My last full day in town we decided to go back into Florence, via the easy 15 minute train ride. From the train station we took a bus up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. For 1.20 euro you can ride the bus for one hour, as we discovered. The view overlooking Florence from this piazzale is hard to beat, and is very popular. While taking in the view, a limo pulled up and a bridal party emerged in full regalia.
To save ourselves some walking, we hopped back on a bus using the same ticket (thanks to the friendly bus driver who explained this to me), and rode it along the Viale Michelangiolo. This beautiful tree lined street looked like one of the tonier areas, a very nice address to have. We got off the bus at the bottom near the Ponte San Niccolo.
From there we walked along the Arno river to the Basilica of Santa Croce, the largest Franciscan church in the world whose construction started in 1295. Our number one reason for visiting Santa Croce was to see Michelangelo’s tomb, but the church houses many more, including Galileo, Machiavelli, and Leonardo Bruni. From the Museums of Florence website:
It is significant that Santa Croce, which was to become the resting-place of so many great Italians, has the first truly renaissance funerary monument: the tomb of Leonardo Bruni, Chancellor of the Republic, sculpted by Bernardo Rossellino (1444). Bruni’s successor, Carlo Marsuppini, is buried in another fine renaissance tomb on the other side of the nave, by Desiderio da Settignano (c. 1455), which follows the same scheme. From then on, the history of the Santa Croce is marked by its tombs.
Michelangelo, who died in Rome in 1564, was buried here beneath a monument with allegorical figures of Sculpture, Architecture and Painting, designed by Giorgio Vasari. Michelangelo’s tomb served as the model for others, such as the tomb of Galileo, who died in 1642 (his monument was made by Giovanni Battista Foggini). Funerary monuments continued to be added to the interior, including ones to Niccolò Machiavelli, Vittorio Alfieri, Gioachino Rossini and the cenotaph to Dante Alighieri (1829).
We spent some time in the church, exploring all the rooms and admiring the frescoes, carvings, and stained glass. It was impressive and a must see spot in Florence. It was a bit upsetting to me to see two girls pose and snap a selfie in front of Machiavelli’s tomb, but it is unavoidable almost everywhere (Disney World has banned selfie sticks). Most monuments, churches and museums, including the Louvre, don’t even try to stop photo taking anymore, only trying to prevent the use of flash.
After touring the Basilica of Santa Croce we found a restaurant that looked like a local place, ristorante Pizzeria il Gatto e la Volpe, and had another wonderful pasta meal. Our plan was to tour the Palazzo Vecchio after lunch, but as we entered the building we found it closed at 2 pm on Thursdays. Oh well, I guess not enough research and planning on our part, but sometimes you just want to wing it.
At that point, in retrospect, it would have been best to head back up to our hillside retreat and relax, as it was another very warm day. But one of our guide books described the Boboli Gardens as a nice respite from touring and a place to relax. So we crossed the Ponte Vecchio and walked to the Palazzo Piti to tour the gardens. It was a bit of disappointment in that the fountains were not operating, it was past any kind of flower season, and the grass was marked as “Keep off”. We ended up walking a lot on more pavement and found it no respite to the heat of the afternoon.
A short bus ride to the train station, then the 15 minute train ride back up into the hills above Florence ended our day.