So, back in Florence after a 'week on the road' we needed to find a laundromat, and relaxed while the wash was on.  Afterwards we went loking for a restaurant to which we had been recommended when we first were in Florence but could not find: La Spada. This time we were successful and enjoyed a meal of roasted chicken and vegetables rather than pasta for a change. Just as we were finishing we struck up a conversation with the two gentlemen at the adjacent table, Johnny and Jean-Francois- two Canadians. We sat and chatted so long that the restaurant cleared out and the waiter brought us some cantucci and vinsanto for dessert “on the house”, as a subtle hint that they were getting ready to close. Jean-Francois is the Director of Archeology for  the Museum of Canada and Johnny is his companion.

Today was our “museum day.”  We had arranged for tickets to the Uffizi Museum via the internet from Ojai and the Hotel Nizza desk clerk helped arrange for tickets to the  Museo dell’Academia. We were at the Uffizi a little after 10 am and there were already long lines. Fortunately, having already purchased the tickets, we were able to go right in. Unfortunately, as is true in most of the museums, personal photography is prohibited.


The Uffizi was built in the 16th century to house the offices of the Medici family. It’s frescoed halls are lined with ancient statuary and it houses the Medici’s collection of some of the Renaissance’s finest artwork. As we wandered,  we saw an incredible amount of artwork including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Annunciation and Michelangelo’s Holy Family, as well as works by Titian, Raphael, Lippi, Caravaggio, El Greco – all the works we see in the art books.


Afterwards we wandered towards the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge over the Arno built in 1345. It houses a large collection of multi-colored jewelry stores jammed together on the bridge, many of which remain in the same family as when Cosimi di Medici invited them to set up business there in the 1500’s. Over the bridge, connecting the Palazzo Vecchio (the di Medici palace next to the Uffizi) with the Pitti Palace on the other side of the river, is “Vasari’s Corridor” built on the Di Medici’s order so they could walk between the two palaces without having to mix with the common people.

After lunch we walked to the Museo dell’ Academia which houses, among other sculpture pieces, Michelangelo’s original David.  Again, being able to avoid a long line because of the reservations, we entered and saw the statue. It dominates the wing of the museum being sixteen feet tall and on a six foot pedestal. It was moved from the Piazza della Signoria in 1873 to its present custom-designed room. It is an astonishing piece of art; all the pictures one sees of it cannot capture the beauty and sensitivity of the whole. It stands among many other Michelangelo sculptures both finished and unfinished.

That evening we chose to go to a restaurant near the hotel, “Trebbio,” and were seated at a table with a couple from Sunnyvale, CA and another from Heidelburg, Germany- Wolf and Petra. Wolf works for Westinghouse’s Nuclear Energy Division.  Dinner was accompanied by a wonderful conversation with fellow travelers.

Up and out the next morning to visit “Il Duomo.”  It sits as the ceiling of Florence’s cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, a magnificence of multi-colored marble. The dome was built during the 1400’s, designed and built by Brunelleschi, and was a wonder of the age. It is larger than St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, wider than the U.S. Capitol’s dome and was built without flying buttresses. It weighs 37,000 tons! The cathedral complex also includes a Baptistery with magnificent bronze doors,  “The Gates of Paradise”, and an impressive Bell Tower designed by Giotto. 

We joined a small line andhappened to meet Wolf and Petra again. The inside of the church is spacious and the dome stretches upwards with fascinating frescoes.    We had to leave the church proper and enter into another line to climb to the top of the dome- 463 steps! It was a lot of work and we climbed the stone steps between the walls that were used by the masons who originally built the dome. The pathway winds onto a walkway inside of the dome and we had the opportunity to look down on the main floor and get a very close up look at the fresco work.   

The path to the top becomes narrower and steeper and opens up through a narrow trap-door entrance to the viewing area.

What a magnificent view of Florence and the surrounding area. We, again, ran into Wolf and Petra enjoying the vista.
The descent, along the same route used to climb to the dome, was easier (gravity helping) but the narrowness caused traffic congestion at different places along the way.

We headed towards the Arno and visited the Museo di Storia Della Scienza  – the Science Museum.  It is full of scientific equipment from the Renaissance and includes some of Galileo’s materials including the telescope with which he discovered the satellites of Jupiter and some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s clocks. Then we kept on walking through Florence until dinnertime.

The next day we were off to the Venice via the train.  Before pulling our suitcases to the nearby train station, we wandered into a large indoor market filled with butcher shops, produce stands, cheese shops, fish markets, and stores selling oils, wines and much more. A wonderful experience for the senses and really represented the culinary culture of the Florentines.

The train station was busy, but we did run into Wolf and Petra again- they were on their way to Pisa for a day trip.  Our trip was uneventful, whizzing across the northern Italian countryside towards Venice; comfortable seats and we enjoyed a three course meal in the dining car – so civilized; quite a step up from Amtrak.


Click here to continue our Italy trip (Venice)