Today is our day to head to Florence for the day. Mike and I had high expectations for today and we were excited to start! We headed down to our included breakfast buffet and ate outside which was lovely. Today is also Tracy’s official birthday, and our Adventure Guides presented her with a cake for breakfast!
We all boarded our bus and instead of Marco’s Italian music playing, our Adventure Guide Mike high-jacked it for a song in honor of Tracy’s birthday- it was neat to hear a bus load of adventurers singing along to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”!
Before we new it we arrived at an overlook Mike and Marco loved to stop at to take pictures- and it really was worth it. You could see for miles on a clear day- and today it was as clear as you could get!
Today our schedule was needed to be adjusted yet again because Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu was coming to Florence and was going to give a press conference in Palazzo Vecchio, which was to be our stop after lunch. Mike and Marco were able to switch things up a bit and have us visit there in the morning and then see David in the afternoon.
The city is quite old, yet quite beautiful. Our local guide, Sam, was incredibly knowledgeable and crammed in a lot of information in a short amount of time. There are so many things to stop and admire- it really is incredible.
We arrived at Palazzo Vecchio and were blown away by the priceless works of art that surrounded us. This is basically the “town hall” of Florence. Here we broke up in to two groups, one stayed with Sam and the other had a guide from the Palazzo Vecchio (this was my group).
We entered through a small, private door that is pretty unassuming on the street.
The first thing we see are what would have been worn when this was built…
Through a series of hallways we entered the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred- this is also were the Prime Minister would be addressing the press later in the day). Built in 1494, The Hall is the largest and most important room in terms of artistic and historical value at a length of 177 feet, a width of 75 feet and a height of 59 feet. Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo created two large murals to decorate the walls of the room, with battle scenes depicting victories of the Republic.
From there we visited the Chapel of Elenora
and the Map room, both on the second floor. We exited the Map Room through a secret door to visit a spot where there is a secret viewing point into the Hall of the Five Hundred.
Something to take note of is that once you are outside of Palazzo Vecchio you see a statue of David. This was actually where the original once stood, but has since been moved inside a few blocks away to protect him from the elements.
The “fake” David is actually surrounded by quite a few statues all around the square, the Piazza della Signoria.
Did you also know that Florence is where Pinnochio is based in?
Marco wanted to be sure we all knew!
Nearby, we walked to Piazza di Santa Croce which is highlighted by the Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross). Inside the Basilica you will find the tombs of Michelangelo,Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile and Rossini.
There are amazing shops nearby, as well as where we were having lunch at Casa Toscana (which was included). They are known for their Lasagne della casa al forno-
Mamma’s special: traditional oven baked home-made lasagne with meat sauce, which was incredible!
After lunch we walked to the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David. We did not have to wait on line- Marco and Mike handed us our admission tickets and we were lead inside right away. Keep in mind- we had to change our day around and they still were able to insure a stress free visit, not an easy thing to do and they had to do it in Rome and now again in Florence.
The Accademia Gallery also houses many sculptures of Michaelango, some finished and some not.
Next we walked to Piazza del Duomo. Here we found the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (“Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower”) which is the main church of Florence and was completed in 1434.
After taking our pictures, we had some time on our own for the rest of the day. It was VERY hot- so Mike and I decided to head to the Hard Rock Cafe to cool down a bit. No one is in any sort of rush in Florence, and we fell right in to the custom and spent two hours there just sipping our drinks and munching on snacks.
Before we knew it, it was time to meet Bill, Tracy, and a few friends to help formally celebrate Tracy’s birthday. Marco had suggested Alle Murate for our group- our group was large, 11 people, and the space was small- but priceless. While they were renovating they found murals and frescos covering the walls and ceilings dating back hundreds of years.
We all started with a chopped tomato appetizer…
I ordered a cheese filled tortellini, which I really enjoyed…
Mike had lamb which he liked as well…
Alle Murate had a special birthday treat for Tracy for dessert!
Again, the people of Florence are in no rush- but at this point we were to head back to the later bus back to our hotel. We actually had to get up and walk towards the door to be able to receive our bill. It turned out that we were even further delayed getting back once we all boarded our bus, as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s motorcade was passing through our route as well.
It was a very long, very hot day. Mike and I headed back to our room, packed our bags to be outside our room by 7:30am. The hotel was hosting a large wedding by the outdoor pool and their band was playing until midnight. Mike and I decided to crack open a bottle of wine and enjoy it on our last night in Tuscany, on our balcony until the wedding was over. What a perfect ending to such a long day!
And the wedding was Disney themed!