.
The views from the park were worth the effort. The Duomo is easily seen from just about anywhere in Florence. The Rose garden was so beautiful and unexpected.
As we descended the hillside from the park, we walked along the Arno River and took a moment to check out the Ponte Vecchio and the many shops located on the bridge.
After a long walk back to our apartment to freshen up, we headed back to the area near the Duomo where there is a wonderful area nearby that had many outdoor restaurants and live musicians. It was a very romantic atmosphere and one where you would want to return to in the near future.
So Florence is know for it’s Florentine Steak, which has a special history of beef being raised locally in the Chianina area and is customarily served rare. As you can see, mine is as rare of a steak as I have ever eaten. That is saying something from a son of a meat cutter who was raised on red meat.
As we headed back for the night, I did have to snap this picture of the meats just hanging in the store window. Apparently, the owner is quite proud of these cuts of meat.