Florence is a beautiful city north of Rome by ~1.5 - 3 hours by train, depending on the type of train. Taking a train is super easy in Italy, just go to the train station, find an electronic ticket vending machine and enter your city/station. Most destinations will have several trains running; for Florence a train leaves almost every 30 minutes. We also used this method to get to Pompeii from Rome (first to Naples, then use the Napoli trans-Vesuvius railway ; I will hopefully write a post shortly about this). The trains in Italy are just so easy and convenient! People complain quite a bit about tardiness, but for us they were generally on time and convenient.
For the way from Rome to Florence, it was 43 Euro, on a second class ticket of their speed trains, the Frecciarossa. For cheap tickets on the slower trains, we paid 11 Euro from Napoli to Rome (a little shorter distance, the speed train took 1 hr for this distance). While riding, video monitors in the speed train will show your location and the train's velocity; we got up to 253 km/hr at some points. I could gush forever about how awesome a well developed mass transit system is. I really wish everyone in the US could get a chance to try the high speed train experience out once, and really get behind their development. No need for parking, so much safer, you can work, read, drink alcohol, etc. while riding, more efficient fuel usage, trains are so much better than cars!
Alright enough with the proselytizing. Our first stops in Florence were the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and the Basilica of San Lorenzo, both small exhibitions of Florence's huge contribution to Renaissance art.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is a beautiful gothic-early renaissance church just across from the main train station in the center of Florence. The outside of the church is decorated with striped gothic arches, which I thought to be reminiscent of Moorish architecture I’ve seen in southern Spain. It doesn't seem to be the case though, from what I've briefly read on wikipedia. The church costs 4.50 Euro to enter per person, which includes a large cloister, a small museum with some artwork and religious clothing, and the main church entrance. You can take photos!
Inside the church are a couple of cloisters, the large basilica, a museum and the Spanish Chapel.
Here was an interesting painting in the Spanish Chapel, called "Allegory of the Active and Triumphant Church and of the Dominican order." It depicts a party-cum-battle-- in the countryside you see children stealing apples in the trees:
Everyone was having a good time, playing the cello, giving head massages, dancing:
As the guy finished pounding-in his first tent post, he got naked and raised his arms to the sky in celebration! "Fabulous!" he yelled, pounding his arms to the Euro-Cello-Disco Beats as monkeys from the sky brought a bowl of punch to share:
A lion on a shield:
And some more:
There's always a good share of skeletons and creepy stuff in cathedrals:
This one looks surprised:
Here's one that has been rubbed almost off:
Some ornate paintings relating to the ideas from Dante's divine comedy:
There is another cloister and some tombstones in the Santa Maria Novella along with the small museum:
Thus my fearless wife and I continued onwards towards the Basilica de San Lorenzo.
The Basilica of San Lorenzo is an extremely large brick / stone building built by the Medici family. This building replaced an older Romanesque church that had replaced the old cathedral from the year 393 before that. The Basilica has a plain stone outside and an interesting flat roof with white squares decorated with gold. Unfortunately you are not supposed to take photos inside any of the buildings, which was rather annoying, since you do have to pay 4.50 Euro/ person. The ticket includes a trip to the crypt, where most of the Medici family are buried along with their favorite artist and my favorite Ninja Turtle, Donatello.
Here you can see the outside of the church, rather unremarkable:
Thanks for reading! Enjoy and I'll post more of Firenze in the coming days!