Central Firenze (Florence, Italy) is best visited on foot. In fact, most motor vehicles are not allowed on the streets, so we took the train from Empoli, a town near Lamporecchio. When you exit the train station in Firenze, you can buy a map from a seller who speaks many languages. So for us — English! We had only six hours. We picked out a route and things to see. I don’t think I’ll admit what I didn’t see. 😉

On a street in Firenze: Papa Pete, behind 3-year-old Ayla in polka dots, Ari, and Travis pushing Perrin in the stroller

On my list was the Dome of Brunelleschi (at the Duomo — the Cathedral of Florence), the Ponte Vecchio, and paintings in the Uffizi. Pete wanted to see Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore di Firenze, the small museum behind the Duomo.

Right away someone decided it was time for lunch. Ristorante Giannino in San Lorenzo looked inviting, and there was room for our party of 11.

Ristorante Giannino in San Lorenzo served our party outside.

While waiting for our food, Pete studied the map and announced, “If we walk to the end of the block and look left, we’ll see the Duomo.” We saw no need to rush through our fine meal. An accordion player serenaded us with American (!) music before the polizia shooed him away. Sure enough, when we turned the corner, we all gasped at the sight of the Cathedral of Florence. It’s truly awesome with its white, pink, and green marble. It takes your breath away.

Here we are, Popo and Papa in Firenze, in front of the Baptistery and the Cathedral, and Brunelleschi’s egg-shaped dome tiled in brown-red bricks in the background. At the museum gift shop I saw the picture of the dome cover an entire umbrella and had to have it. Must see to appreciate!

These are Ari and Travis’s friends, the Busch family. That’s Bob taking the photo of us. His beautiful girls are, from left, Annabelle, Chloé, Magalie, and Scarlette (by the stroller).

In the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore — there are many museums on the perimeter of many public squares in Firenze, so with little time one has to be selective — we saw the original gold Baptistery doors, the original scale models for the dome by different architects in the competition, the original marble tiles from the outside of the bell tower, and an unfinished sculpture by Michelangelo that he carved when he was 80. The sculptor destroyed parts of Jesus (a leg), and later one of his students tried to finish it, but the student’s work doesn’t match. You can tell those parts were not done by Michelangelo.

La Cantoria 1431-1438 by Luca della Robbia. This is an original sculpted panel from the choir loft.

Michelangelo’s last sculpture

While I was buying my umbrella from the gift shop *sigh* the kids went directly to see Michelangelo’s famous “David” at the Galleria dell’Accademia.  Instead of having purchased tickets in advance, and then having to wait in a long reservations line, they went to a nearby shop that sold them tickets for a little more euro. Magalie’s French passport got her a discount (or maybe it was even a free entry), and the fee was less for the children. They got right in.

Was seeing David worth it? Yes! they said. What is impressive is the large size of the work. As Travis says, the irony is that David is Goliath-sized.

Pete and I wandered around with all the other tourists, and walked through the courtyard of the Uffizi Palace (but not into the Gallery to see the works of the masters). We came out into the open on the other side, and there was the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio. Artists and crafters have their works on the sidewalk, and on the bridge itself jewelry store windows sparkle like nowhere else, I imagine.

Pete and I at sunset in Firenze, along the Arno River, and with the Ponte Vecchio in the background.

It was fun to shop on our way back to the train station, as dusk fell and the people came out to enjoy the festive city of Firenze.

Goofing off with sunglasses during our memorable lunch on a street in Firenze. (Photo by Annabelle Busch)

You can see more official photos and information about the Cathedral of Firenze at the website for Museo dell’ Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore di Firenze, from which I quote this summary:


Formed by two ogive-shaped interconnected domes, the octagonal cupola was built from 1418 to 1434 on the project that Filippo Brunelleschi presented at the 1418 competition and that was only accepted in 1420 after many contrasts. Dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore, the temple was consecrated on March 25th 1436.

Wonder of the world architecture, it’s still a mystery of execution, because of the technical difficulties and its dimensions. During the visit, you will be able to admire the details of this work, created by the genius of Filippo Brunelleschi, that is still the largest dome built with bricks. The walkways, the corridors and the spiral staircases that take to the top of the panoramic terrace (92 meters), allow visitors to relive the suggestive sensations in a walk that take them back in time, inside a painting of over three thousand square meters of frescoed surface.

The cupola is 45.5 meters of diameter, the same as that of the entire Baptistery. Brunelleschi’s astonishing innovation was that of vaulting the cupola without a skeleton by means of using a double vault separated by an air space, the internal one of which (two meters thick) was made of herring-bone quoins and also had a structural function as it was self-supporting, while the external one was only a covering.

Over the Cupola rise the lantern with its cone-shaped covering on a design by Brunelleschi, realized after the artist’s death (1446), and the gilded copper ball with cross by Verrocchio which contains holy relics and was set in place in 1466

The fresco decoration of Brunelleschi’s cupola was realized between 1572 and 1579 by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari, and bears the same iconographic theme as the Baptistery: the Last Judgment. The frescoes in the cupola were subjected to global restoration between 1978 and 1994.