Getting to know Florence has been quite an experience and starting on my list of favorite places throughout the city is Giotto’s Bell Tower observation deck (Duomo’s Campanile) as it offers the perfect view of the Duomo. Even though the view from the top deck is one of a kind, going up the stairs and stopping at every 4×8 window and every platform where you can see the bells up close is also a unique experience. When I had the chance to go up to the top, I noticed that every single window has a very specific view out to the city. All of these views, though probably not purposely, emphasize an architectural feature that helps to better appreciate the Firenze historical buildings. I was fortunate enough to be walking under the bells when it reached 6pm and the bells went off. It was the highlight of my walk! Similar to the campanile, the space in between the double-dome of the Florence Cathedral containing the stairs that leads to the top of the Dome is also one of my top places in the city. When I had the chance to go up the 800 steps that it took to get to the top, I couldn’t avoid stopping and seeing and touching the custom bricks, the exposed beans, or the concrete surfaces all along the way. As I went up, I was able to see different construction techniques used to build the whole structure. On my way down, I was able to see a room with different tools used for the construction of the dome.
I would say that most of my favorite places within the city consist of views the uniqueness each one of them offers. This is the case for the exterior terrace on the second floor at the Uffizi Museum. This particular elevated patio offers a perfect view of the Palazzo Vecchio. It is such a close up view of the structure that it allows for much more architectural detail to be noticed to such extent that fascinates me. It is also perceived much bigger than from the Piazza, but is such angle that I can enjoy all of it from the benches on the terrace.
I would also say that I always enjoy going down one of the hills where my apartment is located. I usually use Costa Scarpuccia to do so and on my way down I always get a “bit” of a view of the city. As the street opens up to city, for 10 seconds I am always able to see Palazzo Vecchio as well as the Duomo crowning over the city. It is nothing compared to the view from Piazzale Michelangelo, but it is inspiring enough for my everyday. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that such architecture is in front of my eyes after studying it for years before. The Ponte alle Grazie, which is an extension of Costa Scarpuccia, is also on the list of favorite places because every morning, on my way to and from school, I get a perfect view of the Ponte Vecchio. Every time I cross the bridge on its western side, for some reason, I always happen to notice the dam right underneath and stop at least twice to observe. As I look, I always wonder its purpose. It is the same case with Ponte Santa Trinita. However, this one bridge has extended triangular ledges where people can see and appreciate the eastern part of the city with Ponte Vecchio in the center. This scenery is especially unique in the morning during the sunrise.
Before I get to this part of my day, I have always noticed a little artist shop on Costa San Giorgio. It is the only business on that part of the street. I had noticed it so many times that I finally stopped and looked at her work. As I looked the artist started to explain to me the process behind each of her pieces. She has all kinds of jewelry and ceramics made by her, each of which is quite unique. This time around we spoke in English. I told her that I lived two buildings away and that I had been here for 2 months already. We agreed that next time I pass by, we would speak in Italian.
When it comes to sit down meals, Osteria Del Cinghiale Bianco might just be on top on my list. It is a restaurant on Borgo San Jacopo. It is a very small restaurant but their food, the Italian environment, their service and location all makes it a great experience. This restaurant was actually recommended by one of my coworkers. She specifically said to me to try the dish Ribollita. It was a pretty unique dish! Gusta Pizza is my to-go pizza place. This one place is so popular that the first time I went there, I had to choose another place to eat because the wait is quite long. They only have so many choices but as my friend Janet Kim says, “It was the best pizza I have ever had in my life.” I usually go for the Margherita, as it is one of my preferred and it fits within my budget. In company of a Gusta Pizza, I always like to come to Rampa della Coste, a stone pedestrian stair that connects Costa San Giorgio and Vicolo del Canneto. I pass by this stair every time I decide to use Ponte Vecchio as my route to school. It is a very unique place because it serves as the bench to look over the Fiume Arno and the Palazzo Vecchio tower.
Though I have mentioned these ten places, the city itself is extremely diverse in history, architecture, landmarks and even style. Though Firenze is quite hard to describe with ten places, these are some of the ones that have completely caught my attention.
Nelson is a student at Parsons The New School for Design studying at Florence University of the Arts in Italy through SAI Programs during the Spring 2014 term.