Like Pisa, my first glimpse of Florence was at night. The city was aglow with Christmas lights, including this department store that was draped in a curtain of light:
After devouring dinner at an Indian restaurant, Jesse led me on a walking tour of the city. We walked past the Duomo, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Uffizi. Walking down quiet side streets, I could almost pretend I was back in the Renaissance. But on the main thoroughfares, the store windows were filled with Gucci, Pucci, Valentino, and Ferragamo. I prefer Renaissance masters to modern fashion designers any day, but window shopping was fun.
On December 24th, Jesse and I made an aborted attempt to go to the grocery store. We were lucky to get out alive. After dodging carts for twenty minutes and standing in line for ten minutes without moving an inch, we abandoned our desired purchases and fled.
We began sight-seeing by visiting Santa Maria Novella, a Gothic church next to the train station. Construction began in the mid-1200s and was completed in the mid-1300s.
To stand in such a basilica is humbling. Marble columns support two-toned pointed arches that soar overhead. Light filters through stained glass windows. Gold glitters on many surfaces. Frescoes depicting the lives of saints cover chapel walls. Tourists move through the cavernous space talking in hushed voices. The setting definitely inspires thoughts of the divine. I just basked in the beauty of it all.
Next we walked across the river and had lunch at a restaurant recommended by the B&B we were staying at. Afterwards we continued to meander through the city. I enjoyed these church doors.
We had just enough time left in the day to walk through the Boboli Gardens. Although the gardens are part of the Pitti Palace (domicile of the Medicis), admission was separate. Because the day was chilly and damp, we had the gardens virtually to ourselves. Statues were tucked in every part of the garden, their creamy marble standing out against the green vegetation. Some were rather battered, many missing arms or noses, and in places there were pedestals without any sculptures at all.
It all seemed rather magical, as if a statue would come to life, tap me on the shoulder, and invite me on an amazing adventure.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but I did pet some very pampered cats who lived on the palace grounds.
Exhausted from walking all over the city, we stopped at a little grocery store across from the Pitti Palace and went back to our hotel to make dinner.