Florence’s Duomo

For tourists, Florence is very crowded in the summer, and there will be a line to enter the Duomo, but don’t be discouraged. It is a magnificent structure of outstanding craftsmanship that could never be recreated in modern times. Inside the dome Vasari painted an enormous fresco. You can hike to the top of the dome via narrow stairway in between the internal and external walls if you wish; it’s a workout!

The story behind the Duomo is fascinating. I recommend Ross King’s “Brunelleschi’s Duomo,”  a wonderful book that reads like a novel, not a history textbook. It tells the story of the competing architects who designed and built the enormous and ornate Duomo beginning in 1418. You will learn that no one had yet figured out how to build this large a vaulted dome over the foundation that was complete up to the base of the dome, and how they did it.

It is difficult to photograph the entire church from either the front or back, because the Baptistry, another architectural gem with bronze relief doors by Ghiberti, stands directly in front, and other buildings rise along the sides and rear. You can best see the famous dome while walking away from the church down a narrow cobbled street. Inside and out, from the sidewalk or top of the dome, the Duomo and its story are extraordinary.

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Facade of the Duomo, Florence
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Rear of the Duomo: geometric pattern with three colors of marble.
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It’s hard to get a good distance from the Duomo for a view of the dome.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Florence, Italy is a popular travel destination for many reasons: the wonderful architecture of the Duomo (enormous domed church), the medieval Ponte Vecchio, the art in the Uffizi Museum, the delicious Italian cuisine and the surrounding Chianti vineyards. You can’t describe it one sentence or see it all in one day.

However, if you visit for one day of your Italian holiday, be sure to enjoy the Ponte Vecchio, or “old bridge.” This covered bridge dating from Roman times is lined on both sides with gold and art shops now, formerly butcher shops. Thankfully, it was spared from bombing in World War II, so we can enjoy walking it as well as photographing it from the shore.

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Ponte Vecchio, Firenze, Italia

Planning a trip? Stay tuned for more travel tips and photos of Rome and Tuscany. If you are savoring your own memories, consider buying one of my prints to decorate your home or office.

Shopping in Piazza Navona

You can only sightsee in Rome in the summer heat for so long. Then, you need to get off your feet, snack on a dish of cold gelato and do some shopping. Besides, no trip to Italy would be complete without shopping for some hand made Italian goods, right? I love to shop while traveling abroad, because I know how much I enjoy my souvenirs after I get home.

If you are planning a trip to Rome anytime soon, I have a great tip for you. Piazza Navona is a lively square,  both day and night, and it is well located walking distance from the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. You can find good gelato shops and cafes there, but you can also find one of the nicest leather shops in old Rome.

I visited the fragrant leather shop La Sella in 2005 when I spent two weeks in Rome with my daughter Erin and our friends who lived two blocks from Piazza Navona. It is small but packed with high quality hand made purses, briefcases, belts and wallets. I bought myself a brown leather purse, and my husband a brown leather briefcase that we still use frequently, ten years later.

Charlie shops La Sella in 2015, ten years later.
Charlie shops La Sella in 2015, ten years later.

So, in 2015 when I looked for the shop between Piazza Navona and the busy avenue Corso Vittorio Emmanuel, I was delighted to find it alive and well. So, my husband Charlie (shown in photo) and I shopped again — for our sake and theirs!

We also got off our feet and enjoyed a dish of gelato as a late lunch at Tre Scalini while we admired Bernini’s grand Fountain of the Four Rivers. That grandiose and beautiful fountain features life-sized human figures on the north, south, east and west faces and is a real challenge to photographers. It’s a fantastic centerpiece to a vibrant square, that is also dotted with working street artists.

My husband ordered a mushroom crepe, but I ordered gelato for lunch.
My husband ordered a mushroom crepe, but I ordered gelato for lunch.

I shot these photos on my iPhone6, because it is so lightweight and easy for this kind of spontaneous documentation of happy moments while traveling. I thought you, my readers, would enjoy a few shopping and snacking tips from my travels for yours.