There are plenty of places in the world where I would tell you to avoid the tourist traps. Many are just moneymaking sites with junk shops enveloping them. In Florence, the junk shops and street vendors are in abundance, however, most of the touristy sites are must-sees.
After seeing the Duomo on my first day, I wandered around debating whether to go to Boboli Gardens next or to the Uffizi Gallery. After about an hour, I decided on the Uffizi Gallery. I was almost to the entrance and began to wonder why I didn’t see anyone. This art museum is known for long queues. And then it hit me: it was Monday. For some reason, many of the museums in Florence are closed on Mondays. I had even read this in my guide book yet somehow it failed to register when it came time to map my route. Bummed that I spent so much time overcoming my indecisiveness, just to be back at square one, I headed to Ponte Vecchio. A bridge not far from the Uffizi, it is well known for all the glittering jewelry you can find in the shop windows. Built in 1345, it was originally lined with butcher shops, but they were replaced with the jewelry shops in the 16th century- a wise choice considering the leftover meat parts that were once tossed into the Arno River. On my way there, I checked out Florence’s chalk art. After doing what I do best (i.e. window shopping) I strolled down the opposite side of the Arno River and walked uphill to Piazzale Michelangelo.
With sweeping views of the city, Piazzale Michelangelo is a great place to see the Duomo, Santa Croce, San Lorenzo, and Ponte Vecchio from afar. It is also home of one of the two fake David statues (the other is on the Palazzo Vecchio). These replicas of Michelangelo’s David were satisfactory in my opinion, however you can pay to see the original at Galleria dell’Accademia if you wish.
On the set of steps on the west side of the piazza, a band was playing. I sat down and watched for a little while, waiting for the sun to set. The band wrapped up, and after playing the waiting game, I finally got some night shots of Florence.
My next day in Florence, I got up early to run. I crossed the Arno River and ran up to Piazzale Michelangelo, but this time I continued on 5 minutes further up the road to a church above it. I never did catch the name of it but it has a terrace on the west side with another view of the Duomo.
After my run it was time to try my luck again at the Uffizi Gallery. The Uffizi (meaning offices) was designed by Vasari in the 16th century to house Florence’s administrators. It was later modified to hold the Medici’s private art collection on the upper floor. The art gallery today has over 1500 pieces including works like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and several Caravaggios. Sadly, there was a Caravaggio exhibition in Rome so his works were not present when I went. His dramatic use of lighting, known as chiaroscuro, is usually a giveaway to his pieces. Luckily when I made it to Rome, I got to see two Caravaggios at Chiesa di Santa Maria del Popolo.
My favorite piece in the Uffizi was da Vinci’s unfinished Adoration of the Magi. His soft line work and depiction of Mary attracted me to this piece. I enjoyed seeing so many classics housed under one roof. However, I hate to admit it, but after walking for hours and seeing hundreds and hundreds of works similar in religious subject matter and style, I began to under appreciate the mastery skill level that is present in most of these pieces. It was like, ‘Oh there’s yet another Madonna & Child,’ I was ready for a change of scenery by the time I left the Uffizi, but it was well worth the visit!