Walk 25: Florence City Walk: Does it live up to the hype?

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Difficult to say, but we’d estimate about 4 miles (6.4 km)

Time to walk: This is at least a 1 day walk &, if you can get tickets to the Uffizi, you could take 2

Difficulty: All on hard paths. There is quite a climb towards the end of the walk, but it has to be done to get the view across the city from high up

Parking: Unable to comment as we caught the train for a 40 minute journey from Pisa

Public toilets: Plenty of cafes, bars etc

Map of the route: Here’s the two walks that we combined…

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Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany & is famous for its history, being considered the birthplace of the Renaissance

A turbulent political history includes periods of rule by the powerful Medici family

The Historic Centre of Florence attracts millions of tourists each year & was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. The city is noted for its culture, Renaissance art, architecture & monuments. It contains numerous museums & art galleries, such as the Uffizi

Due to Florence’s artistic and architectural heritage, it has been ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world

We visited this beautiful city on a glorious late October day & combined 2 walks that were devised by a local resident. Would it live up to the hype? Well we’ll see so…

Lets Walk!!

1. We arrived at Florence Station after a 40 minute ride from Pisa where we were staying  – it’s a really easy trip!

Coming out the station just head down Via de Panzani into Via Cerratani to arrive at our starting point the Piazza del Duomo

It’s not a bad first view…

Doesn't look real does it

Doesn’t look real does it

Piazza del Duomo is one of the most visited places in Europe. The buildings in the Piazza are the Cathedral, Giotto’s Campanile, the Baptistery, the Loggia del Bigallo, the Opera del Duomo Museum, the Arcivescovile & Canonici’s palace

As can be seen from the top picture, the outside of the Baptistery was covered by sheeting for renovation

So let’s have look at each in turn…

2. As it was early & not busy we decided to visit the Duomo first. It’s free to enter, but there is a charge to climb the Dome. We decided against this as we fancied tackling the Campanile. The detail on the outside of the cathedral is simply incredible…

The actual name is The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower. It was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio & construction started in 1296. It took almost 150 years, but the outside was replaced in the 19th century in various shades of green & pink bordered by white. It certainly has the ‘wow’ factor

The whole colour is offset by the huge, magnificent red-tiled dome which we’ll have a closer look at later. It is however the largest masonry dome ever built & remains the highest building in the city

3. Compared to the outside, the interior is a real let down, especially after the splendour of the Doumo in Pisa…

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It’s a vast empty space as most of the treasures have been removed. As the cathedral was built with public funds many of the paintings etc honour local people

There are a few gems…near the office where you buy tickets to climb the Dome hangs ‘Dante Before the City of Florence’ by Domenico di Michelino (1465). This painting is especially interesting because it shows, apart from scenes of the Divine Comedy, a view of Florence in 1465, a Florence Dante himself could not have seen in his time…

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The painting depicts the poet Dante surrounded by the 3 afterlife worlds he describes in the Divine Comedy…Purgatory is behind him, his right hand points towards Hell & the city of Florence is…Paradise

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This picture doesn't due justice to the size of this candle holder

This picture doesn’t due justice to the size of this candle holder

4. Perhaps the most impressive sight inside the cathedral is the fresco on the inside of the Dome & we get our first glimpse of this as we move towards the nave…

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This enormous work of The Last Judgement, 3,600 square metres of painted surface, was started in 1568 by Giorgio Vasari & Federico Zuccari & wasn’t completed until 1579…

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5. Walking back towards the exit of the Duomo we get a great view of the other masterpiece here…the giant painted clock

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The colossal clock face with fresco portraits is of four Prophets, or Evangelists, by Paolo Uccello. This one-handed liturgical clock shows the 24 hours of the hora italica (Italian time), a period of time ending with sunset at 24 hours. This timetable was used until the 18th century

This is one of the few clocks from that time that still exists & is in working order

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6. After coming out of the rather sedate Duomo we decide it’s time for a little exercise & are ready for a climb up Giotto’s Campanile so we move round the side of the Duomo to find the entrance where we get another view of the Dome…

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7. Giotto’s Campanile is quite simply awesome…

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We bought a really reasonably priced double ticket that also allowed entry into the Baptistery & began the climb…

The first stone was laid in 1334 with the design being in harmony with the Duomo & consisting of geometric patterns of white marble from Carrara, green marble from Prato & red marble from Siena

Through this work, Giotto has become one of the founding fathers of Italian Renaissance architecture

Giotto was succeeded as Master of the Works in 1343 by Andrea Pisano, famous already for the South Doors of the Baptistery. He continued the construction of the bell tower, scrupulously following Giotto’s design & built two more levels. Construction came to a halt in 1348 because of the Black Death

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Pisano was replaced by Francesco Talenti who built the top three levels, with the large windows, completing the bell tower in 1359. He did not build the spire designed by Giotto, thus lowering the designed height of 400 ft to 277.9 ft

To get to the top, with its breathtaking panorama of Florence & the surrounding hills, we need to climb 414 steps…

So let’s get going…

8. The climb consists of several steep stages through very narrow passages so there’s lots of stopping to let others past

Here’s a little clip we took showing how narrow it is…

After each stage stop, have a look out of the windows as the view changes at every level & don’t forget to keep looking up…

There's the bell...

