Beautifully historic Florence

How exciting – Beautifully historic Florence, Italy! Florence is a popular tourist attraction for many reasons. This medieval town was a financial, educational, and artistic hub in Europe during the 14th through 16th centuries.

Names you will recognize and associate with Florence are the powerful Medici banking family, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci. Some of the things Florence is famous for today are its museums, renaissance architecture, and of course, shopping and food.

This was the first stop on the Italian portion of our Retirement Extravaganza. After our quick flight from Barcelona, we quickly found our pre-booked taxi driver, and he carted us off to the Hotel La Scaletta, our home for the next four nights (paid for with hotel points).

This hotel is located on a busy narrow street between the Ponte Vecchio bridge and Palazzo Pitti, and on the third floor of a building constructed in the 15th century — what a great choice! It was a short walk to many attractions we wanted to see.

We knew to expect lots of steps leading up to this hotel from ground level, 97 of them, but we also knew there was a small elevator. Well, we didn’t know how to operate the lift, so we walked up the 97 steps — just that once! Once we made it to the top,” we found friendly and helpful faces, shiny clean and comfortable rooms, and another rooftop bar and restaurant!

We’d so enjoyed the rooftop bar and restaurant in Barcelona just the day before but had not expected this one in Florence. Our hotel was on a street lined with shops of all kinds. We did enjoy window shopping on our way “home” each day.

A reflection I have about our time in Italy, especially at Hotel La Scaletta, was the genuine, gracious, and welcoming hospitality.

Beautifully historic Florence

That climb up the stairs sounded like a creaky knee choir before the four of us got to the top!

Beautifully historic Florence
Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio is a three-segment bridge first built in Roman times over the Arno River that now houses an interesting collection of shops.  This was the only bridge in Florence that was not destroyed by Germans during World War II.

Dinner with locals

After settling in at our hotel and enjoying the fantastic rooftop bar views, Steve and I took a taxi to our Eat-With dinner destination while our friends chose to have dinner at a nearby restaurant. Eat-With is a business organization that connects people to share a meal or dining event.

The way it works is that you select the dining experience in the location you want on your preferred date and at the person’s agreed-upon price. You show up at their home (or restaurant) to enjoy a dining experience. I thought this would be a terrific way to interact with local folks. This organization is worldwide, by the way.

I selected a person from Eat-With’s website that offered dinner in his home for a reasonable price, his family spoke English, and his house was close to our hotel.  

What an adventure — dinner with strangers in a strange country! We had a great evening with a forty-ish-year-old professional couple and their teenage daughter. Dinner was prepared as we watched and talked – an informal and comfortable family dinner, just as advertised.

The couple’s daughter played guitar and sang for us — very entertaining. As an appetizer, we were served tempura fried vegetables, including squash blossoms, and sage leaves. Very unusual and quite delicious. I will definitely try cooking sage leaves at home.

The entire meal, good wine, roast pork, vegetables, Eton Mess for dessert, and finally Limoncello, of course, was delicious, and the conversation was great; but oh, those sage leaves!

Below are scenes from the streets of Florence: the Column of Justice, Florence Cathedral, and Il Porcellino, a bronze boar. Il Porcellino is supposed to bring good luck when you place a coin in the boar’s gaping jaws and allow it to fall down through the grate.

Visitors also rub the boar’s nose to be sure they will return to Florence. It’s difficult to see in my photo, but the snout is highly polished (by visitors), and the rest of the statue is a dull brown-green color.

Accademia Gallery

We prepurchased almost all of our tours for the trip. Most venues offered “skip the line” entry, and I absolutely understand why now. We found extremely long entry lines to visit anywhere! Our tickets allowed us to really skip the lines!

We were pleased we had prepurchased tickets for a specific time for a walking tour of Florence and a guided and narrated tour of the Accademia Gallery, Museum of Florence. This is where the world-famous Michelangelo statue of David can be found — something I never dreamt I would see in person!

I have difficulty comprehending that one person could have created such a detailed statue.

