"You Become Forgotten and Rediscovered by Florence" Florence by mydreamquest
Florence Travel Guide: 5,082 reviews and 11,268 photos
Earlier, last April 2005 or so, I had been planning a trip to Europe. By June, I had decided on Vienna, Salzburg, Zurich, Cinque Terre, and Venice. After planning the various permutations of train schedules, fell dubious over the idea of heading all the way to the Italian Riviera and asked a co-worker, who is Italian American, and who travels often, which place in Italy she'd go to if she were forced to see one place in all of Italy.
With little hesitation, she said Florence. In the 11th hour of my planning, I changed my lodging from Cinque Terre to Florence and planned a 4 day stay there. It was perhaps the best decision I made in planning for my 2005 vacation. I left Salzburg at 7am on a 2 1/2 hour train ride headed to Villach. From Villach, I took the 10:36am train on another 2 1/2 hour train ride from Villach to Venice Mestre (the first train stop in Venice prior to Santa Lucia) and arrived 20 minutes late and was panicking that I would miss my 1:34pm train headed to Florence (the train to Napoli). Running with others in a panic to get on the train, I had to run all the way to the end as I was in first class.
Luckily, the Napoli train was 40 minutes late too! I soon learned about the chaos of the Italian train system. It's not like that in all of Italy, but delays are more common I learned. I got into the "first class" cabin in an non-airconditioned tight quarters and was with a priest from the Phillipines and an American GI family stationed out of Kaiserslaughtern, Germany. It was not first class at all and was the most uncomfortable ride of all my Eurorail experiences. But it was adventurous chatting with others and where they'd came from. The priest came from Cologne as he saw the Pope and his first visit to Germany. The GI family had been in Venice and told me of their journies. I told of my journies in Vienna and Salzburg. It was bonding.
I arrived at Santa Maria Novella Station in Firenze (the Italian spelling for "Florence) quickly attempted to orient myself with the circular motion and non-linear starting point at the Central Station to navigate myself to Via Fiume, where my hotel was located. The initial impression is that Florence is fast paced, adventurous, objective, slightly run down and hurrying, not in the Paris or London sense, but maybe in the Frankfurt, Germany sense.
Upon arriving at my hotel and being greeted by a lovely, nameless concierge whose presence invigorated my energies with a familiarity one gets when one sees a woman that echos the sensation of the humble beauty of a sincere Mona Lisa, I gradually began to understand Firenze. Firenze: an openly friendly city with nothing to lose as, in life, if one really thinks about it, it in itself is already the most miraculous victory: to be: here: alive in this great world, this great miracle where if the earth had been realligned only a mile closer to the sun, how, none this existence may have ever even occurred!
As art, and a modern sense of intellectuality seems to have been born in Firenze, it seems appropriate that Firenze is crowned as the city that gave birth to the Renaissance period; an age of modernity civility and artistic ponderance.
In my four days here, I had many moments of bewilderment as to asking myself, "who am I?" "why am I here?" "what is existence?" "Is this existence?" "am I really alive and living here?"
The charm of Firenze often makes you question yourself if life really exists or is all of this we see and experience nothing more than a lucky dream?
If you can, stay at least 5 days in Firenze. Also, consider visiting Firenze during May, June, and September when the days are long, sun is out, and the presence of tourists is not as overwhelming as it can be during July and August.
The Hotel Albani was an excellent hotel to stay in, located 5 minutes from from the Santa Maria Station and a short walk to everything else that Firenze was famous for. There have been many theories as to how Firenze got it's name. Some relating to the "Flow" (in Italian it's "fluentia") of the Arno River, others from the Roman times when Fiorino was sent by the Roman Emperor to subdue Fiesole in the 1st Century.
I think even an argument could be based on the "fiery intensity" of Firenze's warmth. I mean it, there is really something special about the feel of the Tuscany Sun. Here where I live, in Northern California, the sun is cruel, sharp, invasive, angry, and cutting. But the Tuscany sun that looks over Firenze is loving, sweet, and even drowning in the romantically intoxicating sense. I wonder if the multitude of orange and red tile roof buildings and narrow streets contribute to the pacification and even cooperate encourangement of life that the Tuscany Sun emits.
A very good travel guide that will keep you focused while you're traveling to Firenze is Fodor's "See it Florence & Tuscany." It's an excellent book with useful historical details, excellent pictures, and current tips on etiquette, food, history, museums, lodging information, traveler tips, and a very useful map.
I stayed at the Hotel Albani based on a recommendation by a friend. It was probably the best overall hotel I stayed at in my trip.
The architectural landmark of Firenze is the huge Duomo and the Campanile right next to it (that huge thin tower). Climb the Duomo but be prepared for the many stairs you'll climb. It's well worth it though. The view and the refreshing Tuscany breeze will put a huge smile on your face as it did me here.
Some important names that you will see often in your stay in Firenze: Michelangelo, Brunelleschi (most important architect in Firenze during the Renaissance period who was involved in all the primary cathedrals in Firenze, the Medici's (the Family that held power in Firenze from 1434-1743), Dante (great poet famous for writing "the Divine Comedy" and "Inferno"), Machiavelli, and Gallileo.
This picture is me loving every minute of my 4 day visit to Firenze.
Dinner in Firenze is a great experience because after your meal, you'll have the glory of walking the lovely streets at night in awe of all her beauties. Although this is not a clear picture, this was the best picture I could find of the Piazza del Duomo. In the foreground is the Bapitistry area of Santa Maria del Fiore (Santa Maria del Fiore is called "Duomo" for short which I think means "dome" or "cathedral." The actual cathedral is of course behind this and the towering Campanile is adjacent here on the right.
There is an awakening sort of dream-like imagery as you walk about the old town area of Firenze at night. There's an awe of diversity of tourists and true Florentines disguised in the mixture as well. There's music, people talking everywhere, pictures being flashed where ever you go, and historical points of reference as unobtrusive as tree branches.
One moment you'll find yourself on a street where Dante was married, the next moment, you'll walk by the Bapistry whose doors were proclaimed by Michelangelo himself as being "the gates of paradise."
Gelato stands everywhere and those sitting in the outdoors people watching you! Window shopping is abound and history shopping sometimes can be done in the same vision.
In my "things to do" section, I will try to give you a priority list on what I thought were the best things to see. If you plan on staying there for 4 or more days, the order should not have much relevance as you'll be happily allowed to take your time and enjoy the experience.
- Pros:Historically fertile, the lovely sun, the mesmorizing warmth of the Tuscany Sun
- Cons:Too many tourists, Expensive, can be crowded
- In a nutshell:A Place that is the Echo's Constant Replication of a Warm Dream
Initially, I thought I was at the Duomo when I found this cathedral. The inside dome was not all that spectacular... more travel advice
I read about a bronze statue of a boar known as "Il Porcellino" (or the little pig) over at Mercato Nuovo. This... more travel advice
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