The weather was a nice change from what we had experienced in Switzerland and Paris, so we quickly changed clothes to accommodate the hot and sunny Florence day. Of course our first priority was getting our hands on the country's finest delicacy: gelato! Gelato is made with less milk fat than American ice cream, so the natural flavors come through. We were told to think of the treat is edible art; we appreciated this art twice a day!
With Florence's famous gelato in our bellies we headed to Piazza Michelangelo to get our first panoramic view of Florence with glasses of vino blanco in hand. We took in all of Florence and relaxed for a bit before we headed off to explore this historic city.
In the 1300s, most of Europe was dirty and poverty-stricken, but Florence shined with power and wealth, standardizing the art of refined living. After the bubonic plague in 1348 killed nearly half the city's population, Florence rose better than ever with the leadership of the aggressive and art-crazy Medici family. That is when the Renaissance erupted out of Florence and spread throughout Europe. We can thank the Florentines for the evolution of democracy, science, and the art we see today.
The Duomo- a medieval church topped with a Renaissance dome is a perfect example of how medieval Florence became the birthplace of the Renaissance.
The Baptistery, located across from the church, in nearly a thousand years old, Florence's oldest building.
On the east side of the Baptistery are the famous Ghiberti's Bronze Doors (actually replicas) which make up ten scenes from the Bible. It took Ghiberti 27 years to finish these panels, the work inspiring the next generation of artists to create 3D paintings on a 2D surface.
From the Duomo square we walked along the pedestrian only street, Via Dei Calzai, stopping for our second round of gelato. Two blocks down was the Piazza Repubblica and an arch, Florence's "Belly Button" that marks the old Roman center.
Making our way to the end of Via Dei Calzai, we poured in the Piazza Signoria which is a square dominated by the towering Palazzo Vecchio. Florence prided itself on being a Republic with independence from Rome, and this was it's political center.
The Palazzo Vecchio was a fortess-like City Hall, but eventually became the Medici family's personal place.
We then continued walking south, passing the famous Uffizi Gallery, to see our first up-close glimpse at the Arno River and Ponte Vecchio. The old Roman bridge here was washed away in a flood, but was rebuilt out of stone in 1345. Originally, the bridge was lined with butcher stores, but is now home to expensive jewelry shops.
After watching the sun set, we returned to our apartment which was just two blocks south of the famous bridge. Knowing that the locals eat late, we took our time resting and getting ready for our anniversary dinner. We found a beautiful, hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant where we ate the best food we've ever tasted (until the next day, then the next....).
With our first day in Florence behind us, this was our best anniversary to date! What on earth are we going to do for our fourth year anniversary!?