We had the opportunity to visit Pisa and Florence twice during our two months in Italy. The first time we were with family for our cruise’s port of call. We visited Florence for a second time to be able to do a few more things we had missed the first time. Here are ten things we enjoyed the most during our visits.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
After years of yearning to visit Italy, Pisa ended up being our first city of Italy! It was more than exciting, we finally made it! Even though our first hour in Italy was on a bus to Pisa, we will never forget the moments leading up to Pisa. The grounds of Pisa were beautiful with the four structures devoted to the church, no wonder why they call it the Square of Miracles. We gawked at the beauty of the architecture and of course the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Since we were on a time crunch with the cruise, we quickly walked around the Square of Miracles and then spent 80% of our time trying to capture that perfect Leaning Tower of Pisa picture. We never did.
Enjoying Traditional Tuscan Cuisine
Our first bite of Italy! Our tour guide recommended a traditional Tuscan meal to us that we knew we had to try, coccoli. What is coccoli? It is heaven in one bite. Fried bread dough served with prosciutto and stracchino cheese. You take the fried bread dough, open it in half like a sandwich, spread the stracchino cheese (if mozzarella and mascarpone cheese were to have a baby) and finish it with prosciutto. The result is amazing!!! It is fully carb loaded, rich and creamy from the cheese and then luxuriously salty from the prosciutto. Yum, we need some pronto!
Church of Santa Croce
The Church of Santa Croce is also known as the church of “Italian Glories” because many famous Italians have been buried here, including the one and only, Michelangelo. Though we did not go inside, we have been told it is magnificent with its architecture and wonderful Florentine stained glass.
Piazza della Signoria
We loved the L-shaped square, Piazza della Signoria! It is known as a common meeting place and Florence’s political hub. We enjoyed the square because there was so much open space with beautiful architecture and sculptures surrounding us everywhere we turned. Two main attractions within Piazza della Signoria is Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of the city and Loggia dei Lanzi, an open air sculpture gallery.
A few sculptures that stood out the most to us were: Perseus with the Head of Medusa, Fountain of Neptune, Searching for Utopia, Equestrian Monument of Cosimo I.
The Uffizi Gallery is known to be one of Italy’s most important museums that carries art collections from the Italian Renaissance. We did not go inside, but we did walk through the courtyard that boasts 28 sculptures of important historical figures from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
However, we were not paying attention to the sculptures because there was a classic auto show and our eyes were on the prize! The most beautiful cars were sitting and driving through the courtyard. There were classic cars dating back to the 1920’s, an Aston Martin that was featured in a James Bond movie and the most beautiful cars on earth – Ferraris. Walking through the Uffizi Courtyard may not always be this glamorous, but it is always beautiful with its architecture and sculptures.
The famous stone arch bridge! You cannot go to Florence without walking across Ponte Vecchio. Some may say you cannot go to Florence without buying something from a shop in Ponte Vecchio, but we say otherwise. Though the bridge is known for its luxurious jewelry, leather and art stores, we found the stores more of a tourist trap. Do not get us wrong, we enjoyed walking Ponte Vecchio, but do not recommend buying anything from there.
We stopped along the overlooks on the bridge to see the Arno River and felt like we had suddenly escaped all the tourists crowding around the shops. Looking out to the river and buildings alongside it was very peaceful and is what makes Florence so beautiful.
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
We will never forget that moment when we turned a corner and our eyes met the glorious, Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Wow! This is a cathedral you cannot miss while in Italy. Pictures do not do it justice. It took our breathe away. The magnitude of how grand it really is was a sight to see alone. The detail of the cathedral is remarkable. We love its colors of white, green and shades of red as well as the architecture – they are so different than most cathedrals. It has so many elements: a brick dome, the bell tower, the façade, and bronze golden doors. The façade from far away is beautiful, but up close it is exquisite!
We regret not being able to go inside, but we were not able to because of time. Side note: we loved our cruise, but the time limit of what we could see and do was really unfortunate.
We hiked up to Piazzale Michelangelo the second time we visited Florence. We could have taken a bus or taxi, but we were being budget friendly and enjoy walking through the city, even if it was a steep uphill. We had to work off our pizza, pasta and gelato some how!
This piazza is dedicated to the city’s most beloved Renaissance artist, Michelangelo, therefore, it showcases some of his greatest works. There are replicas of the 4 bronze statues depicting Day, Night, Dawn, and Dusk and of course, a bronze replica of the Statue of David. Though it is not the original, it is still magnificent and a nice alternative if the La Accademia Gallery is closed, which is what happened to us.
Lastly, and the main reason we hiked our way up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, is for the best panoramic views of the city – no questions asked. They are priceless views you cannot get anywhere else. You can see both Ponte Vecchio and Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore perfectly! We stayed at the piazza for what seemed like forever because we could not get enough of the view.
Ever since I saw a picture of my friends under this beautiful green canopy, I wanted to visit it for myself, but the funny thing was they forget where they took the picture! After a ton of research I found it, Ragnaie, also known as, Spiders Lane, at the Boboli Gardens. I wanted to visit the Boboli Gardens just to walk through the beautiful Spiders Lane so on our second visit to Florence we finally made it happen! We did not rush to Spiders Lane, we actually went through the garden based on the chronological order of the map. We saw some wonderful sculptures, a grotto and more along our way.
The interesting part is that Spiders Lane was not even featured on the map. We walked to places we thought depicted tree archers until we finally found it!Though the trees were not in full bloom, it was still magical. We cannot remember how many times we walked up and down because it was so peaceful and romantic. I think we could have stayed sitting on one of the benches all day long.
Desserts at the Four Seasons Florence
Another reason why we visited Florence twice, to try desserts from one of Italy’s best pastry chefs! Dessert and traveling is what we are all about. The desserts at the Four Seasons Florence are helmed by award winning pastry chef, Domenico Di Clemente. We were able to sit in the Atrium Bar & Lounge and order three desserts off the Michelin One Star restaurant, Il Palagio. They were the best desserts we have ever had!!!! So much creativity and techniques we have never seen before. If you don’t mind spending a little extra, then Il Palagio is a restaurant not to be missed on your next trip to Florence.
Florence you were wonderful!