We took a bus from La Spezia to Florence. It was about an hour and a half through beautiful Italian country side.
We made our way through the city passed the Santa Croce to the Palazzo della Signoria. One one side of the square is the impressive Palazzo Vecchio, that I remembered visiting when we were stationed at Aviano AFB when I was in high school.
We had a chance to look inside the courtyard of the Palazzo.
The piazzo is kind of like an outdoor museum. There were beautiful sculptures in various areas of the square.
We left the piazzo and walked passed the Uffizi, which is a huge art gallery. We didn't have a chance to go in due to our time crunch.
Walking through the other side of the Uffizi, we caught sight of Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge.) It felt a bit like a homecoming for me. I hadn't been to Florence in about 15 years, and it's not like I lived there. But my Italian class took a few trips there, and I absolutely loved the city. It felt great being back there again.
This ice cream-eating, underwear exposed girl had the courtesy to make it into our one and only family picture on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Thanks, girl.
We then made our way to The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, which is really amazing to see as you approach it. Covered in white, green and red marbles, it's very beautiful.
In my mind, The Basilica di Santa Maria is kind of the opposite of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. The outside of St Peter's, while impressive and imposing, isn't necessarily beautiful. But then you step inside, and it is gorgeous! The sculptures, the marbled floor, the mosaics...it's just breathtaking. Florence's basilica, on the other hand, is magnificent from the outside. But the inside, surprisingly, is rather plain.
After we toured the basilica, we had some free time. Our tour guide had scolded us earlier in the day for eating ice cream that she did not deem worth of the name gelato. (It was just ice cream on a stick.) So she gave us a business card for "good gelato." Jackpot!
We wandered down a few streets, and with the help of the map the guide gave us, we found Gelataria di Neri. SCORE! I had finally found my great gelato! The soft, sweet, tart gelato I remembered from our years in Italy as a high schooler. I had a scoop of lemon and a scoop of strawberry. It was SO good! Just looking at the picture is making my mouth water.
We had a little time to kill, so we did some shopping around the Piazza Di Santa Croce, which is where we were meeting our group.
Caleb had a blast chasing the pigeons around the square. This was probably the highlight of Florence for Caleb. Don't worry, we made sure he was nice to the birds. Besides, they looked like they could use a little exercise!
Leaving La Spezia that night afforded us some beautiful views from the ship, including this island with a little light house on top.
We also got to watch the sunset as we sailed further into the Mediterranean.
It was an amazing day! Got to see the sun rise and set over the Med, and in the middle, we saw some amazing views in Florence. Can't ask for more than that!