A city built for strolling, Florence’s captivating and narrow, winding streets open up into beautiful squares, punctuated by stunning Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Gelato shops and pizzerias beckon, and stores filled with elegant leather handbags and jackets abound. Glittering gold shops overlooking the River Arno on the Ponte Vecchio leave you dazzled.
An art aficionado’s dream, Florence is home to many beautiful paintings and sculptures, many of which were produced under the sponsorship of the powerful Medici family. Highly-educated lovers of art and culture, the Medici offered patronage to Florence, making it the most culturally important city of the Italian Renaissance. The family’s splendid art collection was later bequeathed to the city and much of it remains today.
We wanted to be fully present and enjoy every moment of our trip, free of worries and hassles, so booking a guided tour was essential. We enjoyed a five-day art-focused itinerary in Firenze, under the tutelage of outstanding guides – a local art historian, and art history lecturers from local campuses of prestigious U.S. universities. From them, we received invaluable keys to the religious and artistic significance of many works we might never otherwise have seen.
We visited the major sites, including the massive Florence Cathedral, the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo and the Uffizi Gallery, but the two most captivating were Michelangelo’s breathtaking David (perfection, in almost seventeen feet of marble), in the Gallerie dell'Accademia, and the Baptistery of St. John, named for St. John the Baptist. In the Baptistery, our guide gave us a fascinating overview of the religious significance of the ceiling – a masterpiece of Renaissance skill. Without a guide to explain it, however, its beauty could simply wash over you in a wave of golden paint.
A drive through the lush Tuscan landscape took us to Vinci where we found several museums dedicated to the work of famous son Leonardo. Again, our guide expertly explained the genius of Da Vinci’s stunning inventions and artwork, including the Mona Lisa, arguably the most famous portrait of all time.
We then enjoyed a rare treat available only to our tour group – a visit to the studio of renowned Italian leather designer Jennifer Tattanelli – receiving an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at her exquisite collection. Our minds and souls feasted on the culture of Florence, but our stomachs weren’t neglected! We often walked with tour leader Birgit through narrow streets to dine in fine, but well-hidden restaurants. On our last evening, we enjoyed a hilltop restaurant outside the city where the food and views were fabulous. Our journey had taken us through centuries of beautiful art and architecture, and the works of geniuses like Michelangelo, Botticelli and Da Vinci. Before heading home, we watched the twinkling lights of the city around us, pausing for a final embrace of this fabulous experience.
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