Our next pit stop is Florence, a lovely city with dazzling rich history. I prefer its Italian name – Firenze than its English counterpart. Especially when I came across the Chinese translation 翡冷翠 by Chinese poet Xu Zhimo (徐志摩) in one of his poems. Firenze or Florence, this glorious city warrants a visit for any travellers to Italy. The birthplace of Italian Renaissance which championed the all-important cultural movement which had shaped Europe we know today. The movement had produced fine Renaissance arts which cemented Florence’s status as an artistic hub. One artist who left a legacy was none other than Michelangelo.
This city exudes a nice, unhurried and unmistakable old-world charm, making it one of my favourite places in Italy. The ongoing modernization had not disrupted that – thank goodness. Even the busy Santa Maria Novella Train Station is damn old school.
There’s no Metro in Florence so the best way to explore the city centre is by foot since it’s not a big place, to begin with. The area around Piazza del Duomo is vehicle-free, making it a breeze to walk around.
The Impressive Florence Duomo
Upon reaching Via de Cerretani, the distinctive Duomo stands out from the surrounding buildings, especially its dome. Perhaps the most famous structure in Florence, officially known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The huge cathedral with its majestic dome is a sight to behold, which explained why it’s featured in almost all the postcards.
It’s kinda impossible to capture the whole of Duomo with the close proximity to the surrounding shops and restaurants. I suppose the best place to view the cathedral is from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Next to the cathedral are the Bell Tower and the Baptistery of San Giovanni.
I would think everybody ought to take a look at the impressive ‘Gates of Paradise’ at the east doors of the baptistery, with each bronze panel tells a story from the Old Testament. The current door is, of course, a replica but who cares? It still looks stunning.
Piazza della Signoria
A short walk from Piazza del Duomo brings us to Piazza Della Signoria. Here’s where the art lovers queue to visit the famous Uffizi Gallery but I ain’t one of them. Piazza Della Signoria by itself is already like a free open-air museum with many sculptures. So I just admire those sculptures especially the invincible David’s statue – Replica. The original Michelangelo’s masterpiece is being kept in Galleria dell’Accademia, further north of the Duomo, which I didn’t visit for I’m certain that I can’t tell the differences between the two – money saved LOL.
Fountain of Neptune, The Rape of the Sabine Women, Hercules and Cacus, David.
It’s a good place for a cup of hot chocolate or gelato and people watch while waiting for your female companion who will already be swarming into the Chanel Boutique by then. Well, at least the Piazza is filled with great looking buildings and sculptures to kill the boredom LOL.
STAY: Hotel Kursaal Ausonia review
We spent 3 nights at Hotel Kursaal Ausonia and thought the double room was adequate for a good night rest. The overall experience was far from pleasant. Do take note that the reception area is on the 3rd floor. And during our stay, the lift malfunctioned and can only stop at the 2nd level so I have to carry the luggage up and down the stairs during check-in and out.
Prior to my booking, I emailed the hotel asking whether Free Wifi was provided and the reply was yes. So I was very annoyed when one grumpy old man told me otherwise that I have to pay for Wifi upon checking in. The staffs that we met are neither friendly nor helpful with the exception of one young gentleman. No free city map was given as they sell it for 5 Euros at the reception and the free breakfast is nothing to shout about.
The saving grace was that Hotel Kursaal Ausonia is a 15 min walk from Firenze SMN Station and also within close distance to San Lorenzo and the Duomo. But then again, there are many hotels along the same street too. So, will I stay here again? Not a chance!