There’s the bell…

…& now we’re beginning to see the Dome in all its glory…

Stunning

Stunning

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9. At the next level we come to the old bell…again the Dome is beginning to dominate in the background…

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…& eventually we arrive at the top

So was it worth the 414 steps? Well you make your mind up…

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Want to see a video clip we took? Here you go & note the people on top of the Dome…

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You could stay there all day if you want but we have more sights to see so…come on let’s head back down those 414 steps!!

And go & have a look at the Baptistery…

10. Although it was covered for renovation they’ve at least marked the sheets to show how it would look…

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…but here’s how it should look…

Bap

The Baptistery is one of the oldest buildings in the city, constructed between 1059 & 1128 & renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors. The south doors were made by Andrea Pisano & the north & east ones by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The east doors were dubbed by Michelangelo the ‘Gates of Paradise’

Gates

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The Italian poet Dante & many other notable Renaissance figures, including members of the Medici family, were baptized in the baptistry & until the end of the nineteenth century all Catholic Florentines were baptized here

11. So, as we’ve already paid, let’s have a look inside & are you ready for another ‘wow’?

It is…simply breath taking…

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The vast interior of the Baptistry is very much like the interior of the Pantheon in Rome, with the light entering through small windows & through the roof

The star though is the incredible mosaic ceiling. The cycle depicts the Last Judgment with a gigantic, majestic Christ and the Angels of Judgment at each side

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The other scenes on the ceiling depict different stories. Starting at the top…Choirs of Dominations, Powers, Archangels, Angels, Principalities, Virtues & Thrones. Then moving anti clockwise…stories from the Book of Genesis; Joseph; the birth of Christ &, finally in the lower tier, the story of John the Baptist

If the Baptistery is quiet the sit on the wooden benches & wait for a quiet moment…then lay down flat & simply admire…

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…& here’s the clip we took just doing that…

12. This was probably one of those places that we could have sat all day…quiet serene & simply stunning, but we have more treasures to see & only 1 day to see them so let’s go!

Moving out of the Baptistery we head to the right past the Campanile & round the right of the Duomo looking for the Museo dell Opera del Duomo. Unfortunately it too is being renovated…

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13. Turning away from the Museo it’s time to exit the Piazza & explore as there’s much more of this city to explore. Our route out of the Piazza lies to the right down Via del Proconsolo…

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…& then turning second right into Via del Corso…

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14. We’re now heading towards the Casa Museo di Dante & to arrive there we take Via del Presto di San Martino & then take the first right & first left onto Via Santa Margherita…

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Durante deli Alighieri, simply called Dante was considered Italy’s greatest poet and lived here during his time in the city. He was born in Florence in 1265 & spent his first 36 years there before being exiled. He was never allowed to return home & this was reflected in his ants in The Divine Comedy’

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15. We didn’t visit the museum as had other plans so turned left onto Via Dante Alighieri which leads us back to Via Proconsolo…

Follow the local Monsigneur…

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Although not on our map, along here we came across a little treasure…the Chiesa della Badia Fiorentina…

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16. The Badìa Fiorentina is home to the Fraternity of Jerusalem & when we called by there was a service going on so we only peeped through the door & couldn’t take pictures. The internal one’s therefore not ours, but this was the amazing view we we saw…

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inside

17. Turning right along Via Proconsolo we walk towards the Museo we’ve decided to visit…The Bargello

Everyone who visits Florence wants to visit The Uffizi which is huge, busy & you get pushed around

The Bargello is small, intimate & let’s you enjoy some fabulous art in great surroundings. Plus….it’s a lot cheaper!!

IMG_556518. The Bargello is a former barracks and prison. The word “bargello” means castle or fortified tower. During the Italian Middle Ages it was the name given to a military captain in charge of keeping peace & justice during riots and uproars

The Bargello opened as a national museum in 1865 displaying the largest Italian collection of gothic & Renaissance sculptures

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It’s an incredible place for a gallery so here’s some of the classic exhibits…

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Spectacular

Spectacular gallery

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19. There’s also numerous statues of David here by Michelangelo & Donatello which are simply stunning…

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…& perhaps the most famous one…

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This is Donatello’s most famous piece of the David, the young Biblical shepherd, commissioned by Cosimo the Elder around 1440

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20. One of the final areas we come to has an amazing statue of Jason & the Argonauts & shows the Golden Fleece captured from the Dragon at his feet…

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Did all these people run around with no strides on…seriously!!

21. Well after all that art it must be time for a bite to eat & something to drink & we really can recommend the cafe just over the road with the decking – the paninis are pretty darn good!!

