Florence Visit – Residenza Castiglioni
Our Florence visit started with a 3 block walk from the main train station to our B&B at Residenza Castiglioni. We buzzed up from the street and I spoke Italian, which is all the owner understood. The Residenza Castiglioni B&B was enchanting. The owner was so pleasant and sincere that she seemed like family. The cleaning staff helped out with English. Our room was unusual, with basically a Renaissance wallpaper painting completely covering each of the four walls. You had to search carefully in the painting to find the bathroom door. The ceiling of our room at Residenza Castiglioni was like a mini Vatican.
Florence Visit – Florence Cathedral
The first stop on our Florence Visit was the Florence Cathedral (also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore). I checked the schedules of hours that the church and cupola are open before we made the short stroll from our B&B. When I saw the church, Ifelt the same impressive emotion that I’d had more than 40 years ago when I visited as a child. The Florence Cathedral was free to enter. It was very large inside, giving the Florence Cathedral an empty feeling. The paintings on the inside of the cupola dome are fabulous.
Florence Visit – Cathedral Cupola
Next we ascended the cathedral cupola for a small admission fee. The entrance for the staircase is on the outside of the Florence Cathedral. The off season wait in May was only about 10 minutes. I can’t imagine what it’s like in summer when they line up completely around the church. The climb to the top of the cathedral cupola is 463 stair steps with no elevator option. The spiral stair case at the beginning was dizzying. The entire trip up the cupola is a one way climb. There’s another different route back down.
About half way up you reach the beginning of the curved surface of the cathedral cupola. At this point you leave the spiral staircase and enter the inside of the Florence cathedral. You are about 100 feet up with a view of the people on the cathedral floor below. Above, you seem pinned against the painted ceiling of the cathedral cupola. Even though the narrow ledge we were on was safely enclosed, I was terrified by the height. I quietly panicked while I waited for others in front of me who were stopped to enjoy the fabulous views. The ledge was too narrow to pass them.
After circling half the base of the cathedral cupola, we went back to the inside of the dome structure, climbing switch back stairs. Then we made the final ascent in an arc matching the shape of the cathedral cupola. As you climb in the tight space, you realize that the roof is above you and the dome painting is actually below you. When you finally reach the top and go outside, the views of the city and the church campanile are magnificent.
Florence Visit – Ponte Vecchio
After our visit to the Florence Cathedral we wandered past the Uffizi Museum and the statues in the square nearby. Then we crossed over the Ponte Vecchio bridge. The Boboli gardens are on the opposite bank of the river when you cross the Ponte Vecchio. We crossed back over the Ponte Vecchio agains and also wandered past the Basilica Santa Croce cathedral. Its design is very similar to the Florence Cathedral. From the large square in front of the Basilica Santa Croce you can get a much better view of the church. In comparison, the Florence Cathedral is so tightly placed in the old town that you can’t get a good view of it from the street.
Florence Visit – Statue of David
For the next part of our Florence visit, we used our reserved tickets to see Michelangelo’s David. Our tickets allowed us to go past the line up and straight in to see the statue of David. Although we’d already seen a replica in the square at the Ufissi Museum, the real sculpture of the statue of David at the Accedamia is amazingly imposing. The presentation in the small room makes the statue of David seem about 3 times larger than you expect. The detail is inspiring. We sat on a bench and just looked. The statue of David draws you to stay and suspend everything else you planned to do that day.
In the evening we had dinner in the Piazza della Signoria square overlooking the statues by the Uffizi Museum. That night was very noisy outside our Residenza Castiglioni B&B. Although there was no car traffic on the street late at night, there were people arguing, trash trucks collecting garbage, babies crying and all kinds of commotion. The city of Florence may be noisy and touristy, but the magnificence of the Florence Cathedral and the Statue of David make a Florence visit unforgettable.