Michangelo’s David in Galleria dell’Accademia
We kept the itinerary very light today as we had a train to catch at 4 pm to Rome. We did not plan to visit many art museums for this Italian trip as we were not artistically inclined. However, since coming to a country that produces several renowned artists such as Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, etc. Since Florence is the birthplace of the renaissance and if there is one art museum we are visiting, the Galleria dell’Accademia would be the one. Galleria dell’Accademia is home to the renowned Michelangelo’s David. It also houses other sculptures by Michelangelo and an extensive collection of paintings by Florentine artists, mostly from 1300–1600. We booked an early slot at 9 am to maximise the time we had in Florence (you can access the official website of the Galleria here). Galleria dell’Accademia is very close to the Florence hotel we were putting up. As we were walking to the Galleria, Google Maps led us to a plain 2-storey building. On top of an entrance reads Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze. I am surprised for housing a masterpiece; the museum facade looks very simple. A line was already forming at the gallery entrance despite the early timing. Most of the visitors were students who seemed to be on excursions. Staff at the entrance directed us to the ticket office opposite to redeem our tickets.
After getting our tickets, we had to go through x-ray machines and metal detectors before being admitted to the gallery. Entering the gallery, a large sculpture – Rape of the Sabine Women, occupies the centre of the gallery, conveying an antiquity scene of a Roman man abducting a Sabine woman from the neighbouring town as another man crouches under his feet. In addition, there are paintings of Christ, mainly after his crucifixion, painted on wood displayed on the gallery’s walls. After pretending to appreciate the art pieces, we headed to the centrepiece of Galleria dell’Accademia – Michelangelo’s sculpture David. The David sculpture was placed at the end of a hall with paintings and sculptures under a glass dome roof. Legend states that David was created from an abandoned marble used to build the Duomo. There are more rooms displaying paintings and sculptures to the left of David. After walking into these rooms, we returned to David’s sculpture. Like most visitors to Galleria dell’Accademia, we mainly came here for the David sculpture. It did not take long for us to feel bored in Galleria dell’Accademia.
Return to Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
We headed to the Duomo after exiting Galleria dell’Accademia. The Duomo is straight ahead from the street where the gallery is located, about 7 mins walk. We could see more intricate carvings on the facade of the Duomo in the day. Unlike the Duomo in Milan, the carvings on Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore are smaller and carved into the frames of the windows and doors, reminding me of the carvings on the Taj Mahal. Entry to the Duomo is free. The Duomo’s interior looks simpler than that of Pisa or Milan, decked in white marble without over-the-top carvings. The high ceiling in the Duomo makes the already spacious interior appear larger. As we walked towards the main altar of the Duomo, situated towards the rear, a view of the awe-inspiring Dome that stands out in the Florentine skyline came into our view. The fresco of The Last Judgement by Giorgio Vasari looks impressive and brings sophistication to the Dome. Several pictures later, we exited the Duomo via the side door.
The Duomo’s side door led us to the square with entrance to the Campanile to the left and the Dome to the right. We thought we could get a great bird’s eye view of Florence from 15m Campanile. However, the 463 steps with no elevator options put us off. We turned to the iconic Dome of the Duomo and wanted to climb to the top of the Dome. My friend and I checked out the pricing of the tickets at the ticketing booth opposite the exit of the Duomo. We were put off by the €30 price tag, which included entrance to the Campanile and the crypt. There are no ticketing options for dome visits only. As we only wanted the Dome, we thought paying €30 for only one sight was not worth the price. We abandoned the idea.
We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping around Florence. We originally planned to visit Ponte Vecchio in the day and Piazzale Michangelo for a view of the city of Florence. As we were caught up with shopping, we did not have enough time for either of these sights. We had to watch our time when we shopped as we needed to check out of the hotel by 3 pm and head to the train station for our 4 pm train to Rome.
