The end of October we had been having 50s to the mid 60s daytime and 40s nighttime temperatures in Munich with periods of rain. When we left on November 3, it was 35 and snow was predicted in the days ahead – time to move south. We took a sunny eight-hour train ride to Florence, the northern Tuscany region of Italy, along Brenner Pass which forms the border from Austria into northern Italy. The new snow in the Alps high meadows, and the Larch trees aflame in bright gold and rust needles as the sun shone through made for outstanding visuals. When we entered Italy, Brenner gave way to the golds, rusts, and greens of fall in the vineyards. Together, these views made for a perfect train ride.
We left the station in Florence and walked fifteen minutes to our Airbnb just off the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio. It felt like we had arrived home once again as we donned our city faces (like we could care less) and forced our way through people and traffic. We had stayed in Florence at the same Airbnb last year, but for only one night before being moved to another unit in the building our last two nights. Three days gave us enough time to see and climb the major sites. You may see photos above in Galleries or click here. This time we were in Florence for seven nights and planned to see and do different things, not to mention catch a bit of downtime by enjoying just being in this great Renaissance city.
First up on our list was truffle hunting! Not the chocolates but the prized fungus that grows just beneath the soil around oak trees and is hunted with experienced truffle hunters and their steadfast dogs. When we were in Bamberg, Germany our host Anna had mentioned her upcoming trip to the Piedmonte region of Italy and that she and her friend Marc were going to experience truffle hunting. We thought truffle hunting would be a great experience to begin our stay in Florence. Thanks Anna for the tip – just another wonderful thing about traveling with Airbnb and meeting our hosts. The post on our truffle hunting experience will be published soon.
On three different days we visited three important basilicas of the city, having previously visited the granddaddy of them all last year, The Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore otherwise known as Il Duomo. So what’s up with all the churches all of a sudden? The beautiful old basilicas house amazing works of art in historic architectural settings that aren't as overwhelming as a museum may be. While we visited a few in Germany, we spent less time in museums and basilicas and more time in Germany’s castles. When in Italy, one must see basilicas.
Sante Croce (1400s) is the principal Franciscan church in Florence with the friary occupying the buildings next to the basilica now known as The Museum of the Opera of Santa Croce. We were in Florence on the 50th anniversary of the last great flood of the Arno River. We were able to view the old friary at night on a special unveiling of the frescoes (water color on fresh plaster – think Italian Renaissance) and art that had been restored after the flood. The lighting inside and outside was magical, and the artwork stunning considering the damage done in 1966. On Sunday we went to services at the basilica where Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and more are buried. Attending a church service is another way for us to experience an area we are traveling in.
San Lorenzo (1400s) is what might be the ugly duckling of the top four basilicas because of its rough stone exterior - lacks the façade found on the other basilicas that were added in the 1800s, but the interior is beautiful. The principal members of the di Medici family, as well as Donatello, and others are buried here.
Santa Maria Novella (1400s) is the first great basilica and home to the Dominicans of Florence. The Spanish Chapel and green Cloister area add to the setting of this basilica which ended up being our favorite here in Florence.
On another day we enjoyed the Boboli and Bardini Gardens. During our time here we ate good food and enjoyed the ambiance of Florence spread out over the week without the hordes of people.
Thanks for joining us on our journey.