On our fourth day we said Ciao to our friends in Padua and took the fast speed train to Florence where our next day and night would be spent.
Florence, home of Michelangelo's David, one of the oldest surviving bridges, and the awe-inspiring Duomo. The city itself, was run by the powerful Medici family during the Italian Renaissance until the French came in and re-democratized the city. It hosts some the of the greatest works of art, and offers some impressive history throughout the entire city.
Arriving mid-morning, we were able to drop our luggage off at our hotel and begin touring. Since my parents had been here3 or 4 times, they knew exactly what to go see in our short time there. Walking through the streets we were spit out into a large square with an even more impressive cathedral - the Duomo. The outside of the Duomo is much more beautiful than the inside. It is split into three different buildings, the cathedral, the bell tower and the prayer chapel. The cathedral holds one of the first dome structures, not to mention one of the largest. The bell tower was painted by the same artist who did the chapel in Padua - Giotto. And then the most impressive part of these buildings comes from the prayer chapel. The chapel has gold and bronze doors that took 24 years to complete! They show eight scenes from the Old Testament that were etched into it.
Next, we winded our way through more streets that took us to another big square where the original Michelangelo's David stood before being moved indoors. There's lots of other impressive statues to look at here, with also a replica of David. Being a very touristy area - there were lots of gypsy's milling about who you need to be wary of. If you're not careful they'll sneak into one of your pictures or try to give you a kiss and then demand money. You have to be very firm with your no's with them.
During WWII the British came through and destroyed all the bridges leading into the city - below is the only bridge left in tact. More impressively, off of this bridge are houses stacked on top of each other with lots of merchant shops.
Florence is known for the leathers and have huge markets of leather purses and jackets and other goods. I got a good deal on a purse I bought from here - you could say I have pretty good negotiation skills.. :) The owners in the market are very eager to sell you on their products, and will chase after you with their ware with the slightest encouragement. So it's good to go in knowing what you want, as browsing will elicit a lot of unwanted attention.
After a brief respite in our hotel room, we ventured out again to hike up to Michelangelo's Square. This was one of the hottest days of our trip, and we climbed many many steps to get to the top where we were rewarded with a cool breeze and amazing views. Mom and I treated ourselves with gelato on our way back down. At night when our parent's were ready to hit the sack, Sam and I searched out a cafe where we shared a bottle of Italian wine and relaxed before we went off to our next stop, Cinque Terre!