FLORENCE, ITALY: Guest post by Cathy Bonnell

Michelangelo's David, replica in the Piazza della Signora, Florence, Italy
My friend Cathy Bonnell, a school librarian (now retired) in Phoenix, Arizona, loves to travel. Recently, she went to Italy, visiting Florence, Siena, and Milan with her daughter Courtney. I thank her for sharing the joys and discoveries of this special trip and for being one of my most faithful followers of The Intrepid Tourist. Here is Part 1, about her visit to Florence.
In 1976 my husband and I spent one night in Florence Italy.  About all we managed to see there was the replica of Michelangelo’s David in piazza della Signoria.  Over the years I must have mentioned quite a few times how I would like to go back to Florence to see all the art I’d missed so I shouldn’t have been surprised when my 31 year old daughter gave me a trip there for my upcoming 70th birthday.  She planned it all AND paid for it all, went with me but made sure we went where I wanted to go.
Michelangelo's David, Galleria dell'Academica
One of our first stops was the Galleria dell’ Academica to see the “real” David.  Just spectacular!  Art students lined the walls near David sketching away.  Other works by Michelangelo are housed in this museum, many unfinished.  Also two Madonna paintings by Botticelli thrilled us.  Nearby is the Museo San Marco with the fabulous frescos that quickly became my favorite medium.  Each cell of the monks once housed there had small, simple frescos on the wall.
Fresco, Museo San Marco
A small group walking tour took us easily into the famous Uffizi Gallery where we saw just about every important Renaissance artist’s  work.  VERY crowded but our tour guide steered us to the important pieces and; in almost four hours I felt I saw what I’d been yearning all these years to see.  A beautiful view through a window showed us the Ponte Vecchio where we headed next.  I found a fabulous stationery store there and; many beautiful cards as well as a small etching of the Ponte Vecchio.
Ponte Vecchio over the River Arno
The next day we set off for the Palazzo Pitti only to discover a very long line due to free admission day.  With a scrumptious gelato in hand to wait we got in just as it started to rain so we didn’t go through the gardens but had a view of them from the second floor of this home of the Medici family .  My eyes were beginning to blur after seeing all the opulent art on the walls and the ceilings covered in gilded art.
Duomo, Florence
Next on to the Porcellino market where we saw and rubbed the nose of the bronze boar though we had not seen the original at the Uffizi.  We bargained with the many sellers in the stalls & found treasures to bring home.  Nearby we had a meal in a sidewalk cafĂ© with views of fabulous statuary in the external niches of Orsanmichele church.  Each statue is a copy (real ones inside the church in the museum) of the patron saint of the city’s guilds.  We never stopped marveling at the age of these buildings (1300’s) that we walked by each day.
Basilica of St. Mary of the Flower, Florence
Of course there’s no missing the Duomo, the Baptistery and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.  Its majestic size rises above all the surrounding buildings with the colorful and intricately patterned marble sparkling in the sunlight.  I really could have just sat in one of the many sidewalk cafes, listening to street musicians, sipping prosseco and looking at this 13th century edifice all day (I did sit for about an hour doing just this while my adventurous daughter climbed the tower).  But of course one must see inside and marvel at all the frescoes and precious items in the museum including the original wood models.  Along with the gorgeous frescoes in the Duomo, the stunning Gates of Paradise on the Baptistery were my favorite.  Again, copies adorn the outside but we saw the originals in the Museum.
View of Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo
Our last view of beautiful Florence was from the Piazzale Michelangelo with the spectacular views of the whole city. 
External Guild Statuary of the Orsanmichele Church, Florence, Italy

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