Florence: Leather capital of Italy, birthplace of gelato, former center of European trade. Everything I read about Florence leading up to my visit oozed with art and culture. I was pleased to see that the city exceeded my expectations. Even the gelato and the street art were elegant and cool and as an added bonus, the entire city smells like cigars and leather.
My main goal for Florence was once again an art gallery, this time one with the best collection of Italian Renaissance art in the world, the Uffizi Gallery. The Gallery is also one of the oldest in the world, it's been around since the masters themselves were alive.
My leisurely stroll through the gallery took up most of my morning. I saw all the great works from Michelangelo, Botticelli and Francesco. Perhaps the most impressive was a special exhibit on Leonardo da Vinci and his unfinished piece, “The Adoration of the Magi.” Leonardo was commissioned this piece by the Augustinian Canons Regular but unfortunately he left for Milan before it was finished and the commission was given to Filippino Lippi, who finished the piece but not without changing some of Leonardo's original ideas.
The piece on display at the Uffizi was the half-finished work of da Vinci, full of pencil marks, watercolor strokes and even a bit of oil paint on some of the more finished parts. The work itself was fascinating as it showed the process of da Vinci's creative procedures. It was also very interesting to compare the unfinished work of da Vinci to the finished work of Lippi, which hung inside the church.
After leaving the Uffizi, I had a nice stroll around all of Florence. Quickly and easily I hit all the highlights recommended in my travel guide, including the Piazza della Signoria, Palazza Vecchio and the famous Ponte Vecchio and the Piazza del Pitti.
Perhaps the most breathtaking was the Piazza del Duomo, which was so fantastic, I had to stop and have lunch in front of it.
Where Rome was historical, Florence was sophisticated. It was the upscale-chic city that I wanted to bring my mother to for a shopping weekend. Designer stores, world-class art and a culture for all things high end; I felt safe strolling along and if nothing else I felt underdressed and too-touristy. People walked around this city as if they belonged here.