Florence is a lovely city, best seen in the spring or fall when the crowds are lower. This time around, we would be visiting in June, so we went in with the expectation that it wouldn’t be as delightful as our first trip that we made over a decade ago in the spring. Still fun, but it requires more planning to avoid spending all your time waiting in various lines.
Given that this would be a first trip to Florence for my parents, and a third trip for me and the boys, we decided to deviate from the typical guidebook plan, skip the Uffizi and Duomo (much better outside than inside anyway), and focus on a mixture of things that I hadn’t seen before and things that interested my parents.
With three days, the itinerary highlights would include a trip to the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David (which for somewhat ridiculous reasons, I had never seen), a stop at the Galileo Museum (very interesting to my dad), lots of time in the markets (of interest to me and my mom), and a day trip to Siena (of interest to everyone, but that we ended up cancelling due to the heat wave). Oh yes, and many stops at various bakeries to get my favorite Tuscan cookie: Ricciarelli.
Monday, June 24, 2019
Arrival From Rome
Coming from Rome, we caught a morning train and arrived a little before lunchtime. With 5 people, we spent a little time debating whether to make the 700 meter walk with our bags, or to take two cabs to the apartment. In the end, we decided to walk. In hindsight, my parents and kids probably would have had more energy for the rest of the day if we had taken the cab option. Fortunately, the walk was fairly easy, if a bit hot, and we made it to the apartment without incident.
The apartment was lovely! Very clean and reasonably spacious, with two bedrooms, a fairly nice mattress on the couch, a good kitchen, and a washing machine. We knew we would be happy.
We spent some time resting in the air-conditioned apartment, then decided to head out for lunch. It was approaching the hottest part of the day, and we were already overheated, so we knew we needed to sit indoors and make sure the AC was cooling the dining room to a reasonable temperature.
As we walked from the apartment towards the Duomo, with a final destination of the Galileo Museum in mind, we decided to wander until we found the right lunch spot. I knew that I wanted something slightly special and had my eyes out for Florentine Steak. When we spotted a place, Osteria Dell’Agnolo, that had nice air conditioned seating and included a gigantic steak, bruschetta, roasted potatoes, and a glass of wine for a reasonable price, I knew that this is where we would stop. Delicious!
Walk Across Town
After lunch, we continued our wander by the Duomo and through the main part of town. At one point we saw a street artist and stopped to watch. Make sure that if you stop for a while to watch or take pictures, you leave a tip.
Upon reaching the river, we turned to the left and quickly found the Galileo Museum! Unlike the headline museums like the Uffizi or Accademia, this museum does not require advance tickets to avoid a ridiculously long line. There was no one in front of us, so we simply walked to the front desk and purchased tickets.
As a kid, my dad was always into astronomy, so I knew this museum would be a big hit for him. To my delight, I was right.
Unfortunately, the air conditioning wasn’t working well, and all of us were feeling a bit sick from the heat, so we couldn’t enjoy it as much as we would have liked. But, we found an occasional bench, drank a few sips of water in the bathrooms, and made the best of it.
The strangest thing we saw was a case that held Galileo’s middle finger. Odd. Not great pictures, but here it is:
The other stuff was pretty cool. James liked the maps and globes a lot. John liked the mechanical contraptions, particularly the ones on the lower level that he could play with. Definitely a great museum for the whole family.
Upon leaving, I really should have tried to figure out how to use the bus system, but since it was only a mile back to the apartment, we decided to walk. The city is really lovely, and I was on a quest to find some ricciarelli cookies, so we braved the heat.
As we walked by the Uffizi, James saw some art vendors and wanted to stop to look for a painting. John and my parents were happy to sit on a bench in the shade, add a rehydration tablet to their water bottles, and enjoy a break.
James and I wandered. He saw a painter that was sketching in ink, then shading it in with intense watercolor. We stopped to watch for a while since he was fascinated with the process. We chatted with the artist a bit, and ended up buying a sketch.
We met back up with my parents and continued our walk. Eventually we saw a bakery, Gilli, with my ridiculously expensive Ricciarrelli cookies in the window. We discovered these almond cookies during our first trip to Florence, years ago, and we have only seen them in Tuscany. Yum! John got a chocolate thing and James got a donut, all which we got packed up to take to the apartment with us.
We also stopped by the grocery store. John really wanted to make tacos, but couldn’t find the right ingredients, so he bought some ham, cheese, and tortillas, and made a couple of “quesadilla tacos” to supplement our bakery items.
My Ricciarelli lived up to expectations! Everyone agreed that they were quite nice.
After a light dinner, we decided to do some laundry. It was supposed to be a combo washer/dryer, but we couldn’t figure out how the dry feature worked, so we ended up hanging up our clothes to dry.