Florence, Italy: This Cradle of the Renaissance Will Amaze You!

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Florence, Italy, Cradle of the Renaissance

After leaving Rome we went to Florence by train. (Navigating the Italian train system is a little hard. For help you can read my post here.)  I had wanted to go there for at least 15 years and it was not a disappointment at all! As the stomping ground of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo both I had been hearing about it since Art School days so it was high on our list of places to go. Right by the train station is this very old cathedral, Santa Maria Novella. Now that’s funny as novella means new and it was completed in 1360! Yes, not a typo, 1360!  But it was built where an even older cathedral had been, so it was new at the time. It just blows me away how old European cities are! And this church is in great shape despite being so old. Marble has staying power, you know?

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella Florence Italy
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

After we found our apartment, we went walking along the Arno River which flows through Florence and it is not only beautiful but it turned out to be a very useful point of reference since we kept getting lost! Florence is so old that it has extremely narrow streets and very tall buildings and the streets twist and turn around in so many ways you feel like you are in a maze. I finally realized I have a compass on my iPhone that helped me or we would probably still be there walking around in a daze trying to find our way back to our apartment! I love my iPhone by the way! You don’t have to have the newest one to have many cool features. I have an older one and don’t plan to replace it unless it breaks. Used ones are very reasonable on Amazon!

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River in Florence, Italy

Close by our apartment was this view of another cathedral across the river.

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Cathedral across the River in Florence, Italy

Here’s a bridge across the Arno River a little closer.

Florence, Italy
Bridge across the River in Florence, Italy

We were there at Christmas time, which is a wonderful time to travel in Europe as all the cities have lights everywhere and the shoppers are out and in a great mood. These are typical Christmas lights in Florence.

Maybe this is a good time to talk about where to stay in Florence. It’s not a bargain city at all. They know that tourists the world over have heard of Florence, Italy and it has so much to offer that everyone wants to go there. So when we looked at hotels they were all pretty expensive and also we like to cook some of our own food. We opted for AirBnb.com  as they have places where you can stay with a family, or get an apartment of your own. We always get our own place, but if you are on a budget and don’t mind sharing a house with your host you can get amazing bargains. So we got a darling apartment very close to the train station and the Arno River and near all the stuff we wanted to see. We got a taxi at the train station because we had a fair amount of luggage, but after that we walked everywhere!

As for food, again restaurants are not bargains in Florence! Another reason to get an apartment and cook your own food! But we did find numerous little sandwich shops and cafes everywhere in every neighborhood, so that made it quite affordable. We always have at least one really nice meal as a treat, and the rest of the time we eat like the locals.  So the funniest thing happened in Florence at a sandwich shop there. We were waiting for our meal to be ready and the cook handed a piece of bread to a customer and asked him to pass it to me! We were laughing about that for weeks. I guess they are pretty casual about who touches your food in Italy!

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Christmas Lights in Florence

The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (English, “Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower”) is the main church of Florence, Italy. It’s very hard to get photos of this cathedral because all the buildings are in the way. But it’s pink and green marble! And beautiful! Maybe you can see all the work that went into sculpting the marble. Here are a couple of photos from the ground. This cathedral was started in 1296 (!) and the dome was finished in 1436 and the cathedral consecrated into service that year. So it’s been standing for almost 600 years! Still a beautiful work of art!

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
Florence, Italy Main cathedral
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

Here’s the detail of the sculptures over the door of the Cathedral. Look at all that! The artists took their time making all this beautiful art for God! That’s exactly how they looked at it too. Churches were supposed to inspire people to want to be divine, and to worship the Divine. The gold is gold leaf and the marble is pink, white, and green. We did not go inside because they charge! Now really, charging to go in one of God’s houses? And no photos allowed either. This kind of put me off. We were really glad we got to go inside St. Peter’s in Rome when we saw that lots of churches in Italy charge you to go inside. But the outside was magnificent.

Detail Over the Door, Florence Cathedral

 We left Florence very reluctantly as it was so beautiful and historic and fun. I snapped this photo from the train window which gave it a blue green color, but you can see the way the houses sit on the hill.  We will never forget Florence, Italy! It was like living in a Renaissance dream.

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Leaving Florence,Italy on the Train

All Photos © Heather Burns, 2015. Please do not copy.