Located near the Piazza Veccio, the Uffizi Gallery is Florence’s most eminent art museum. It boasts an impressive collection of works by Michaelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, and Leonardo Da Vinci. The gallery’s top floor, the “Hall of Rulers,” is a long hallway that displays in chronological order the emperors of the Roman Empire. You can go down the hall and recreate the timeline of Rome with each ruler’s bust. Among its many fabulous pieces of art, the illustrious Birth of Venus by Botticelli is likely its most prominent acquisition, if not it’s most visibly iconic.
After a short breather to rest our tired legs, we traveled to Florence’s most remarkable structure: the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or simply the Duomo. Completed in 1436, the Duomo is Florence’s main church and the largest masonry dome in the world. Its soft, orange-colored dome is a wonderful sight and makes the skyline of Florence immediately recognizable. After a short lesson on the history surrounding the Duomo, we took the students up all 463 steps to the very top of the church to see the spectacular view from above. It was a tough climb through a narrow passageway, but completely worth it in the end. The ascent rewards you with a glorious view of all of Florence and the surrounding Tuscan hills. We took our sweet time admiring the vista and making sure we all got that perfect photo to remember it by.
Before breaking off into smaller groups for dinner and further investigations of the city, we popped into the Baptistery, renowned for its intricately decorated brass doors and the magnificent mosaic covering the ceiling. Many important Renaissance figures like Dante Alighieri and several members of the Medici family were baptized here and for many years all Catholic Florentines were baptized at the Baptistery.
We didn’t wonder long after dinner since tomorrow we will be following the pilgrimages of old to the medieval town of Siena to taste some wild boar and cheer on our favorite contrade.