Italy // Road trip part two // Lucca – Florence – Bologna
It wasn’t easy, but we were finally able to tear ourselves away from beautiful Cinque Terre and continue our road trip across Italy. Off to Florence! If you aren’t up to speed yet, you can check the first part our journey by clicking here.
On the way to Florence (aka Firenze) we passed Lucca. A lovely little town worth a stop should you ever be in the neighborhood! The Renaissance-era city walls that were once more than just a photo opportunity still stand tall and imposing when you make your way to the picturesque city center.
The main feature of Lucca is Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro. Nowadays this heart of the city is a unique elliptical plaza, embraced by medieval houses. But have a closer look and you’ll discover the remains of a huge 1st century AD Roman Amphitheatre where gladiator shows and games were held!
After a refreshing stop in Lucca we hit the road again towards Florence. We arrived just in time to see the sun set over the iconic Ponte Vecchio, immersing the surroundings in an exceptionally warm glow.
We kept wandering through the hot summer night in the city and arrived at Piazza della Signoria, where people had gathered by the huge Roman statues (one of them a copy of David by Michelangelo) to listen to a street artist covering Paul Simon songs. You’ll notice that almost every major highlight in Florence is accompanied by music that echoes beautifully through the winding streets.
The next day we visited some of the major museums the city has to offer. We started our day at the Uffizi Gallery (see pic below), one of the most visited museums in Italy, with over 1.5 million visitors/year! A quick tip to avoid waiting hours in the loooooooong queues: book your ticket ahead and ignore the resentful faces as you skip the line :) !
Next we ticked off the Museo di Palazzo Vecchio and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello on our list. Both are housing masterpieces by Michelangelo, Donatello, Da Vinci and other great artists. But even just to see the architecture of these impressive buildings up close (the latter museum used to be a prison), a visit is worth your while!
And of course we couldn’t say arrivederci to Florence before climbing its famous Duomo! The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (quite a mouthful) is better known as Il Duomo di Firenze, and part of the UNESCO World Heritage site in Florence.
It’s the largest brick dome ever constructed, reaching up to 114 m (376 ft), and the views from the top are FANTASTIC! Make sure you pop inside as well and have a look at the glorious ceiling of the Dome, depicting The Last Judgement.
Okay, back in the car – next stop: Bologna! This city has two rather unique architectural features. The first one is that there are A LOT of towers, or at least, there used to be a lot of them. Between the 12th and 13th century around 180 towers marked the skyline of Bologna (kinda like an ancient Manhattan!). It’s still debated why, but one theory is that they were built as a representation of the power of the richest families.
Most towers were demolished over the years, but the famous Two Towers (Garisenda and Asinelli) are still standing proud, though rather crooked. We climbed the tallest one, Torre degli Asinelli, reaching the top (97 m, 318 ft) after 498 steps! From the top you have yet another spectacular view over Bologna and the smaller Torre Garisenda.
The second architectural feature of Bologna is the portico. These typical colonnades cover some 40 km of Bologna, and provide a welcome shelter from either rain or sun. You can walk under the longest portico in the world (3.5 km, 2.2 miles), curving up the hill towards the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. Or you can choose the more relaxed option and have a drink on one of the many terraces located under them :)
The cherry on our visit-to-Bologna-cake was the film festival “Sotto le stelle del cinema”. This festival is held each year during summer. A big open-air cinema is set up on Piazza Maggiore, where you can enjoy both movie classics and stunning surroundings at the same time! For more info on this year’s programme, check: www.cinetecadibologna.it.
Watching an old black and white Italian film (Tutti a casa) under the stars was such a memorable experience!
So, that was it for now… Two more beautiful stops on our Italian road trip will be covered in an upcoming post!
Fino alla prossima volta!