After sleeping in and missing my first bus in Rome, I arrived in Florence in the afternoon of September 22nd.
After looking around and asking for the bus number I needed to my hostel, many helpful people pointed me in the wrong direction so I decided to walk. It became very clear that Florence had a very different vibe to it than other cities I had been to. Small, pedestrian-only areas, rich history and architecture every corner you looked around, a vibrant local and tourist presence, and and air of having some secrets that not many people know about.
If you ever decide that you’re going to Florence, I highly recommend making a plan in advance of what you want to see, where it is, and to embrace patience. Although you can get across the city or to wherever you need to within a 30 minute walk, the crowds of tourists and traffic will prevent you from doing many things in one day. There's also an incredible amount of things to do and see based on your interests of history, food, art, culture, etc.
My hostel provided me a map with some excellent recommendations, and from there I devised my plan. I wanted to see all of the copies and, of course, the original Michelangelo’s David. I also wanted to walk a lot, do as many free things as possible, and take in the general history and culture of the city. If I return to Florence, I would focus more on Galileo and the birth of the Renaissance. But, like I’ve said about Italy this entire time, you can only take in so much.
In the city, there are three David’s: 2 fake and 1 original. The 2 fake are free to see and outside, and both locations offered beautiful views and other things to see. In Florence, everywhere you go you stumble upon statues and artwork from a time so long ago it’s hard to imagine. I feel like everyone is in a bit of a stupor walking around, which is why the tourist crowds seem so hectic. It's also quite easy to cozy up to a tourist group and listen in to the speaker to gain some extra knowledge free of charge!
The first David I saw was in the Piazza del Michelangelo which also provided stunning views of the city. You can click the image to make them bigger.
On the way to find the second fake David, I passed by Duomo, and was stunned to find out the side of the building wasn’t painted, but this was actually the colour of the rocks. I hope I’m not the only silly person who thought this! It was absolutely breathtaking in that the entire building dominated your whole span of sight.
In Piazza della Signora, with David number two, there is another section of the square that has statues dating back to the 1700’s, and later in a museum I found another painting from the 1700s that showed this square in it. They haven’t moved. In hundreds of years.
After fake David overload, I yearned for nature and headed to Giardino di Boboli, a labyrinth of gardens you pay to get into, but the price includes museums. On the way there, I passed by Ponte Vecchio which, in my opinion, is an overrated tourist bridge. In the gardens, I found myself lost in labyrinths, complete with Japanese gardens on the edge of the city. Complete silence was a welcome change. In most European cities, finding space and silence is a difficult thing to achieve.
I thoroughly enjoyed several hours wandering around, appreciating the foliage and quiet, and came across a clothing museum.
Quite possibly the funniest and rarest item I’ve come across, is the underwear of one of the members of the Medici family. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Medici family was a family dynasty in Italy dating back to the beginning of the 1500's. I looked at the underwear, the diagram, back at the underwear, and realized this guy wore basically a leather thong... sling? Historians and restorers dug up the graves, removed the clothing, pieced it back together, and then had them on display. Quite unexpected to say the least.
On my last day in the city, it was finally time to see the read David. I got into line before the museum Galleria dell'Accademia opened at 8AM and waited. During my hour wait (yes, 1 hour) I met a woman who was an art restorer before she retired and she opened up the world of art to me. Inside the museum, she took the time to explain each art piece and sculpture in extensive detail, including what mattered and what didn’t, the flaws and perfect restoration practices, and finally... that she hated Michelangelo’s David.
His right hand is too big.
When you look at the picture, his right hand is truly monstrous. I don’t quite know whether to say she ruined this piece of art for me, or opened my eyes to the possibility that it isn’t as great as everyone thinks it is. Probably a bit of both. I’m forever grateful for having met her and now have an incredible appreciation for paintings, carvings, gold flecks in old art, and restoration of these pieces.
For anyone visiting Florence, get in touch and I’ll do my best to point you in the direction of the Davids.... and amazingly cheap panini with prosciutto.
Pro tip: Watch after your stuff while you sleep.
Meander on through the street for unexpected art,