Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Home of the Medici

Since our first family vacation in Paris, we had never been able to find more than a week in Europe at a time.  While we made many memories during our trip to Rome, we had also wished we had more time to spare to explore more in that part of Italy.  This time, we had nothing to complain about!  We had all of two weeks to spend in the crucible of the Italian Renaissance and the heart of Tuscany: the city of Florence.

Like we always do in Europe, we booked ourselves an apartment in the old city quarters. We made our home in the Oltrarno area across the river from the main attractions.  The historic Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge across the Arno, was only steps away.

Florence is a small city.  You can pretty much cover the entire city on foot.  We had immense fun planning our walks through this city steeped in history.  Every street, every lane, and every old building has a story to tell.  While the city square and a few medieval buildings illustrate its rich past from the time of the Roman Empire, much of its attraction comes from later times when it gave birth to the wellspring of art and science leading to the birth of the European Renaissance.

Ponte Vecchio is one of the more interesting old bridges I have seen. The entire bridge is lined with jewellery shops on both sides, restriction open views of the river only at the middle where a bronze statue of an old goldsmith holds court; the numerous padlocks affixed here by lovers is a more recent tradition signifying eternal bondage.

Ponte Vecchio is the only old bridge in Florence to escape bombing during the Second World War; the rest were reconstructed after the War.  Apparently, the Nazis had taken a liking to the bridge and instead bombed the approaches to it to slow the Allied advance.  Unfortunately, another famous tri-arched bridge designed by Michelangelo did not have such luck!

Most visitors to Florence will want to tour the museums.  It is best to book them in advance from their official websites.  Other sites offer tickets but usually sell them at higher prices that include guided tours, but the official site is the cheapest. The Uffizi is at the top of everyone's list and for good reason. Plan ahead; the tour will take at least three hours.

Along with the Louvre in Paris and The Vatican in Rome, the Uffizi forms the top three museums in the world.  The Accademia is another popular one on the tourists’ list, but usually for one work alone - Michealangelo’s David, which is truly breathtaking to behold even in spite of all the hype.

In the first few days in this historic city, we took in the sights, sounds and food slowly.  On the days we visited museums, we would rest our feet and cook our own dinner in the evenings.  It was asparagus season here and truffles were everywhere in the markets!

Along with the local groceries, cheese, and bread, our chicken and pasta dinners made for some memorable evenings as chatted late into the night over local Tuscan wines on everything we had seen earlier in the day.

Next in this series: Touring Tuscany


Suhel Banerjee said...

Khub shundor. Loved the personal, casual style and the attention to details. Also, the idea of a 2 week vacation in one city in an apartment all to yourselves is so much more exciting than a 10 nation Euro Trip in 10 days.

Shantanu said...

@Suhel: Thanks for visiting. Yup, that’s the best way to experience a new city!