After three full days in Italy, we got to visit some of the most incredible places in this beautiful country. We’re actually staying with a friend who lives in the mountains, in a picturesque small village called Castiglione dei Peopli, in the province of Bologna. It is a quiet and relaxing place from which we took a train to the more spectacular and bustling Florence (Firenze), the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany.
Florence is packed with history and tourists as well. Being famous for its medieval centre, Florence is also considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called the Athens of the Middle Ages. Due to its architectural and cultural heritage, Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it’s not just Wikipedia who’s saying this :)
We’ve spent only one day in Florence, but it was enough to put it on our top ten favourite places in the world. It is indeed a cradle of culture, art and history and its main attraction is the domed cathedral of the city, Santa Maria del Fiore, known as The Duomo, built by Filippo Brunelleschi. It is also the largest dome built in brick and mortar in the world and it’s simply breathtaking. You can climb to the roof of it and admire the limitless beauty of the city.
The Palazzo Vecchio as well as the Duomo, or the city’s Cathedral, are the two buildings which dominate Florence’s skyline. But what I loved more was Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) with its multitude of shops built upon its edges, held up by stilts. However, don’t buy anything from the pretty shops of jewelry, they are incredibly expensive.
Colourful, breathing history and carrying thousands of impressed tourists, the bridge is also a place for the lovers to promise eternal love. Legend has it that if you and your loved one attach a padlock to any surface of the famous bridge and then throw away the key into the Arno River below, your love will last forever. Millions of couples have come to the Ponte Vecchio for this reason, to lock in their love and throw away the key for eternity.
From the Old Bridge, you can stroll across the banks of river Arno and visit Michelangelo’s oasis of inspiration, that is his own square. It is fascinating how many piazze (squares) and streets you can find in Florence and all of them carry statues of Roman warriors, gods and goddesses, painters, poets and lots of other universal geniuses who’ve influenced the culture of our world.
Out of all, Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square) is the most famous one due to its magnificent panoramic view of Florence. After climbing countless stairs and lose your breath, you’ll realise the effort was worth it. Built at a time when Florence was the capital of Italy, in 1869, the square was designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi on a hill just south of the historic center, during the redevelopment of the left bank of the Arno (the South side of the river) according to Wikipedia.
The immense loggia was built in the neoclassical style and it dominates the whole terrace, which houses a panoramic restaurant and not a museum as it was supposed to be in the beginning. However, this place is where you can recharge your batteries for another year of work, urban stress and daily problems.
Once you get there it’s easy to understand why they say that Michelangelo would come to the top of this hill to regain his inspiration. It’s absolutely stunning and the panorama embraces the heart of Florence from Forte Belvedere to Santa Croce, across the lungarni and the bridges crossing the Arno, including the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, the Bargello and the octagonal bell tower of the Badia Fiorentina. Beyond the view of the city itself are the hills of Settignano and Fiesole.
With its cultural cafes, bourgeois palaces, narrow streets and the multitude of squares, Firenze is definitely a place to visit at least once in a lifetime. You can hear music, you can see overwhelming architecture and you can feel the culture running through this incredible Italian city.
Our next trip is to Cinque Terre and we’ll tell you more about it in the next post. Keep an eye on our blog. Ciao!