Goodbye Rome. Hello Florence!

I’ve been in Rome a few days longer than I had planned, but honestly could stay here two weeks longer and still not see everything. I think this is definitely one of the cities I’ll be coming back to at some point. During the last few days I made a trip out to Ostia Antica and another trip to the Vatican today to climb the dome on St. Peter’s Basilica and to go into the grotto where the popes are buried.

I also stopped in and saw the Capuchin Crypt which was one of the most macabre things I’ve every seen in my life. There is a very fine line between honoring your fallen brothers who have faithfully served the Lord and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre House. Making arts and crafts out of the spines and bones of hundreds of dead people is really, really, really, really spooky. I’d hate to think that one day my corpse might be used for decoration somewhere. If it is my fate, please at least prop me up like the Fonz giving a big thumbs up…..

Just like when I arrived in Rome, I could use some help for what to see in Florence. My current plans are pretty simple: a trip to Pisa, photos of the skyline, visit the Uffizi Gallery, and of course going to see Michelangelo’s David at the Academia Gallery. If you have any other suggestions, please let me know. I don’t plan on staying in Florence as long as I did in Rome. After Florence I have to decide on how to get to Venice and San Marino. I might have to backtrack a bit.

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Comments

  1. Sally says:

    Gary, I’m sure you’ve been through Florence by now. I”ll be there for four days in mid August – what should I be sure not to miss?

  2. Susan says:

    it’s all there in Bologna & Ferrara and Padua.

  3. Where to start. In Florence alone, you should visit the Pitti Palace (superb art), Santa Croce Church (last resting place of some greats incl Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo), walk the Ponte vecchio (only takes a few moments and you’d hardly miss it), sunset at Michelangelo’s Piazza (this will double for your skyline view and photo down the river) and much more. If you escape Florence, then I think Siena is worthy of a visit with an extraordinary cathedral with stunning carved floors and remarkable library and also the fantastic main square built like a scallop shell (good view of it from the tall tower in the main square). Also one or two of the great small Tuscan towns (many are good selections).

  4. Brian says:

    Gary,

    I would put the Energizer batteries in my handheld GPS to find my first geocahce in Italy.

    If you go through Bologna on your way to San Marino, I would recommend spending a day. Beautiful piazza, lots of character. It gets undersold in most of the books. Think of me when you see the nymphs in Neptune’s fountain.

    While in Venice, are you planning a side trip to Slovenia? If so, you need to see The Postojna Cave. The underground train ride is unforgettable.

    Stay safe, Brian Finman (AHSE Alumni)

  5. Ed P. says:

    A lot of good suggestions here, Gary!

    Pisa’s got the tower, but in retrospect, Cinque Terre would make a far better day trip destination.

    Don’t miss Santa Croce; tomb markers cover the floor and walls, with more than a few surprising residents!

    Above all else, remember: for the next few days, the best gelato in the world is at your fingertips. The pastries at Florence’s Secret Bakeries are also worth a late-night hunt or two…

  6. Turophile says:

    Gary,
    Definitely find some time to see Cinque Terre – it would only add a day or two to your trip, but well worth it.
    I can’t remember the exact name, but make sure you get up to the square above the town with the replica of David. Gorgeous at sunset – I think it is called Piazzale Michaelangelo.

    Had the most unforgettable dinner in a small restaurant on the same side of the river as that. Can’t find the name of it – it was in the basement of a building, felt like catacombs. Dang – wish I could remember the name. Of course, so long as you’re following the rule of only eating at restaurants that lack printed menus (and really avoiding those with English menus outside), I’m sure you’ll find something great.

  7. Leah says:

    The Piti Palace just across the Ponte Vecchio is really worth seeing. While you are there you might take a stroll through the Boboli Gardens. You don’t want to miss the Duomo – the view from the top is spectacular. The last time we visited Florence I indulged my inner geek and searched out all things Dante. You probably don’t have time for that. :)

  8. Niko Roberts says:

    To get to Venice from Florence you can catch a train to Verona and then across to Venice.

