Winter in Tuscany 2012: A Cold, Rainy Tuesday in Florence

The Duomo from the campanile

The Duomo from the campanile

We all want perfect weather when we go on vacation, but what happens if it’s cold and rainy and you’re in a special place, like Florence, Italy? Follow this Michelangelo-heavy itinerary, and you’ll scarcely notice the rain (wear thermal socks and a warm hat and expect the bottom of your trousers to be soaked)!

First have a good, hot breakfast with lots of cappuccinos in your hotel. In Italy most hotel charges include breakfast, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Eat hearty!

Next visit Michelangelo’s David and The Prisoners at the Galleria dell’Accademia. If you don’t see any other art in Florence, you must see David and The Prisoners—my favorite works by Michelangelo. Photography isn’t allowed at the Accademia, so you’ll have to see David here and The Prisoners here. Michelangelo’s David, who serenely prepares to slay Goliath, is strong, confident, focused, and utterly gorgeous. I can feel The Prisoners’ (and Michelangelo’s) power as they try to break out of the blocks of marble that trap them. Divine! Don’t forget to order your tickets online and skip the lines, which are endless in the summer and only a bit better in the winter.

San Lorenzo from the campanile - large dome is the Medici Chapels

San Lorenzo from the campanile – large dome is the Medici Chapels

After that head to Basilica di San Lorenzo, which was the parish church of the Medici family. Brunelleschi (who designed the Duomo) designed the basilica, which is plain on the outside and enormous and beautiful on the inside. I can’t show you because no photos are allowed, so visit the basilica here. Although I thought the basilica was interesting, I especially liked the cloister, which houses the Laurentian Library. Wiki calls it “one of Michelangelo’s most important architectural achievements.” The most spectacular part of the basilica for me, however, is the Medici Chapels. The flamboyant Cappella dei Principi (Chapel of the Princes), begun in 1605, is majestic and glorious, and of course I loved Michelangelo’s Sagrestia Nuova (New Sacristy), which is gray and somber as befits a mausoleum. In addition to designing the sacristy, Michelangelo sculpted the tombs of Giuliano and Lorenzo Medici with their exquisite statues of Day and Night and Dawn and Evening.

Basilica di Santa Maria Novello (on a sunny day)

Basilica di Santa Maria Novello (on a sunny day)

Then, overwhelmed at the genius of Michelangelo and his fellow Renaissance artists and sculptors, find the nearby Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, which was completed in 1360. Although the exterior marble and colors are typical of Tuscan churches, the architecture is a mash-up of architectural styles. I find it quite playful with its Gothic arches and the scrollwork and large circles (a 15th-century invention by Battista Alberti) near the top. Yummy! Finally I got to take photos inside the basilica! My trigger finger was itching badly by then! The interior contains work by many famous artists of the day, and my two favorites were The Crucifix, by Giotto, and The Trinity, by Masaccio.

Lunch! You’ve earned a break by now, so stop for lunch at Osteria del Porcellino, which I mentioned in my previous post, or Trattoria Antico Fattore, which you’ll find a short distance from Del Porcellino. We liked Del Porcellino better, but Antico Fattore is just fine and warmed us up.


Kate in the campanile

After lunch if you’re tired and wet and cold, as I was, you’ll take a nap, which I did. If, however, you’re still good to go, as were Kate and her dad, you’ll visit the interior of the Duomo (shockingly plain after such an elaborate facade) and then climb 414 steps to the top of the campanile, as Steve and Cade did last summer. Kate and Michael would have climbed to the top of the Duomo, but they couldn’t because it was closed that day.

Finally, despite the rain and the cold, Kate and Michael climbed to Piazza Michelangelo, which offers wonderful views of Florence. They finally returned to the hotel, cold and exhausted but exhilarated from their energetic afternoon.

Dinner. We ate dinner at the cantina at La Giostra, which we liked but didn’t love, and we walked home under a rain-free sky!

And that was our whirlwind trip to Florence. It’s such a magnificent city, and don’t worry if it rains!


Detail of the facade of Santa Maria Novella

Detail of the facade of Santa Maria Novella


Giotto’s crucifix

The inside of the dome of the Duomo

The inside of the dome of the Duomo

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4 Responses to Winter in Tuscany 2012: A Cold, Rainy Tuesday in Florence

  1. Eileen says:


    Although I haven’t been able to keep up with all your posts, I’m saving them for after the holidays when things ‘should’ slow down quite a bit.

    Thanks so much for sharing your Italian/European adventures. Your stories and pictures bring everything to life.

    Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!


  2. Nikki says:

    OMG — I have that exact same picture of the Duomo — just a couple of weeks earlier — don’t imagine it changed much — haha!!

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