Finding the “Real” Italy in Florence

After Venice, the next stop on my mini-Italy tour was Florence. Unlike the canal city I’d never had my heart set on visiting Florence, never dreamed about it as a kid. Still, Florence has a reputation for being well loved, and I stuck it in my itinerary in hopes of getting a picture of what Italy is really about.

Florence is Italy through and through. Venice is pretty, but it’s not essentially Italian- it’s Venetian, an area that was essentially a separate country for much of history.

First stop, just a block from our hostel, was the famous Duomo. Enormous basilicas dot much of Italy, but few are as grand and elaborate as this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The elaborate paintings inside the dome are intense enough to put the Sistine chapel to shame.

Florence is an art lover’s kind of city; an urban monument to the achievements of the Italian renaissance. The Piazza di Signora is one of the highlights. The square is home to the stunning Fountain of Neptune. I found the god of the sea to be quite hunky:

The Piazza also houses some beautiful and famous sculptures including the Rape of the Sabine Women. Also here: A reproduction of Michelangelo’s David which is less stunning, but more photographable than the original in the Accademia Gallery.

The headquarters of art in Florence, maybe in all of Italy, is the vast Uffizi gallery. It’s one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world and contains far more treasures than I could explore in an afternoon.

Just beyond the Uffizi is the Ponte Vecchio, a beautiful medieval covered bridge over the River Arno. The bridge itself and the view from it are the stuff of postcards and absolutely gorgeous on this chilly December afternoon.

Curious about the rest of Florence, I ventured across the Arno and into a random neighborhood. For some reason all of my random explorations seem to involve me climbing giant hills, but when I reached the top the view was gorgeous.

Exactly how I imagined “real” Italy.

27 thoughts on “Finding the “Real” Italy in Florence”

  1. Steph, my wife and I are going to be in the Florence area in November. We’re looking for somewhere to stay that’s off the beaten path, but won’t break the bank.

    Any advice?

    We’ll have a rental car, so if it’s outside the city, that’s not an issue.

    1. I stayed at a hostel near the Galleria Accademica so can’t help much I’m afraid. I’ll ask on twitter for you though!

  2. Ever since I went to Rome, I always fancied going to Florence. The history is so well connected it seems like you can’t complete an Italian Renaissance trip until you visit both.

  3. Awesome photos, Steph.

    Being Italian, I really enjoyed reading your post and the comments. It was interesting to find out how visitors imagine ‘real Italy’. Indeed, I believe it’s very hard to define. Italy as a unified nation is rather young. Over the centuries, there have been many period of domination by foreigners in different areas of the countries. This led to a very rich and varied culture.
    Florence is a wonderful city, but I can hardly think at it as ‘real Italy’. At most, it represents a part of Italy. And anyway despite being beautiful, it has lost some if its charm – as many other places – for being too much complacent toward tourists.

    Oh and… When you come to Milan, let me know!
    Ciao,
    Simon

    1. I agree, it’s always really interesting to see how other people perceive your home country.

      I would love to go to Milan at some point!

  4. I live here! When were you here? I’m glad you liked it, not everyone does… I hosted one guy who didn’t want to try any food nor set foot in any museum. It was quite a bummer. Then again, I’ve taken people around who can’t stop oohing and ahhing over things. All perspective, really =) Did you stop to get gelato, too?

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