After we all finally got to Rome from the Amalfi Coast two Sundays ago, my family spent three days touring the city. The first Monday they hopped on a bus at 7:30am for a 14 hour day trip to Assisi and Orvieto, two Medieval towns in the countryside of Umbria. Unfortunately I couldn’t go because I had class, but I was able to meet up with them in between their tours on Tuesday when they were back in Rome.
That Wednesday evening we took a train together from Termini to the Santa Maria Novella station in Florence. We checked into the Mona Lisa hotel, which was beautifully decorated in Renaissance decor. The door to our room actually looked more like a hidden secret passageway than a door!
The next four days were go go go!
Thursday was our first full day in Florence and we started with a general “best of Florence” walking tour that met at Piazza San Marco. Florence is a small city, but yet so rich in art, history, and culture! From the piazza we toured the city and saw its most iconic monuments, most of which were located in the heart at Piazza del Duomo. The Duomo of Florence is the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and is the fourth largest church in Europe. Alongside the Duomo is Giotto’s gothic bell tower. The Duomo is massively impressive…I couldn’t even take just one picture encompassing the whole scene. We also visited the Galleria dell’Accademia, an art museum home to Michelangelo’s statue of David. David was finished in 1504 and stands 17 feet tall. Michelangelo’s mastery of the human anatomy is truly outstanding…our group spent at least 20 minutes just admiring! The Ponte Vecchio crossing the Arno is Florence’s oldest (1345) bridge and the only one that survived bombing during WWII. It was especially charming at night, when all the shops along it were closed and padlocked resembling a collection of old chests.
After the tour and a short break for lunch, we had a private afternoon visit to the Uffizzi Gallery, which houses a huge collection of art pieces that originally belonged to the Medici family. Once a powerful political and royal house in Florence during the 14th Century, the last heiress in the 18th Century bore no children and so willed all the personal property of the Medici to the Tuscan state. Thanks to the family’s sponsorship of art and architecture, the Uffizi holds famous works like Giotto’s Madonna, Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and La Primavera, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Annunciation, as well as works by Raphaelle, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and many others.
On Friday it was off to yet another location! With our luggage in tow, we took a bus day trip to Siena, San Gimignano, and Chianti in the Tuscan countryside, complete with medieval hill towns, wine tasting, and bell tower climbing.
Once we came back to Florence, we immediately headed for the train station to travel further north to Venice. Getting out of the Santa Lucia station once we arrived summed up Venice in a nutshell: the exit led us to the Canal Grande where we had the option of either taking a water taxi or the water bus! There are no cars, not even mopeds! We decided to take a taxi since it was dark and late, and what a good decision that was! The taxi pulled up right to a little port in front of the Ca’ dei Conti hotel. If we had decided to walk, who knows where we would have ended up. Even though Venice is probably my favorite city in Italy, its also the most difficult to navigate. The roads are more like alleys and are connected by little bridges.
Our first full day again began with a general walking tour, which included Piazza San Marco and Doges Palace. The renaissance feel was apparent all throughout the city. Every street vendor and boutique were selling Carnevale masks. It was exciting for me because I’m currently reading the play “Il Servitore di Due Padroni” by Carlo Goldoni in 1743 for my Italian theater class. The play takes place in Venice (some of it is actually written in Venetian dialect) and is performed around Carnevale for Commedia dell’arte. We passed the statue of Goldoni in Campo San Bartolomeo on the tour, so it was cool to put what I’ve learned at school into perspective.
My favorite part of the trip was the gondola ride! The “romantic waterways of Venice” tour passed along the Canal Grande and the Rialto, the most famous bridge in Venice. Unfortunately it costs over 100 euro for the gondolier to sing, but the experience was still just so amazing! I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
The weather on Saturday was rainy and windy but I can’t say it didn’t fit with the Venetian water-city vibe. We took a boat to the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. Murano is known throughout the world for its glass manufacturing industry. We stopped only for about 40 minutes to visit one of the factories and watch a craftsman in action. The second stop in Burano was picturesque…the city is known for its lace but also for its fisherman’s houses painted in bright colors. The last stop was in Torcello, the first center of civilization in the estuary.
The rest of our last day in Venice was spent inside our hotel, not only because of the rain, but also because we were exhausted! It was definitely a very long and busy week of traveling but I spent it with my family and saw more than I’ve seen since being abroad. Leave it to my mom to pack over 10 cities in our itinerary! 🙂