During our travels, we typically stay in small apartments we find through Airbnb. This gives us a kitchen and more room than we would find in a hotel. Also, renting small apartments around the world is usually cheaper than the cost of our mortgage and other household expenses at home in California.
On the Airbnb site we can read prior travelers’ reviews before we rent, so we are typically pretty happy with our choices. And then every once in a while you stumble upon a place that really rocks.
That’s what we found when we got to Florence. We rented a corner unit in an old palace that had been subdivided into apartments.
Built in the 1420’s, thirty years before the birth of Christopher Columbus (to put it in perspective), the rooms had high, painted ceilings and elegant, tasteful decorations.
As soon as we arrived, we sat in the front room of this spectacular apartment and said, “We need to make some friends in Florence and have them over!”
Fast New Friends
That same night, we met Shelley and Jen, a delightful lesbian couple from Massachusetts, while the four of us were waiting for tables at a nearby restaurant. We immediately hit it off, so we handed them our card and suggested we get together for drinks at our “palace” sometime in the next couple of days.
Shelley and Jen were really good sports, and besides, who could turn down an invitation to a palace?
A couple of nights later, we hosted the girls for hors d’oeuvres and drinks. We laid out a nice Italian spread. We also had on hand the ingredients on hand for a pasta dinner, and we ended up preparing and serving that as well.
It was a great night of laughs and stories. Shelley and Jen have raised two boys together, both of them now young men. We have raised our own children, so it was sweet having in common the experience of being both a same-sex couple and parents.
Sometimes as we’ve traveled we’ve met other couples who instantly became friends, and with whom we expect to remain friends. That was our immediate reaction to Shelley and Jen. We now count them among our friends.
Cinque Terre Day Trip
Toward the end of our delightful evening with Shelly and Jen at our palazzo in Florence, they mentioned that they were planning to tour the fabled Cinque Terre (“Five Towns”) along the coast in a couple of days.
These are five quaint villages located on cliffs above the Mediterranean Sea. Several of them have no access except by foot or train.
When we planned our visit to Italy, we initially looked at Cinque Terre as a destination, but we had opted for Bologna instead. Now, out of the blue, we were presented with an opportunity to see the Cinque Terre after all.
“Thank you, Shelley and Jen, we’d love to go!”
We took a train from Florence to the first town and then alternated between regional train line and ferry to get from one quaint seaside village to the next. The four of us had a long and wonderful day together exploring the Cinque Terre.
It was a great day. We had the guilty pleasure of tagging along on a memorable excursion for which Shelley and Jen had done all the advance planning.
We were grateful for the chance to see the Cinque Terre, but also glad we did not plan an overnight visit there. A day trip from Florence was perfect.
We had been in Florence twice before and looked forward to returning. The advantage of a third visit is it takes the pressure off to see it all. We had two primary destinations in mind for this trip: (1) to visit the Uffizi Gallery, since it was so crowded on our last visit that we couldn’t get tickets, and (2) to see again the incomparable statue of David at the Accademia Gallery. This time we bought online tickets weeks in advance.
Many great art museums display art from the Italian Renaissance period, but the Uffizi is located at ground zero for the Renaissance.
Of all the great art museums in the world, at least those we have visited, the Uffizi is unique in one special way: All of the art was created locally, right there in Florence, the city where the museum is located.
Certainly there is no major art museum in America that can make such a claim.
The Uffizi was started with art donated by the last Medici family heiress and has been open to the public since 1765.
Michelangelo’s magnificent David stood outdoors in Piazza della Signoria from its creation in 1504 until it was installed in the specially-built gallery in the Galleria dell’Accademia in 1882.
Today a replica stands in the Piazza.
To see the statue up close is breathtaking. We have all seen pictures and reproductions of it over the years, but to see both the grandeur of the image as well as the human details, such as veins popping out on his arm, is remarkable.
This was our third visit in ten years. If we lived closer, it would have been our 30th.
Florence nourishes the art lover’s soul. Even in open air plazas you can find tremendous statues that are hundreds of years old.
Next stop – Leave our palace, rent a car and drive to Assisi, Italy – hometown of Saint Francis.