A long Easter weekend was around the corner and the most awaited summer was in its full glory. We decided to drive all the way to Italy and make a visit to Florence, Venice, Pisa, and Milan. We were based out of Geneva in Switzerland and a drive to Florence in a single stretch would have been hectic so we decided to make a stopover in Verona.
We reached Verona late evening exhausted and pulled ourselves into the bed for a good night’s sleep. Verona has a good rail connectivity with major cities of Italy like Bologna and Venice. We opted-out driving all the way to Venice and boarded a train. We spent a wonderful day exploring the canals, churches, and alleys of Venice and returned back to Verona. Our next stop was Florence.
The journey from Verona to Florence was around 3 hrs. We had booked our apartment on outskirts of the city which took us some time to reach. Our thoughtful host had already kept all the maps and information ready spread on the table when we reached the apartment. She helped us with public transport access to the historical center and the key attractions.
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
A couple of minutes walk from the Florence station is the splendid marble facade of Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. The large nave looks impressive with a row of Corinthian columns, vaulted ceiling and the magnificent stained glass windows in the aisles. The frescoes on the interior of the church are an excellent piece of art.
The streets were jam-packed with tourists and souvenir vendors. Florence is more like an open-air museum teeming with monuments and every building exuding history.
Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore
We next walked to the Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore in Piazza del Duomo. The gothic style church is the main church of Florence spread over an area of 8,300 square meters. It is the largest brick dome ever constructed.
The exterior of the basilica is adorned with marble panels in various shades of green, pink and white. The vast Gothic interior is graced with notable frescoes and up to 44 stained-glass windows.
Piazza Della Repubblica
The narrow cobbled streets opened up into a huge square, the Piazza Della Repubblica filled with street performers.
At one corner of the square public gathered around a pair of oxen decorated with flower garlands. As a part of the Easter celebration, a procession with an ornate wagon pulled by the pair of oxen would walk through the streets of Florence to the Duomo Square.
The Mercato Nuovo or the new market close to the square is bustling with stalls for leather goods in a 16th-century loggia. The main attraction here is ‘Porcellino of Florence’ a bronze statue of the boar. It is believed that if one shines the pig’s snout they are sure to return to Florence. We too rubbed hard to try out our luck for future.
Piazza Della Signoria
A narrow alley connected the market to the Piazza Della Signoria which houses the prominent art museum Uffizi gallery and Palazzo Vecchio the imposing town hall of Florence.
The arcade ‘Loggia Della Signoria’ itself is an exceptional open-air museum with some of the outstanding Renaissance sculptures.
It was drizzling most of the times and the weather had turned chilly but that did not stop us from devouring on as many gelatos possible. For, we were in Italy and gelatos here taste scrumptious! And in Florence gelatos from the ‘Vivoli’ are a must try. You will find it on the way to the Basilica of Santa Croce. For more on food trails,read Florence for Foodies from Misadventures with Andi.
Basilica of Santa Croce
Basilica of Santa Croce is a burial place of some of the popular Italians artists. We visited the church and spent some time relaxing in the square.
The square was lively with tourists and many street performers. A small musical performance fascinated and delighted everyone around the square with its band.
Last part of our Florence sightseeing was the leather shopping at the Michelangelo’s Leather gallery after reading through some nice reviews on the Internet. Michelangelo has a good variety of leather bags, jackets, and accessories.
For history and architecture buffs Siena is yet another gem of a city which can be visited on a day trip from Florence.
Florence to Pisa took us till more than an hour. Piazza Dei Miracoli or the Square of Miracles in Pisa is home to the religious monuments: the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Camposanto Monumentale.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
While Florence has some of the remarkable architectural masterpieces, the architectural design flaw of Leaning Tower of Pisa attracts millions of tourists every year who pose funny pictures with the tower.
Originally built as the bell tower of the cathedral in 1173 the tower began to lean soon after it completed the third floor owing to the soft ground. Today is stands tilted displaced 3.9 meters horizontally. One can climb 297 steps to the top of the eight stories tower past 207 columns to the bell chamber for a breathtaking view of the Pisa City.
Piazza Dei Miracoli
The cathedral is an exemplary masterpiece in Romanesque style with a fine facade is made up of grey marble and white stones.
The lower facade has huge bronze doors with intricately carved sculptures.
The statue of Madonna with Child stands atop the four rows of open galleries in the upper facade. The exceptional artwork in the interior is the gilded ceiling, beautiful frescoes on the dome, stunning mosaic work in the apse and the elaborately carved pulpit.
The Pisa Baptistery is a marvelous blend of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles. The exterior of the marble structure is an exceptional artwork with elegant arches, niches, columns, and statues.
There are plenty of things to do in Milan. But due to short of time we could only visit the Milan Cathedral. Milan’s Duomo the fifth largest Christian church in the world is a feast for the eyes with its 135 spires and more than 3000 sculptures.
The striking feature being the gilded bronze statue of Madonnina atop the cathedral’s tallest spires. One can choose to walk up the stairs or take an elevator to the roof for an amazing experience to see the pinnacles and sculptures in a close proximity.
Our wonderful trip to Italy had finally come to an end as we headed back to Geneva. Our trip to Florence, Pisa, and Milan was definitely not the last visit to this land of diverse and charming landscapes.
Have you been on a road trip to Italy? Which is your favorite of Florence, Pisa, and Milan? Do share with us your experience.
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