Italy Part 1: Florence & Venice – From Renaissance to Gondolas

Italy – the inventors of pizza, spaghetti, soccer and the Renaissance, is a great place to visit and if it’s your first trip there then I suggest doing it by rail. I had 10 days and visited three places first stop was Florence, then Venice and then onto Rome. This is a two part blog post featuring Rome in the following chapter.

Florence

Two days in Florence weren’t enough; there is so much to see in the Tuscan region. The city of Florence itself is beautiful the buildings and the chiming of church bells give it its romantic renaissance vibe. Now if you’re only there for a short stay like me definitely book tickets online to see the statue of David at the Accadamia Gallery – I missed out thinking I had enough time. The city itself can be seen in a full day but you’ll want to go out and explore the region further.

 

The Duomo (Italian: Il Duomo di Firenze) and surrounding Piazzas: Florence’s Cathedral is a stunning piece of architecture and definitely a must see as you wonder the city. Walk around the city and stroll through the piazzas, the Piazza della Signoria is one of the bigger piazzas and is surrounded by art and architecture. You will also get to see a replica of the statue of David (just in case you don’t see the original).

Day Trip to the vineyards: If you have a day then there is a very inexpensive and great tour of the wineries in Chianti and the town of Sienna. This tour is pretty great, the winery stop was lovely and really gave you a feel for the Chianti region and its wines- we visited Vino Poggio Amorelli  and wine tasting was included. Sienna was also a marvel to walk around in, stop and get a gelato you have some free time to explore if you don’t want to follow the tour guide. The only downfall of the tour is that they do stop the gorgeous fortress of Monteriggioni (if you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan you’ll love this bit of the tour) but it’s a very short stop. My tip would be skip the wine tasting there and look around, they also have their own currency that you can buy at the gates of the fortress but they also accept credit cards in most places. This particular tour also included dinner at a beautiful farm. To book it go to My Tour, they have a few different tours to choose from.

Markets: If you’re looking to buy leather goods visit the markets and make sure you bargain with the stall owners. The San Lorenzo Markets are the most famous here you will find everything from clothes, food to leather goods

Also if you do have time up your sleeve (which I did not) Pisa is about an hour by train so you can go see the Leaning Tower and be back by lunch.

From Florence hop on the train to Venice it’s only less than two hours away….

Venice

Venice is well known for its canals and gondolas, the city is a floating masterpiece set out on numerous canals and connecting bridges with absolutely no cars or buses. I spent two nights here, which was enough to get a feel of the place and see the sights.

Saint Marks Basilica

Saint Marks Basilica and Piazza: Visit stunning Saint Mark’s Basilica, this cathedral is absolutely breathtaking, once you’re done visiting the cathedral take a walk around the piazza and feed the pigeons. My tip here is unless you want to pay €15+ for a Coke-a-Cola (yes, I’m not kidding) don’t sit down at the cafes in the piazza. Walk around the corner past the Doge’s Palace and they are back to near normal pricing.

Gondola on the Canal

Gondola on the Canal

The Gondolas: If you get a chance definitely do a gondola ride they are pretty pricy for an hour but its per gondola and they seat about 6 people- when in Venice! You may have to wait in line for a while as they are a popular activity, but there are a lot of them operating at the one time so the wait shouldn’t be too long.

Murano: Ok, so we know Venice is famous for its Murano glass, the little island (Murano) is about a thirty minute ferry ride and is a must see, plus they make great gifts to bring back home and something for yourself perhaps. The short tours of the workshops are really interesting and will show you how the glass is blown and shaped into stunning pieces.

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge

The Bridges: There are so many little bridges connecting the canals that it’s almost hard to keep track of them but most of them are beautiful designed and are their own work of art. Make sure you go see the Rialto Bridge which connects both sides of the grand canal, it also has shops and some great places to eat or have a drink and people watch on both sides of it. The Bridge of Sighs (in Italian it’s known as Ponte dei Sospiri) is around the corner from the Doge’s Palace, built in the 16th century it connects the palace to the prisons.

The next leg of the trip and the last stop was Rome, the train ride is long so take some reading material with you.

Next post… onto Rome!

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