From Finding 15th Century Ancestors to Leather Shopping: How to Spend 24 Hours in Florence
My mom and I left Pisa and took the train back to Florence. We spent about 24 hours here. While we were on the bus, going towards our Airbnb, I opened Google Maps on my phone, thinking the ride was taking a little long. Turns out we had gotten on the wrong bus and were traveling in the wrong direction! I’m so glad I had checked. We hobbled off the bus, lugging our large suitcases and crossed the street to wait for the bus going where we needed to go. We finally got to the bus stop our host had mentioned was closest to her and we started the walk towards our apartment. Dragging a large, heavy suitcase over cobblestone and uphill is not fun. Looking back, I wish we would’ve just gotten a cab, but we did save a good bit of money.
Our Airbnb was located near the Piazzale Michelangelo, where a 2nd life-size copy of the famous statue of David by Michelangelo is located. The statue was originally placed in a public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence. In an effort to preserve the statue, it was moved to the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, in 1873, and later replaced at the original location by a replica.
Getting up to the top where the plaza is located is a good little hike. There were lots of stairs and after a long day, we were tired by the time we arrived at the top. The view at the top is phenomenal, and we enjoyed the sunset there. It was a classic panoramic picture overlooking historic Florence. There was some sort of political rally going on, although we couldn’t tell what it was about since it was in Italian. Even so, this was certainly a highlight of the trip!
The next morning, we packed up our things and took them back to the train station where we checked them into the Left Luggage drop off. We then headed to the Duomo, also called the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. This is the main church of Florence. I was amazed that although it was built in 1436, it was still in perfect condition. The Baptistery was under renovation, so we couldn’t see all of the detail, but they did have the famous bronze doors exposed and I was amazed by the intricate sculptures on them.
While we were standing in the plaza, observing everything, there were tons of street peddlers, trying to sell everything they had. The hot item while we were there was selfie sticks, as they were just getting really popular in Europe.
As we were wandering the quaint streets, a man standing outside a leather shop somehow convinced us to come inside. Neither of us needed any leather, but we were easily persuaded. The man gave us a tour of their facility and explained that he was the owner of the shop. I ended up buying a leather jacket and my mom a leather bag. If I’m going to buy leather, it may as well be in the leather capitals of the world!
Basilica de Santa Croce
My mom had done research before we arrived (assisted by previous ancestry work done in Italy by her aunt years ago), and discovered that one of our ancestors was buried in the Basilica de Santa Croce. Several influential people are buried here, with their monuments displayed in the church. Our ancestor, Leonardo Bruni, was a scholar and historian in the 15th century. We did a few laps around the church and finally found him, discovering that our entrance ticket actually had his picture on it. How cool!
Our last stop of the day was the Ponte Vecchio bridge. This ancient bridge is a closed arch bridge over the Arno River, with several jewelry and souvenirs shops built on it. We stopped at a few shops, but they were overpriced so we didn’t get anything. We walked back to the train station and headed back to Rome for the night.