It’s still a little cold here in NYC — we’re no longer shivering in the twenties, and we’ve even made it up to fifty degrees, but thirties and low forties are still on the table for us. It means that if you don’t check the weather before you leave, stepping outside can turn into an unexpected adventure. I’m still congratulating myself on going back for my umbrella on Tuesday morning, because it was pouring on the way home that night.
But spring is on the way! At least that’s what we’re hearing. And so in honor of the warm weather we might see soon, I figured it was time to flash back once more to the last time I spent time outside without a jacket on: my trip to Italy back in October. It feels like a dream because I got back right about five months ago.
Florence was both a really lovely part of the trip and a not so lovely part. The not so lovely happened at the beginning, when my mom lost her camera. It put a bit of a pall over our arrival in Florence, and then I managed to turn my ankle on our way to the Uffizi. Let’s just say we were both very glad to get back to our hotel that night and relax. Also we maybe didn’t appreciate the art as much as we could have.
But we had a lovely time the next day. We went to the Accademia bright and early to see the David. Our hotel that first night was just blocks away from the museum, and our early ticket time meant the crowds weren’t that bad. We got a great view of the David before too many other tourists arrived.
From there we saw the window at the Museo degli Innocenti, which for hundreds of years was an orphanage. Newborn babies used to be passed through the window’s grill to be taken care of at the orphanage. It was both really sad to see, and also very hopeful to think of babies being given a chance at life.
We had to see the Duomo, of course, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. I didn’t make my mom climb to the top, like I did on choir tour in college, but we did stop at a kiosk and pay a few euros to listen to some bits of history. It’s such a beautiful church, and so unique.
One of my favorite parts of the Duomo is the gorgeous 16th century fresco that covers the inside of dome. It depicts the Last Judgement, but it’s so bright and beautiful, it’s easy to forget it depicts such a solemn topic. My camera couldn’t quite do it justice, but I tried!
We wandered for a bit after the Duomo, and of course stopped for lunch. We also went in another church, Santa Maria Novella, which for me was interesting because it houses Masaccio’s painting of the Holy Trinity, which I remembered from my college art history class as being an important work because its three dimensional qualities. My photo isn’t great, but it was neat to see it in person.
One of the highlights of Florence was having dinner with two of my best friends from college, who are both in graduate school in Italy. We had dinner at a lovely restaurant in Otranto, a neighborhood south of the Arno River, called Il Guscio. It was delicious. Another of my best friends from college was in Italy this week and was not only going to see both of those friends, but also was going to get to eat at Il Guscio. (This post is maybe possibly inspired by jealousy after following her photos on Facebook all week. :))
My mom and I took a quick trip OUT of Florence the next day, to see the walled city of Lucca. We didn’t spend a ton of time there, but it was nice to be in a town, instead of a city, since so much of our trip (with the exception of our lovely overnight in Assisi) was spent in cities. We got to see a bit more of the Tuscan countryside from the train, and we spent a few hours walking in the sunshine.
Back in Florence, I spent the next morning with one of my friends. We met outside the Pitti Palace and went directly into the gardens to get a view of Florence from above. It was a gorgeous place — quiet, with fewer tourists. The perfect place to have a real catch up conversations, since this visit was the first time we’d seen each other in over four years.
We had pizza in a square and got some gelato to eat before I went back to meet my mom at the hotel. We had a train to catch to Venice. After a rough start to our Florence leg of the trip, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel when it was time to leave. I had loved Florence on my first visit in college, and at first it didn’t quite live up to my memory of it. It’s easy to walk around the main tourist sites in the city, but it meant the city felt like one big attraction to me on our first day or so there. But with our dinner in Otranto, and with our second hotel (the first one was more expensive and only available the one night), which was a little farther from the center of things, and right by the river, I started to feel like there was more to Florence than we’d been seeing.
I could’ve stood by the river in the sunshine all day long — but I had places to go.
I can’t wait to go back someday soon and look for all the bits of the city I missed — I know there’s more to see. In the meantime, this New York winter HAS to be on its way out, and once it is, I’ll be more than ready to spend time enjoying the sunshine and beauty in my own city. Where are you taking a mental vacation right now, and what can’t you wait to do once it’s spring?