    I lived in Bolzano in the north of Italy for a bit over a year. It is definitely worth a trip into the mountains if you like a good view.
    There is a place called Mendelpass south-west of the city (can catch a bus) it is absolutely spectacular
    http://picasaweb.google.com/judgenik/MendelpassHike#5057125007728212658

    I can’t wait to get back to Italy. I hope I will be there in September.
    Hopefully one day I can figure out how I can travel as much as you are!

    Cheers,
    Niko from Travellr.com

  9. Brandi says:

    If you can get away a bit…MUST see Cinque Terre and San san Gimignano (San G has the best gelato, hands down).

    Consider me jealous.

  10. Shamila says:

    grom for gelato how could i forget. my favorite was apricot but strawberry was equally untouchable. or nocciola and choclate (hazelnut and chocolate)

  11. Shamila says:

    ahh Firenze! Was there for 6 weeks last summer!

    do the uffizi, and ponte vechhio in one day for sure, the duomo is so cool looks like its in 3d in real likfe (that’ll make way more sense if you think about it when you see it)

    i lived between the central market and the san lorenzo market. the central market has the BEST fresh food ever. grab a cantoloupe and some proscuitto for a snack..

    dont do pisa, do siena!!!!! it is an hour away and utterly amazing. it is a preserved medeval town still holding traditions of those times, like the horse races called the palio. its full of life and remarkable.

    in florence, for a snack go to il fratelli, its a sandwich shop near the piazza di repubblica, cheap and delish, the eggplant and bologna is amazing.

    el lupe y el gato is great great food for a reasonable prices and traditionally florentine. for soup go to zaza’s best bean soup ive ever had. la giostra is spectacular and traditionally florentine with great servers and quaint atmosphere, might wanna make a reservation if youre inclined to check it out.

    i obviously could go on and on, but my big recs stand as: david, uffizi, ponte vechio, SIENA, eat as much food as possible its incredible (even just tomato sauce and pasta), and if you have time, the bobli gardens on the other side of the arno river… exquisite.

    enjoy!

  12. Bob Hays says:

    You must take 1/2 day and bus up to Fiesole – its an old Etruscan city. Have lunch at Ristorante Aurora – I had pumpkin gnocchi w/ nut sauce and veal in green peppercorn sauce – you should be able to eat both!

    Lucca is great, we also really liked Prato, which is a 1 hour train ride; the Duomo there has frescoes from Ucello and Lippi.

    Siena is my fav city in Italy; gothic art rocks! You should see the Duomo and the old hospital across the square. You must must must see the Archive in Siena – the painted yearly financial records covers are fantastic.

    In Florence, you must see the Duomo and its museum, Santa Croce and the Synagogue. You should go to the Palazzo Medici Riccardi and see the Magi Chapel, which has probably the best Benozzo Gozzoli fresco.

    We’ve been to Florence a number of times – if you go to my website and check out the Florentine links you can find restaurants as well.

    Have fun! – Bob

  13. Grab lunch at the mercato di san lorenzo. It’s a huge factory looking building by st. lorenzo church. Looks like crap on the outside but oh the goodies that await you inside. Great for pictures too! I lived there for a spell and still have not seen it all so do what catches your fancy and promise to go back someday. You will NEVER see everything it has to offer so digest it one glorious piece at a time. In bocca al lupo!

  14. Jeremy says:

    In Florence, you must do the Duomo climb, the view is spectacular. I actually find the Uffizi a bit stale after a while, but you really need to go once. At the Accademia, you have to see David and I actually love the pieces when you first enter entitled “Slaves”. I would probably skip the rest.

    In terms of Pisa, I say make it a day trip or do it on the way to the Cinque Terre. Train to Pisa, lock your bag up, bus over to Campo dei Miracoli, get your tickets, grab some lunch and relax. The Duomo makes a great spot to escape the sun. Then head back to the train station and head to La Spezia where you catch the train to the Cinque Terre. Pick a city (Vernazza is my favorite) and just relax. Walk the hills, take a million photos, drink the local wine, and enjoy!

