Orvieto & Getting Artsy in Florence, Italy

2 nights well spent in Rome and now Brooke and Stassi are on the move in Italy!

We could have taken the high speed train directly to Florence and cut 2 hours of extra train travel. BUT we would have missed Orvieto and that would have been a huge mistake. Situated on the a volcanic stone 1,000 feet above the valley, this charming village was highlighted in Rick Steve’s book. An absolute gem and a favorite stop on our tour of Italy.

Orvieto’s Duomo is the center of the city. It dates back to 1290 and is ornately decorated with rainbow frescoes and gold mosaics showcasing the life of the Virgin Mary.

Views from the clock tower overlooking town.

We stayed in an Airbnb and our host owned a wine and cheese shop just down the street. Fate you might say!

We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day in Orvieto! After enjoying the stunning views, it was time for dinner. We were at Trattoria La Palomba right when they opened to try the famous Umbrichelli al Tartuf (egg noodle pasta with hand shaved black truffle). The pasta was pretty tasty but our appetizer plate was the real winner. More of that bruschetta please!

We woke up the next morning and had a leisurely breakfast before taking the slow train to Florence. I’m not going to lie, we didn’t care much for Florence at first. We had just left quaint small town Italy to be dropped into a big city tourist hub. Walking from the train station to our hotel, I was thinking to myself “Why did we come here?” Overall not a great first impression!

After dropping off our bags, we explored a bit… got some gelato to ease our frustrations and tried to absorb the Renaissance art and architecture.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Baptistery and Giotto’s Bell Tower are Florence’s main attractions and together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cathedral took over 140 years to complete and its striking exterior is adorned with marble panels in shades of green and pink.

The pièce De résistance however is Brunelleschi’s Duomo. Taking inspiration from the Pantheon in Rome, Brunelleschi designed and created the largest masonry dome in the world, a pioneering construction for its time. Even today there are questions as to how Brunelleschi built the dome without support structures. The bronze ball at the top was completed by sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio along with a young apprentice named Leonardo da Vinci.

We reserved a time slot to climb the 463 steps to top of the Duomo and were rewarded with expansive views over the city.

Another must do for us was seeing Michelangelo’s Statue of David. When we first walked into the small gallery, the scale of the sculpture was quite surprising. While marveling at his sheer size (and his nether regions lackthereof), we read about the significance and nuances of this iconic marble wonder. David is depicted before his battle with Goliath, tense with anticipation and his stance suggesting imminent movement. His head and right hand are unusually large and the rock in it is almost unnoticeable, suggesting that the power lies in the man, not the object. David was originally installed outside the Palazzo Vecchio in the public square. Here he was exposed to the elements and also attacked by locals, having his arm broken in 3 pieces. In 1873, David was moved to the Accademia Gallery and replaced with a replica.

As with all famous attractions in Italy, we purchased our tickets online a month before our visit and we were able to skip the very long line!

Interesting fact: Ponte Vecchio (below) was the only bridge in Florence not damaged during World War II. It’s said Hitler thought it was too beautiful to destroy.

By day two, Florence had grown on us… slightly. We found a cute cafe for breakfast and a lovely family owned leather shop where we each bought handbags. And all things aside, we did eat well! The strawberry cheesecake gelato at Gelateria dei Neri and the truffle pasta at Il Desco Bistro are worth going back for. And so Florence, we can’t say you stole our hearts but we certainly liked your food!

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