Exploring Rome, The Eternal City, at Night
We made it back in time to the hotel and completed our check-out. The walk from our hotel to Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station took less than 10 mins, and we made it in time for our train to Rome. The train ride to Rome took 1 hr 15 mins. It was already dark by the time we arrived at Roma Termini Station. We followed the crowd and made it to the side exit to the station. It started to drizzle by the time we exited the station. We thought leaving Roma Termini Station from the main entrance felt safer as it was brighter. Without our luggage, it would take us about 15 mins by foot to reach our hotel. It took us about 30 mins to reach as the Roman streets are not exactly luggage friendly. The bumpy roads made it challenging for us to drag our luggage. We settled down a little after check-in at our hotel before heading out since the night was still young.
Our first destination in Rome is Trevi Fountain. I read that Trevi Fountain is best visited at night as the fountain would look nicer with its lighting and would be less crowded at night. Using our trusty Google Maps, we started to navigate to Trevi Fountain. As we were walking from our hotel, the suggestion from Google Maps was a little confusing. The app brought us to a hill with a tunnel that seemed to make just for vehicular usage. At this point, I did not think too much about it and led my friends to ascend the staircase by the side of the tunnel. I guess Google Maps was not smart enough to detect elevation changes and continued suggesting that we walk straight into what seemed to be a police station. We were a little wary about the proposed route and attempted to walk around it. After about 3 mins walk, we came to an Egyptian obelisk monument flanked by statues of a man and a horse on both sides. We have stumbled upon Fontana di Monte Cavallo and Piazza del Quirinale, where the residence of the Italian President sits. We did not know the importance of this piazza and the building when we were there (I only realised that building was the Quirinal Palace when I wrote this blog entry). We assumed it might be the Italian Police HQ as it seemed to be heavily guarded. The hill we were on was the Quirinal Hill, the highest of the seven hills of Rome. Google Maps pointed us towards a staircase, where the Trevi Fountain sits right around the corner. We chanced upon a gelateria on our way to Trevi Fountain and stopped for some gelatos.
One gelato later, we headed for Trevi Fountain. About 5 mins walk, the Trevi Fountain is right before our eyes. There was a small crowd at Trevi Fountain; we could take photos with the fountain without any photo bombers. The fountain was impressive and looked much grander when illuminated by night light. We can clearly see Neptune’s statue pulled to the sea on his shell-shaped chariot pulled by two winged horses and tritons in the centre arch.
After Trevi Fountain, we headed to the Pantheon. The plan was to visit the exterior of the Roman temple turned catholic church tonight and return to see the interior. We felt peckish during our commute to the Pantheon and settled our dinner in one of the restaurants that looked authentic Italian. True enough, we were the only foreigners around in the restaurant. The restaurant staff spoke very little English, which confirms the restaurant’s non-touristy nature. After dinner, we continued our journey to the Pantheon. The Pantheon is famed for its record for being the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome for almost 2000 years. We couldn’t really make out the dome from the exterior but saw the large granite columns in the front of the building as the Pantheon was closed when we visited. Nonetheless, we were still impressed with the state of its conventional temple front, which was unique in Roman architecture, after 2000 years. The whole facade of the temple looked ancient yet very well preserved. Well, I guess we have to come back another day to visit the Pantheon, and hopefully, it will not be too crowded when we return.
We headed to our final destination for the night – Piazza Navona. Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful squares in Rome. We headed straight to the most prominent feature in the elongated square – La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. The fountain’s centre is an obelisk, relocated from the Circus of Maxentius. Under the obelisk were four statues representing the four rivers of the four continents of Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. Behind the fountain was the Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, built in baroque style, providing the fountain with an impressive backdrop. The usually lively piazza seemed to have fallen into slumber, as there weren’t many people around. We did not stay here for long, so we returned to the hotel to rest for the night after taking some pictures. Along the way back, we spotted Capitoline Hill, which we did not try to detour as we will be visiting tomorrow after our Colosseum tour.