One Day in Florence

It’s a travesty, but if you’ve only got one day in Florence, the best thing to do is put on your most comfortable shoes and go for una passeggiata. (pass-edge-jah-tuh).  A walk.

All roads may lead to Rome, but when you’re in Florence just about all roads – 8 of them to be precise – lead to Santa Maria del Fiore, aka the Duomo.  We took Via dei Servi.

(note: in case you’re actually following the posts in order, you may be wondering how – or why – we’re back up in Florence after only one day on Ischia.  Let’s just say there’s been a glitch or two, which I am mortified to say have nothing to do with the computer.  In any event, after today’s post, I’ll pick up from where I left off down south.)


Brunelleschi’s Dome rises above the buildings along Via dei Servi.


Look closely and you’ll see that those tiny things at the top of the dome are people. The views from up there are fabulous, but between the line-up and the climb it takes a while so it’s not for a one-day visit.


You could spend a lifetime, let alone one day, examining the façade and still find something new.

The best view secondo me (seh-kon-doh may) – ‘according to me’ – is from the top of the campanile.  As I explained in ‘A New Home for a New G – Boboli Part I’ (Nov. 17, 2013) it’s 414 steps to the viewing platform, but you’ll have plenty of time to recover as you take in the views, from the Mercato Centrale north of the bell tower, to the green expanse of the Boboli Gardens on the south side of the Arno River.


I think I’ve decided that climbing the 414 steps to the top is a once in a lifetime experience.


One disadvantage apparently of travelling with a companion is that your every move, especially your most unflattering moves, may get recorded.


With all the buildings pressing around the Duomo it’s hard to get a shot of the whole massive thing.

The plan was to meander over to the Oltrarno (‘On the Other Side’, Nov. 10, 2013) for lunch, but first a visit to the Mercato Centrale, Florence’s largest and liveliest market.


Along one of the narrow streets off Piazza Duomo that lead to the market.

A couple of big changes had been made since my last visit (‘Taking a Break – Una Passeggiata a Firenze, Part I’, Oct. 20, 2013).  The outdoor stalls that used to wrap around the Basilica of San Lorenzo had been pushed back to the area immediately surrounding the indoor food market.


Another change. The building that holds the indoor market had been given a facelift.

The stalls on the ground level were as enticing as I remembered.  It was hard to be just passing through.


Vegetables, fruit, wine, vinegar.


Cheese, cold cuts, olives, prepared salads. All beautifully displayed.

But the biggest surprise was on the upper level.  When I lived in Florence this is where most of the fruttivendoli (free-tee-ven-doh-lee) were located.  As we climbed the stairs, I told my daughter about how I used to go up here to finish off my shopping.  But when we reached the top of the staircase there wasn’t a fruit or veggie stall in sight.  The entire floor had been transformed into an enormous, gourmet food court.  One of the chefs told me it  opened in 2014 and has been a huge success.  No wonder!  There is food from all across Italy and many ‘laboratories’ where you can watch traditional regional specialties being prepared as they are in their place of origin – specialties like la vera pizza napoletana (the ‘true’ pizza of Naples), and mozzarella di buffala from Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.  A virtual culinary tour of Italy.  It wasn’t quite 11 am, but already a few groups were sitting down to tempting-looking dishes – con vino of course.  And while the old market used to shut down in the evening, nowadays that’s when things really get going.  It’s open until midnight and, as one of the vendors explained, waiting for one of the 500 seats is part of the experience.  I was so enthralled with the whole thing I forgot to take any photos.  One more reason to return.

By the time we got to Ponte Vecchio we were starving.  Fortunately, while all the ‘distractions’ in Florence’s jam-packed centre means it can be slow going, if you put your mind to it – no window gazing, no loitering – you can be anywhere in a matter of minutes.  Piazza Santo Spirito was a five-minute walk west of the bridge.


Ponte Vecchio. No matter how many times you see it, always enchanting.


To visit Florence without visiting the Uffizi Galleries is like going to Niagara and not seeing the falls. But if you’ve only got one day, this is as close as you dare get.


The piazza around the Basilica di Santo Spirito is always a lively place.  A small market, lots of students and locals and a wide choice of inviting places for lunch.

We walked around checking out the trattorie that lined the piazza and finally chose one that gave us a good view of the Basilica and goings-on in the piazza.


Insalata caprese.  The first of many we would have on this trip.

After lunch, in keeping with our trip’s outdoors theme, we headed for the Boboli Gardens.  To reach the gardens you pass through the courtyard of Pitti Palace.


As we were passing through the courtyard I happened to look up and something caught my eye. The window on the middle level, second from the left is a ‘trompe l’oeil’. Funny thing about these fake windows. Once you spot one, you start start looking for others.

We didn’t see much of the garden.  As much as I wanted to check out my favourite part, the Isolotto, I was worried about the dark clouds that had gathered while we ate lunch so after we climbed the central axis and had a look around we headed for the Bardini Garden where I knew we could find shelter.  (‘Boboli’s Next Door Neighbour’, Dec. 1, 2013)  We barely made it to the Kaffeehaus before it started to pour.


It may be ‘atmospheric’ but I prefer to see Florence’s historic centre under blue skies. Besides I had just seen it under storm clouds on my last visit to the gardens.

Eventually the rain let up and we left the ‘Other Side’ and made our way to Piazza Santa Croce.  Just in time for an evening aperitivo.


Next – heading south – and staying there!



2 thoughts on “One Day in Florence

  1. Hi Donna I am an enthusiast of garden club talks and first heard of you in that setting. You seem to have spoken in Toronto and area, but always early in the new year, and I fould out too late. So, are you speaking any place in the near future? Cheers, and a toast to garden travel!! Janet


    • Hi Janet, I have started to branch out a bit lately with a 2-part talk on Sicily, but if you’re looking specifically for gardens I’m giving a talk at the Toronto Reference Library March 21 that might be of interest – the Gardens of Tuscany. In the meantime I join your toast to garden travel!

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