Visiting Italy – Part 2 – Florence, Pisa, and Assisi

A few weeks ago I shared how I spent my first few days in Italy visiting Verona and Venice.  We did so much on that trip that including it all in one blog post would be a bit overwhelming. I decided to divide our trip up into smaller parts.  Part 2 covers our time in Florence, Pisa, and Assisi.  Missed Verona and Venice in Part One?  You can find it here!

Florence

After spending a few days visiting Verona and Venice we headed for Florence.  I have to say that I really thought Rome would be the biggest highlight of the trip for me but I totally fell in love with Venice and Florence.

Il Duomo di Firenze

If you are an art lover, Florence is a city that you will definitely appreciate.  It is full of gorgeous sculptures and tons of museums.  The architecture is also pretty incredible.  That is one of the things I appreciated most about Florence. Of course, it is also the home of Michelangelo’s David.

An outdoor replica of Michelangelo’s David.

Another thing I loved about Florence was the atmosphere. While Florence is a large city and a popular tourist destination, it felt so much more laid back to me compared to the bustle of Venice and Rome.  Our time in Florence was much slower paced.

Shopping in Florence.

We were able to do a lot of shopping and wandering around…and eating gelato.  One of our favorite things we discovered in Florence was a gelato shop by the name of Festival del Gelato.  Gelato shops are on every corner in Italy but most of them have a very limited menu but this particular shop had probably close to thirty flavors of gelato!  We loved it so much that we visited several times while we were in Florence.

Gelato in Florence

We also did some shopping in Florence.  We visited a leather shop where we were able to see a short demonstration about the process used to produce leather and how to spot real Italian leather. When it was over I bought a wallet for my husband and gorgeous leather passport cover for myself.

My Italian leather passport cover.

I also did a little bit of shopping at Bartolucci for my kids.  A bit of trivia for you…the classic Italian story of Pinocchio (not the Disney version) was written by Carlo Lorenzini who used the pen name Collodi.  Lorenzini was a Florentine by birth and his famous story is set in his mother’s home village of Collodi (where he got his pen name) which isn’t too far from Florence. You can find all kinds of Pinocchio souvenirs all around Italy but they are particularly prevalent in Florence in traditional woodworking stores such as Bartolucci.

Bartolucci Store in Florence

Florence was such a beautiful city and it is one I can’t wait to return to.  The art and architecture makes it a must visit when you are in Italy!

Ponte Vecchio in Florence

 

Pisa

After a few days in the beautiful Florence, we headed towards Rome but we made a few stops along the way.  Our first stop was in Pisa.  A stop in Pisa is not complete without visiting the Piazza dei Miracoli, or the Square of Miracles, to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

My mom and I at the Piazza dei Miracoli.

The Piazze dei Miracoli is made up of four major religious edifices: the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Campanile (the Leaning Tower), and the Camposanto Monumentale or Monumental Cemetery.  There is also a hospital located on the square.  Our tour guide explained to us that the square is often considered to represent the stages of life. The baptistery is there for birth, the cathedral for life, the hospital for dying, and the cemetery for death.  The Leaning Tower of Pisa actually has no significance.  It is simply the bell tower of the church.

Cattedrale Metropolitana Primaziale di Santa Maria Assunta

Cattedrale Metropolitana Primaziale di Santa Maria Assunta

All of the buildings were beautiful but I was really moved by the baptistery.  It was a beautiful building and the history behind it was very neat.  The baptistery was built in 1152. It is the largest baptistery in Italy and Galileo was baptized there.

The Baptistery at the Piazza dei Miracoli

The Leaning Tower of Pisa was really neat to see.  I’ve always seen pictures of it but I had no idea just how massive it was in real life.  I felt so small standing beneath the tower and looking up.  It was very impressive to see.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa.

I really enjoyed seeing the entire Piazza dei Miracoli.  I highly suggest checking it out if you are in the Tuscany region of Italy.

Piazza dei Miracoli.

Assisi

Our next stop on our way to Rome was in Assisi.  Assisi is most famous for being the home of St. Francis of Assisi.  When St. Francis died, his followers built a tomb for him at the top of a hill in Assisi.

Assisi is such a quaint little town.  It sets on a hill and the streets seem to just wind endlessly up to the top.  The views are absolutely incredible and there are plenty of places to stop and take in the views of the Italian countryside.

View of the Italian countryside from Assisi.

At the top of the hill that Assisi sits on is the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi.  The church is absolutely stunning!  Unfortunately, you are not permitted to take pictures inside but trust me, the inside is very moving to see.  The bottom of the church holds the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi.  The room had several people visiting it to pray to the patron saint.  It was so moving to know that I was standing next to the burial place of such a revered man.  Definitely breathtaking and humbling.

Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi

We only had a few hours to spend in Assisi which was a bit disappointing.  I would have loved more time to explore the town and the quaint little shops that lined the streets.  It’s definitely on my list of places I plan to return to.

View of the Italian countryside from Assisi.

After we left Assisi, we headed to Rome.  Stayed tuned for a future post to learn about all the things we did in Rome!  Missed part one?  You can find it here!

 

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