The slow train to Florence was a great way to see the Tuscan countryside and allowed for some extra rest for my feet. The three hour ride also left plenty of time for some naps and time lapse GoPro footage taken from our traincar window. Here’s a 6-second loop of a 60-second stretch of track, at 10 times speed:
When we arrived in town, we took a bus to our hotel that was about a 10 minute drive away from the city center. Our amazing friend had arranged our room as a wedding present, and we felt a little spoiled with the plush robes, slippers, complimentary food and beverages in the lounge, and mostly the spectacular views from our hotel room.
On the shuttle ride back to town, it was pretty clear just how different Florence is from Rome. Cleaner, slower, accessible. More intimate, elegant, and refined. It seems obvious that this was the perfect birthplace for the Renaissance.
We hopped off the shuttle near the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella.
We could see the top of the Duomo peeking out from behind the buildings and made our way down the cobbled lanes toward it.
I’m sure so many others have shared my lifelong dream to visit Florence. The food, the lifestyle, the art, the architecture make it an obvious destination point for millions of people every year. But gazing up at the Duomo as the setting sun turned everything golden, I felt like we were the only ones around.
The Duomo at sunset was the perfect introduction to Florence.
We lingered for ages in the piazza, eating pizza and gelato while continuously gazing at the Duomo like it was our long, lost love. It was dark by the time we figured we should head back to our hotel. But in a stroke of spontaneity, we boarded the bus that takes you to the hills above the city.
San Miniato al Monte is often overlooked by tourists. It’s twilight chanting monks, gardens, and cemetery (author of Pinnochio, Carlo Collodi, is buried here) shouldn’t be missed.
Plus I think it might just have the best views of the city. Props to Jeff for knowing how to change the ISO settings for these breathtaking photos.
We got those stunning images just before the monks came out to lock up the gates for the night, but snuck in a few more shots before leaving.
We strolled down the hill to the Piazzale Michelangelo for some more views of the city and my favorite, Ponte Vecchio.
An absolutely perfect first day in Florence.
“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi
Stay tuned for our next update: Florence, Day No. 2
To see more photos: