ccording to statistics produced by UNESCO, 60% of the world’s most important works of art are located in Italy and approximately half of these are in Florence. That would be enough incentive to visit Florence, but if you need more there is no dirth of excuses you could use for a trip to this wonderful city.
Consider its friendly people, delicious food, wonderful ice cream, delicious wine, fabulous shopping and beautiful sights to see. Consider that if you can tear yourself away from the delights of Florence it is sooo convenient to the delights of the countryside. Consider that a week or two is not nearly long enough to soak it all in.
Florence is the capital of the famed region of Tuscany, on Italy’s northwest coast. Tuscany is known for its fine culinary traditions — especially, its olive oil, meat dishes and classic Chianti. Come with your appetite intact, and visit the many atmospheric trattorie and the clusters of lovely little eateries south of the Arno River and near the central market in San Lorenzo.
Sprawled along both sides of the famed Arno River, this is a city of bridges. At the end of World War II only one of these bridges, the Ponte Vecchio, remained standing; but the others have long since been rebuilt to connect the two sides of the city. The Ponte Vecchio is a 14th-century bridge lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry — a step up from the butcher shops that once lined the bridge.
It is said that the economic concept of bankruptcy originated at the Ponte Vecchio: when a merchant could not pay his debts, the table on which he sold his wares (the “banco”) was physically broken (“rotto”) by soldiers, and this practice was called “bancorotto” (broken table; possibly it can come from “banca rotta” which means “broken bank”). Not having a table anymore, the merchant was not able to sell anything.
You can walk from one end of the city center to the other in about 30 minutes. A good reference point for navigating your way around Florence is its central train station, Santa Maria Novella, although the Duomo is a pretty good reference point too and hard to miss. The Cathedral or Duomo of Florence (officially the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore) as we see it today is the end result of years of work that covered over six centuries of history. Its basic architectural project was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio at the end of the 13th century; the cupola that has made it a symbol for the whole of Tuscany was created by Filippo Brunelleschi, and the facade that completed it was carried out as late as the late 19th century.
It is useless to try to describe in this small space the many delights of this city. The cathedrals, the museums, the monuments, the parks, the art and statuary. Michaelangelo’s stunning David is here, the incomparable Uffizi Gallery, the Boboli Gardens (from which you can get stunning views of the whole city) and so much more. You must visit some of the links provided below to get a better idea of how fabulous the place is.
One building you are likely to visit, due to its proximity to our resort of choice, is the Church of Santa Croce. The walls of this gothic church are lined with tombs, and 276 tombstones pave the floor. The church’s most famous inhabitants are Michelangelo, Macchiavelli, Galileo and Bardi. Its various chapels feature works of art by Giotto and della Robbia, and the serene cloisters were designed by Brunelleschi. Santa Croce has traditionally always been used for important civic and religious events because it is large enough to contain crowds of people. This was where Carnival and May Day festivities were celebrated, as well as tournaments, jousting and carousels, especially during the Renaissance, with the participation of the younger members of the Florentine aristocracy.
Just around the corner from Santa Croce you’ll stumble across Casa Buonarroti, a house which Michelangelo owned but never lived in. Bought by Michelangelo in 1508, this house in via Ghibellina was subsequently transformed, enlarged and inhabited by the artist’s descendents until the late nineteenth century. The best-known of these was the artist’s nephew, Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger who transformed the house into a museum to his uncle. In 1609 he bought the adjoining houses and in 1612 began the work necessary to transform it into a splendid palace, employing some of the best known painters of the time. This wonderful Casa now contains a huge collection of both original works of art by Michaelangelo and copies.
Very nearby both the Santa Croce and Casa Buonarroti, located in an alleyway, is a very special RCI-affiliated resort, the Dimore La Vecchia Firenze. Not particularly distinctive on the outside, the inside is filled with lovely open-beamed ceilings, comfortable and attractive furnishings and many Italian touches.
Every unit has “hydromassage, swedish salina, air conditioning, telephone and television”. The attractive kitchens are fully furnished with all the modern conveniences, such as oven and microwave, dishwasher, gas stove, coffee pot (“for the American coffee”), an electric juice squeezer– you name it.
The bedrooms, which might seem a tad small by American standards, are nevertheless more than big enough for sleeping in, with beds that are very comfortable and an ambiance of old Italy that will charm you out of your shoes.
This area is called Artigiani’s and is renowned for its lively and bubbly atmosphere. Its distinctive character is provided by a variety of old-style restored shops and workshops that will encourage you to take out your wallet, and there are cafes and restaurants nearby that are favorites with the locals– which means they’ll be favorites of yours, too.
Note that this is a VERY small property consisting of only nine timeshare apartments that range in size from studios to 2-bedrooms, so make your plans in advance.
Don’t speak Italian? Don’t worry about it. Italians are very friendly and accommodating people who will go out of their way to help you. Smile a lot and be courteous. You’ll be amazed by how well that works.
Some Web sites you may want to visit for more information:
- http://www.vecchiafirenze.com/ — The resort’s website
- http://www.florenceinitaly.com/ — A complete guide written by florentines as a tribute the their beloved Florence.
- http://www.yourwaytoflorence.com/florence.htm –All about Florence
- http://www.mega.it/eng/egui/hogui.htm –The Florence art guide
- http://www.casabuonarroti.it/it/ —The house owned by Michaelangelo, but never lived in by him (in Italian)
- http://www.uffizi.firenze.it/en/musei/?m=boboli –The official site for Boboli Gardens
The purpose of “On the Road” is to showcase some of the magnificent places in the world to visit, to give you an idea for someplace to go that you might previously not have thought of or known about. In most cases, but not all, we have provided a brief overview of a timeshare resort in the spotlighted area. Most of those resorts are either RCI Gold Crown or I.I. Select quality. However, these resorts are not usually the only timeshare resorts in the area; be sure to check in your exchange catalog for a complete listing of available resorts. Check it out— enjoy yourself, go somewhere new this year!
Readers are encouraged to contribute their own stories and photos. Email [email protected] and put “On the Road” in the Subject line so we’ll know what it’s about.