  15. I kind of think a day-trip to Pisa isn’t necessarily the best idea, either, unless you HAVE TO see the leaning tower. Then, hey, go for it.

    In Florence, eat LOTS of gelato, visit the Bargello (overlooked museum of sculpture, usually far shorter lines than Uffizi & Accademia). Here’s my Florence guide, which has links to my top 10 things to do in the city plus some “weird” sights in Florence (not as weird as the Capuchin Crypt, but close).

    http://www.italylogue.com/florence

  16. Rhys says:

    Yes another vote for the Duomo. Just spend days wandering the streets, so many great statues just out on the streets.

    I did enjoy a bar called “The Red Garter”. If you are there during a Fiorentina game, it can get a bit hectic, yet a great way to see how people in Florence behave. I do love Florence, it’s a great city (much preferred it to Rome)

  17. Richard says:

    One thing I loved doing in Florence was renting a motor scooter for the day and taking the road up out of the city to Fiesole, with a stop at the scenic lookout point south of the city where they have a David copy (great for your skyline photos). Fiesole is a nearby town that isn’t so much interesting on its own, but it’s a nice close destination that gives you an excuse to motor out of the city. Even a few km out of Florence starts to give you a sense of the Tuscan countryside, and it really is majestic. Uffizi is awesome, and the David is touristy, but kind of necessary. Climbing the Duomo dome is also worthwhile, unless you’re sick of churches from Rome. Pitti Palace has some nice gardens that are good for relaxing, in addition to the historic buildings.

    I agree with Akila about Pisa. Once you see the tower and associated church, you might as well leave. It’s touristy and otherwise uninteresting. I did it as an afternoon trip from Florence, but I had 6 weeks in Florence, so it made sense. With less time in Florence, I’d skip Pisa. If you want a day trip, Siena is a far far more interesting city, and also fairly easy to reach. It deserves an overnight, but a long day is better than nothing.

    I love Florence, and while it is crowded, at least you aren’t there in the high season. There are great vineyards in the countryside, but I think you’d have to get on an organized bus trip or rent a car to get there, and those that make it easy to get there are surely catering to tourists. I wish that I’d known more about Italian wine while I was there, I would have focused on wine country more and done more self-guided touring.

  18. Viktoria says:

    Florence musts: Duomo, Uffizi galleries, Ponte Vecchio. Close to the Uffizi galleries there’s a statue of a boar, it should be good luck if you caress it (as is Jesus’ foot in St. Peter’s cathedral). See the gardens behind Pitti Palace. There are trips up a hill with a stunning view over the entire city.
    Rent a car and go to San Gimignano, Siena and Lucca. All three must see cities with an adorable flair. And will make for postcard perfect photos. Venice and Milano should also be on your list. Genova is up and coming,
    if you have time stop for a dip in Lago di Garda (Garda Lake) and all the way north along the Strada del Vino (Italy’s Napa Valley ;-)

  19. Akila says:

    Gary – If you are only going to see one Tuscan city, don’t do Pisa. Pisa is the least pretty of all the Tuscan cities we went to. We fell madly madly in love with Pienza in southern Tuscany. Or you could go to one of the Chianti villages. Tuscany is way cheaper than Florence, too. We got an incredible meal (3 courses with a liter of wine, grappa, and so darned good, we didn’t want dinner) in Pienza at Latte de Luna for about 30 Euros or so for the two of us. Tuscan scenery is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

    I don’t know if you’ve booked train tickets or if you’re just hopping up there, but I would take the train from Rome to Orvieto and then from Orvieto to Florence. The duomo in Orvieto is well worth seeing and you could head on to Florence after that. Rome to Orvieto is about an 1 1/2 hours and Orvieto to Florence is an additional 1 hour or so.

    Other things in Florence: San Lorenzo market, Pitti Palace. Of course, the Duomo. We didn’t love Florence — too many people, too little space, and felt the same way about Venice, too. There are lots of trains from Florence to Venice – I think they run every couple of hours. From Venice, I think you can take the train to Rimini which is the closest stop to San Marino.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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