How beautiful is youth, that is always slipping away! Whoever wants to be happy, let him be so: of tomorrow there’s no knowing. -Lorenzo De’ Medici
I’m finally in Florence again. One of my favorite cities in Europe. Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, holds so many of my favorite things in one place: history, art, wine, food, beautiful architecture, lovely views, and gardens. I do realize I just described things that can be found in many cities, in Europe, but Florence is special.
I spent the next three days here, re-exploring many of my favorite places with my mom. Sure, I had “done” and “seen” many of this before, but I knew what my mom would enjoy… and I knew I would enjoy them all over again. Honestly, I get to appreciate so many amazing cities for far too short a time, so I welcome opportunities to soak it all in… slowly if possible.
When we arrived it was a bit overcast, but the temperatures were nice. After checking in, we hit up the street markets for a time before stopping at Florence’s main cathedral, the Duomo; formally Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. This 13th-century Gothic cathedral is one of the largest in Italy and features a dome that, until the modern era, was the largest in the world. This dome dominates the skyline from all views. You can climb the 436 stairs to the top for what I am told are breathtaking views. After my near claustrophobia enduced panic-attack at St. Peter’s in Rome, I decided to just take people’s word for it!
Florence is a very walkable city, especially the historic center. Sure, it’s crowded with tourists, pretty much year round, but I think (except in the summer months), it’s not overbearing. We spent a lot of time walking aimlessly. We window-shopped on the Ponte Vecchio bridge, we appreciated the replicas of famous statues at the open-air gallery in Piazza Signora. I’m in love with the Uffizi, but mom loves gardens more than artwork, thus opted to explore the Boboli Gardens of the Pitti Palace instead. I’m notably impressed by the Palatine Gallery inside and the Royal Apartments of the Duke and Duchess. Every room is stunning and complete with wonderful pieces of art by Lippi, Raphael and Botticelli. The ceilings feature amazing fresco after amazing fresco; most depicting Roman Gods in various scenes.
After the gallery (almost overwhelmed with beauty) we venture out to the sprawling Boboli gardens. Arlene and I spent more than an hour wandering different sections of the garden two years ago and after today I’ve still seen only a small section! At a viewpoint overlooking Florence I’m reminded of the priceless views that Piazza Michelangelo provides above town, so we’re soon heading there, hoping to make it before sunset.
There was a large crowd of people… sipping wine, cuddled together, laughing in groups and just leisurely waiting for the sun to drop. We join this crowd on the steps to watch the glorious Florentine sunset so many Renaissance artists praise. It was stunning and one of my favorite sunsets while traveling. The Duomo stands majestically over the other red-roofed buildings, set against the golden light of the sunset and mountainous landscape. The temperature cooled quite a bit as soon as the sun was gone.
The following morning, I relived one of my all-time favorite days ever by heading up into the Tuscan countryside to enjoy a cooking class. Completely losing track of the days, we had missed our scheduled class yesterday, but were lucky they had room for us on our last day! We had the morning free so we spent time checking out the Medici-Riccardi Palace. Often credited with spring-boarding the Renaissance, (named the “Godfathers of the Renaissance” in a PBS documentary) the Medici’s were major art-patrons and supported many famous artists, including Botticelli, da Vinci, and the young 15-year old Michelangelo. This being said, it’s unsurprising to find the important frescoes of Benozzo Gozzoli inside. The famous Procession of the Magi, found in Magi Chapel, occupies the entire room, floor to ceiling. It is a small space, crowded with people, but despite that it’s easy to get lost in the vast scene… exploring all the small details in the frescoes.
Back outside we find Dante’s house and later, head to the Santa Croce church before it’s time to meet our small group for the cooking class! A short drive takes us out of Florence and into the lovely Chianti countryside. I particularly like this cooking class, because we are cooking in a historical private home, as opposed to a cooking school. While making the homemade pasta and ravioli, I VOW to finally make some at home. I plan to wander Little Italy for the perfect ingredients and have a go at duplicating my efforts in my own kitchen. Once the pasta is made, we head up to Christiana’s kitchen, where she serves us bruschetta, pizza, and a delicious zucchini frittata. As we all joke, laugh and get to know each other better, Christiana gets ready to cook the fresh ravioli we just made (which only needs to boil 2 minutes!) She realizes she forgot sage, so our host, Anne, runs out to the garden to pick some and viola… a quick sauté in butter and sage and the ravioli is done. These simple ingredients are flavorful. The group lingers here over delicious food and wine, with the Tuscan hillside as a backdrop, until eventually it’s time to leave.
My time here in Florence was just as wonderful as I knew it would be. If I ever move to Italy, I think Florence shall suit me fine.