I wanted to do a series of articles on Florence as I did on Venice but unfortunately some minor health problems prevent me from sitting in front of a screen for too long. But I really wanted to talk about this city and this very nice trip I had, so here is a brief post about the Medici’s town.
Before you go, think carefully about what you want to see, why you want to go there. Museums are very expensive and with queues that can be as impressive as the collections inside. So if you’re going to Florence to enjoy the arts, then the museum pass (72€ for 72€ for about 50 museums and churches) is a must. If you’re more interesting in walking in the city, enjoying the gardens, the shop and the food, you can avoid this expense. I spent 2 and a half day there, and without the pass, I would have paid around 95€ for all the museums I visited. But I had come mainly to visit.
I found the prices for food less of a disgrace than in Venice. Of course, if you buy an icecream on the Ponte Vecchio you’re going to pay 5€ for one scoop. But as soon as you go into less crowded streets, prices are reasonable. A tourist guide (Routard, Lonely Planet) is a must to know where to eat for reasonable prices.
What to see
I don’t know what impressed me more, the collections or the building. I really think that the groups who visit this museum and rush from one masterpiece to the other are missing the point. The galleries are amazing, you don’t know where to look. The ceilings are beautiful, the portraits of all the rulers of a dozen of European states are fascinating (especially if you can play “who’s that?”), and it get even better when you realise that this ‘museum’ was actually the corridor linking the Medici’s home to their workplace. When you’re wondering what to put on the corridor outside your office (if you’re allowed to), they were doing the same thing but with masterpieces from da Vinci or Michelangelo….
I simply love this building, its architecture. It’s a bit of a labyrinth and I honestly cannot remember which paintings I saw there. Statues, wonderful frescos, beautiful pieces of furniture, amazing maps….
And of course, have a look at the reproduction of Michelangelo’s David in front of the Palazzo. Lovely hands…
It’s free, the painting of the dome is amazing, and it looks so modest and empty inside compared to the outside.
I had some fun calculating the density of painting per square metre on the walls. I don’t remember the figure I arrived at but it was pretty impressive. A bit too much to be honest. Most of the paintings are post-Renaissance, so if this is not your thing, you’d better avoid it. The gardens behind are amazing though.
Where the great men are buried. If you want to pay your respects to Machiavelli, Galileo or Michelangelo, this is where you have to stop.
Gloves: Madova, just after the Ponte Vecchio. Hand-made quality gloves at reasonable prices (41€ for a pair of suede gloves, they last for years, tried and tested).
Paper and stationery: Florence is known for its paper. I stopped at a shop called il Papiro (on the way to Palazzo Pitti) but there are a couple of other shops where the traditional Florentine paper is sold.
I wished I had been able to tell you more but I hope this gives you a brief overview of the city. I really like Florence, I find it more agreeable than Roma or Venice. The people were very kind, and I never got the impression that they were considering the tourists as a resource to be exploited. Strangely enough, I haven’t spoken Italian for nearly 6 years now, but my Italian went back pretty quickly, at least for the basics, enough to interact with sale assistants, whereas in Venice I simply couldn’t remember a word, and quite frankly they didn’t make me feel like trying.