After spending multiple weekends in Rome, I could not imagine loving another Italian city more. And then I went to Florence.
Firenze is just stunning, with gorgeous churches and views along the river. And unlike Rome, Florence feels like a city where locals really live, not just tourists. Our whole weekend here, not one person ran up to our group and waved a selfie stick in our faces asking, "You want to buy?" While Florence is certainly a large Italian city, it didn't feel that way. It felt like a small town with friendly neighborhoods.
Of all the places we visited, I definitely have a few favorites. The Uffizi, which is a massive art museum, was incredible. I loved getting to see paintings I've always heard about, like Botticelli's "Birth of Venus", Rembrandt's "Portrait of an Old Man", and multiple works from both Caravaggio and his female protege Gentileschi. Another great spot was the Bargello, where I got to see Donatello's "David", depicted as a young, small soldier, whereas Michelangelo's "David" is muscular and much more powerful-looking. And then, Brunelleschi's Dome had some of the most beautiful iconography I've ever seen--just an amazing space.
Though it's difficult to decide, I think my overall favorite place was a convent-turned-museum called San Marco. The entrance is a beautiful courtyard, and then the whole upstairs is dedicated to the cells of monks, all with frescos painted by Fra Angelico of biblical scenes. Entering into the cells and imagining what it would have been like to spend hours every day in this one space, meditating on one singular image for a lifetime, was such an interesting window into monastic living.
Before our train left for Orvieto, we decided to ascend to the top of the Duomo, which was an alarming amount of stairs, but not enough to dissuade us. Up we went, climbing and climbing and climbing. We waited in line on a scaffold along the ceiling of the church, speculating as to what scenes were being depicted. And then, almost an hour later, we emerged at the tip top, looking out over the view. The streets below might as well have been a miniature city with ant-people. All of the architecture seemed to bend in a sort of community towards one another. The wind was unbelievable, and slightly unsettling. Though we had to practically run to the train station to catch our ride home, Florence is a spectacle worthy of heightened regard.