Our Time In Florence, Part 1

Return to International Travel – Introduction
Review: SWISS A340-300 ORD-ZRH and Marhaba Lounge ZRH
Lodging Review: Sina Villa Medici, Florence, Italy
Our Time In Florence, Part 1
Our Time In Florence, Part 2
Lodging Review: Park Hyatt Vendome, Paris, France
Our Time In Paris, Part 1 (Louvre, Sainte-Chappelle, Arc, Eiffel Tower)
Our Time In Paris, Part 2 (Versailles)
Our Time In Paris, Part 3 (Catacombs, Musee d’Orsay)
Viking Kari and an Afternoon in Montmartre
Our Time in La Roche-Guyon and Vernon/Giverny
Our Time on the Normandy Beaches
Our Time in Les Andelys and Le Pecq
Lodging Review: Renaissance Republique, Paris, France
Review: Air France A350 CDG-ORD

There is so much to do in Florence that I know we just scratched the surface in our two full days of sightseeing. On the afternoon and evening of the day we arrived we just walked around the historic district, taking photos of various buildings and statues and having dinner in one of the many outdoor cafes.

We had pre-purchased tickets for the the Uffizi and the Accademia online several months in advance and would highly recommend doing that. These are timed tickets so we selected times as early as we could get.

There were several options for the Uffizi ticket and we chose one that also included the nearby Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens that run just behind it. Our Uffizi tickets were for 9 AM but when we arrived we were told the museum wouldn’t be opening until 10:30 AM for a “staff meeting”. Now it seems to me that if you’re going to have a staff meeting that you have it at a time that does not impact your open-to-the-public hours but we heard via people nearby talking that the staff was meeting to vote whether or not to go on strike. I don’t know whether or not they did but I was just selfishly glad it did not further impact our time in the city.

Palazzo Pitti

If you’re not familiar with Florence, here’s a quick primer on the Medici family, a name you will often see and hear. The Medicis (MED-i-chee) were an Italian banking family that began a rise to prominence under Cosimo de Medici in the first half of the 15th century. Their bank was the largest in Europe at this time and funded the family’s rise. Their family produced four popes in the 16th and early 17th centuries and two French queens during the same period. The title Duke of Florence was bestowed in 1532 and was elevated to a Grand Duke in 1569 after significant territorial expansion.

The Palazzo Pitti Exterior is rather plain but is it ornate inside

Cosimo I de Medici purchased the Palace in 1550 as their new residence. It later housed the courts of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine (the Medici successors) in 1737 and the Kings of Italy from the House of Savoy from 1865-1871. King Victor Emmanuel II donated the palace to the nation in 1919.

The palace was originally built at the behest of a banker, Luca Pitti, though he suffered financial losses and died in 1472 with the building unfinished. Cosimo I de Medici’s wife Eleonora di Toledo purchased the palace and the family added it to their vast holdings. The palace is so large that even with 140 rooms open to the public sometimes things get overlooked. In 2005 some forgotten 18th century bathrooms were re-discovered and revealed remarkable examples of contemporary plumbing very similar in style to the bathrooms of the 21st century.

The main gallery is called the Palatine Gallery and consists of 28 rooms. There are over 500 principally Renaissance paintings including works by Raphael, Titian, Correggio and Peter Paul Rubens among others. There are also amazing sculptures throughout. Here are a few things I found interesting.

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Boboli Gardens

The Gardens are located right behind the Palazzo Pitti and continue up to the top of Boboli Hill. Laid out for Elonora di Toledo, the gardens are some of the first formal 16th-century Italian gardens, a design which later served as a pattern for many European courts. They are essentially an outdoor museum with statues both ancient and from the Renaissance placed throughout the garden’s 111 acres. During the time of the de Medicis the gardens were only available to the family; they didn’t even use them for entertaining!


Just behind the palace is an amphitheater, its seating areas still clearly marked on the sides. The obelisk is originally from Aswan, Egypt and the inscriptions indicate it’s dedicated to Atum, the deity of the city of Heliopolis. It’s thought to have been created during the reign of Ramesses II (1200s BC) and moved to Rome by the Emperor Domitian in the first century AD. Cardinal Ferdinand de Medici bought the obelisk in the 16th century and moved it to the Villa Medici in Rome. In 1788 Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Lorraine and Tuscany moved the obelisk, which weighs over 19,800 pounds, to Florence, a voyage that took four months.

Monkey Fountain

This fountain sits at the very top of the hill and depicts a fishing cherub with three monkeys around the base. In 2021 the figures were all replaced with copies for conservation purposes. The fountain was created for another villa in 1595 and moved several times before settling in this location around 1830.

The Monkey Fountain is at the very top of the gardens


The statue was begun in 1608 to represent Giovanna (Joanna) of Austria, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, wife of Francesco I de Medici, who died from a fall while heavily pregnant with her eighth child, who also died. But it was completed in 1637 as an allegorical figure. The wheat bouquet is made of bronze.


Fountain of Neptune

I’m frustrated because I thought I had a close-up photo of the fountain itself but it’s a bronze statue of Neptune preparing to strike the ground with his trident, causing water to spring forth.

From beside the Abundance statue looking down on the Neptune Fountain and the palazzo


I couldn’t find any info on this statue but who doesn’t love a horse that can fly?


Massive. That’s my key takeaway from this museum and its thousands of priceless works of art. We’d hoped to avoid some of the crowds by going early but that did not happen. Instead, we visited after lunch along with hundreds of other folks.

While I would definitely say this is something not to be missed it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paintings and sculptures. I wish it was like the British Museum where it’s free and you could come in for a couple of hours, leave to clear your head and come back later that day or another day and see a different section. Truly one of the “must-sees” of Firenze.

Here are few items I found interesting:

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In the end

Walking through these three attractions was enough to wear us out. The temperature was in the low 80sF and I was quite warm. My feet aren’t used to walking on cobblestones and boy, did they feel it after that first day. As we’d done on the night we arrived we found an outdoor restaurant and had a great meal, came back to the hotel and we were spent. But we had to get up early as we had an 8:30 AM appointment with a guy named David.

Categories: Attraction Review, Award Travel, Europe, Italy, Trip Report, UNESCO World Heritage Site | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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