Michelangelo’s David

The figures above, “The Prisoners,” are famous because of their unfinished condition. They were commissioned in 1505 by Pope Julius II to adorn his grave. They illustrate Michelangelo’s work in progress. There are many theories as to why these works were never completed.


This building, constructed between 1560 and 1580, is a vast museum or gallery of art famous for its paintings and ancient sculptures from the 14th century.

I don’t know why, but one of the things that fascinated me the most was The Tribuna, shown in the photograph above, top left. It is an octagonal room that Francesco I, son of Cosimo I de ‘Medici, commissioned to display prized belongings.

This room has red velvet walls, a marble floor, and a dome that is encrusted with precious shells. Visitors are only permitted to view this room outside of a roped-off door. I guess it was the “sneak a peek but do not go inside,” aspect that fascinated me.


We took a short train ride over to the town of Pisa to take a look at that famous leaning tower and were not at all disappointed. When we had all finished taking way too many pictures of the tower, the guys found a cozy spot to drink a few beers, and my friend and I did a little shopping at the many shops just down the lane from the leaning tower.

This place was also swarming with tourists.

Beautifully historic Florence
Yep, it is leaning.

Boboli Gardens

These gardens were very near our hotel and easily seen from our hotel room. The gardens are enormous, acres, and acres but beautiful and peaceful to meander through. Many paths were on an incline and there were many stairs, so it was slow going for us old folks, but not so arduous as to not be enjoyable.

Basilica San Miniato al Monte

The church of San Miniato is in the hills outside of Florence, but a walkable distance from our hotel — IF YOU’RE CRAZY. We did walk, and it was a full day outing and a zillion steps, of course mostly uphill. We may have grumbled at the time, but we are so happy we made the trek to this church.

Amazing views and history everywhere. Here’s a history nugget I read about in Wikipedia after we returned home.

Saint Minias who died in 250AD was the first Christian martyr of Florence! His Christian faith led to him being tortured repeatedly, and at one point put in an amphitheater with a lion and survive, unharmed. Eventually, he was beheaded but legend says he picked up his own head and walked off across the Arno river. Interesting story?

There was so much to see in Florence. The history, the art, the shops, the shops (yes, I typed that twice), the food, the people. I regret I have very little information to provide about our dining experiences because we were so focused on the amazing food, that photos and notes were forgotten!

As I am writing this, I am recalling the very best memories of every moment of our whirlwind visit! We spent four wonderful days in Florence and then parted ways with our traveling pals, Lois and Darrell. They took a train north to Switzerland to visit family, and we took a train south to Naples.

Continue on our trip with us in my next post.

Beautifully historic Florence

21 thoughts on “Beautifully historic Florence

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  10. This makes me want to go back to Florence and do some of the things I didn’t get to do years ago. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Judy. There are so so many things to do and see in Florence. I do not think you could run out of interesting new things to see and do in several months’ time. Such a beautiful city!

  11. Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure. What a grand time! We were in Florence in 2014 but only for about 7 hours. Not long enough. We said we want to go back and after reading your blog we are ready To Go.

    1. You are welcome Lurana. It was truly a magical trip for us. I also want to make a return visit.

  12. What a lovely and fascinating trip for you! You write so well I want to go and visit!
    Sounds wonderful!
    I’m so happy that away from work finally, you are enjoying the sounds and sites of the world! What a blessing! Will continue to follow your blogs and continue to add to my pretend”Bucket List ” today; maybe one day it”ll become a reality I’ll see because of you! Never say Never!!
    Love ya

    1. Thank you Chris. It WAS a remarkable trip! Never say Never, really!

  13. Loved reliving our trip. I take a lot of pictures but never really do anything with them.

    1. I love to remember our trips also – one of the reasons for this storytelling adventure. I also know, from my pictures, what I didn’t fully appreciate or enjoy, so I know I have to return!

  14. Reading your blog is as though we were there. Well done. And, great pictures!

    1. Thank you Vaun! I appreciate your comments. Writing and posting these pictures took me right back there myself.

  15. Wonderful narrative of a beautiful city. Makes me want to go back.

    1. Thank you Pam. It IS such a beautiful city; I hope to visit again someday also. We barely scratched the surface!

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