Florence just wasn’t my city. I wanted to love it, but we didn’t click. Honestly, I was surprised, because it is good on paper and had all the qualities to make it a perfect match. It is considered the art center of the world, it has good food and wine, and there is unbelievable shopping. So, what gives?
Flooded with American college students “studying” abroad it felt like I had arrived a few too many years late. The Italian chatter that permeated the air in Rome was replaced by the squeals of American sorority girls in Florence.
And while Florence is rich with history, in my opinion it lacked the vibrancy and diversity of Rome. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t torture to visit Florence, but coming off my high from Rome it had a lot to live up to.
But let me cut it a little slack. It is not to say that there is nothing to do in Florence, so here are the highlights from my two-days there.
Visit David at Galleria dell’Accademia. If you go all that way then you must visit the Galleria dell’Accademia and see Michelangelo’s David in-person. Exquisite in every way, the sculpture hovers 16 feet over museumgoers. Set against an arched dome with optimal light shining down on him, you can see every vein and ripple of a muscle of young David. It is enough to stop most people in their tracks. It is easy to see why this sculpture has cemented its place as one of the great pieces of art. Don’t wait in line, and be sure to buy your tickets online before visiting.
Pay homage to the greats at Basilica of Santa Croce. One of my first stops in Florence was the Basilica of Santa Croce to see where some of Florence’s great historical figures had been laid to rest. Among those you can pay your respects to are Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei and Machiavelli. Surprisingly, this site was sparsely visited, so you are able to really take your time through the church and admire the tombs that are works of art in their own right.
See the open-air sculpture garden. When you walk arrive upon Piazza della Signoria you realize just how rich the Italian history is and how lucky these Florentines are. In the midst of the city center is Loggia dei Lanzi, a structure in the corner of the Piazza, which houses many notable sculptures – including the Rape of Sabine by Giambologna. It’s easy to imagine each of these sculptures housed in some museum, but here they are out in the open for the taking and for no charge.
Shop Until You Drop. If I were giving superlatives to each city I visited, Florence would receive best shopping. If you are looking for labels you will find beautifully curated showrooms from Prada, Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo. Tourists flock to these locations, and purchase these designer fashions like it was the last day they were being made. If you want fine leather goods, they can be found all about town. The leather markets offer expertly crafted purses, belts, wallets and jackets. My only mistake was not bringing a larger suitcase, so I could take all these goods back with me.