Just a bit further up we turn right into Via del Gondi…

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…which takes us to the spectacular Plazza Signoria which is the traditional meeting place for the local people & home to the 14th-century Palazzo Vecchio

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The square is also home to the Loggia della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery, the Palace of the Tribunale della Mercanzia & the Palazzo Uguccioni

22. It really is a stunning Piazza, but don’t eat or drink here unless you’re happy to pay above the odds…

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…& there’s some big statues around here…

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 23. Our exit from the Piazza lies down the side of The Uffizi

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The Uffizi is one of the oldest & most famous art museums in Europe & one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence. In the high season waiting times can be up to five hours. We had a look online & there were no tickets available

24. It’s now time to ignore Map 1 & start heading towards Map 2…we know how to mix it up!!

After walking down the street above we arrive at the river & turn right towards the extremely famous Ponte Vecchio…

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We can’t believe we’re looking at what is one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. Tell you what…let’s go & have a closer look…

25. The Ponte Vecchio over the Arno is noted for still having shops built along it. Butchers initially occupied the shops but the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers

So let’s turn left across the bridge & have a look…

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Struggling for a view off the middle of the bridge?  Then push those tourists aside…

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26. So after crossing the bridge we need to turn first left alone Via del Bardi

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There’s some fab restaurants along this short street…fish anyone…

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…we also get a decent view back to the Ponte Vecchio too – look at how the shops hang over the edge..

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27. Keep bearing right up here into Via di San Niccolo…

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…into Piazza Giuseppe Poggi which was once close to one of the gates into the city centre…

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28. If you turn slightly right you’ll see our exit through the old city gate up the hill…

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The view back…we're climbing now

The view back…we’re climbing now

So ready for a proper climb up some steps? Come on then…we really want to see that view over Florence…

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29. Finally at the top of the steps we turn left & arrive at the Piazza del Michelangelo &….boy was the climb worth it!

So…sorry for all the photos, but it is an amazing place (plus there was a pretty good musician we sat on the steps & listened to)

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Now let’s have a look at the city…

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30. It really is one of those places to just go, sit & wait for the sun to go down. Here’s a panoramic…

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…& where there’s a pretty place there’s always a pretty boy & this one knew how to take his own photo…

Love that guy...

Love that guy…

The rest of the Piazza’s pretty much a large car park with another large statue…

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31. Come on it’s time we got back down to the city before catching our train back to Pisa

The map takes us through gardens, but the light was fading so we head back down the same route. The restaurants are now preparing for evening service & we have to say we’ve never seen such amazing mushrooms…

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…& just around the corner you can get another incredible gelato…

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Arriving back at the river we cross the Ponte Vecchio again & the pink sunset light’s beginning to fall…

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32. We need to head straight across the bridge up the pedestrian area

Feeling peckish? Well on the right’s an amazing cafe/bar, but we can’t remember the name of it, but it just looks like a deli. So stroll in, order a beer & then choose from the amazing food on offer in front of you. We shared an incredible tomato bruschetta

Once we’ve done that there’s a few other shops on the left where you can buy some very tasty nougat

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33. Heading straight along the Via we arrive back at Plazza Signoria where we need to turn left & head along Via Calzaiuoli

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On the left’s the Church of Orsanmichele which is best known for its statues in the niches…

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…& then right onto Via del Corso, before heading first left down a very narrow street called Via Sant’ Elisabetta …

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34. At the end of the left ahead of us is somewhere we have to stop at & ‘not pass Go’…Grom…

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Grom is possible the best, & most famous, Gelato in Florence & you cannot pass this place without a tub – the pistachio is amazing!!

35. Coming out of Grom we retrace our steps to the top of Via Ochre where we find another Florence institution… Pegna del 1860

Pegna in the UK would be called an upmarket department shop which sell a bit of ‘high quality’ everything

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36. As with all our visits to shops the best bit’s the food &, oh boy, this is a place for food!!

Salami anyone?

Salami anyone?

Well…am just going to pull up a chair

Well…am just going to pull up a chair

OMG!!!! Truffles

OMG!!!! Truffles

Porchetta

Porchetta

Amazing hams

Amazing hams

And incredible cheeses

And incredible cheeses

37. Coming out of Pegna we turn right & at the end of the road find ourselves back in the Piazza del Duomo…

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Well what a fabulous day in a beautiful city. There’s several other walks to try around Florence, but ours combines two of the best

Did it live up to our expectations? Most definitely & if we return to this part of Italy we’d stay here & do a one day visit to Pisa instead of the other way round

As a final mention we called into a lovely restaurant on the way to the station (the wild boar ragu is amazing) called La Madia…click on the link below – it’s pretty good as was the food

http://www.trattorialamadia.com

So there we go, the end of our walk around one of the world’s most beautiful cities. We have to admit it was different to what we expected but….

Yes…it definitely lived up to the expectations so…

Go Walk!!

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