A little known secret of marriage, when the pastor says the words, “till death do you part,” he doesn’t tell you this could include your life being threatened if you don’t watch your bride’s favorite movies as a newlywed. My bride is a heartless romantic. She is obsessed with the classic tales of girl meets guy, girl hates guy, guy decides he likes girl, girl then decides she likes guy. This includes “Gone With the Wind,” “Anne of Green Gables,” and “Pride and Prejudice.” I spent the first year of our marriage being forced to watch all of these films or face a lonely night. This included Luci’s most coveted chick flick, “A Room with A View.” I loathe a “Room with A View” as I had to relive every annoying detail of this movie on our first trip to Florence, Italy.
For those of you that have not had the privilege of watching the show 256 times, a brief synopsis is in order. Set in Edwardian era of romance and properness, the heroine Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) and her chaperone Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith) travel from dreary England to sun-kissed Tuscany.
During their stay in Florence, Lucy meets a quirky, yet ruggedly handsome young man named George Emerson. George pursues Lucy and passionately kisses her in the Tuscan countryside. Yada, Yada, Yada Lucy gets yanked away from George and goes back to England. She then gets engaged to boring Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis) until George’s Dad rents a nearby flat and George kisses Lucy again. Yada, Yada, Yada. Lucy breaks up with Cecil. The movie ends with George making out with Lucy overlooking the Duomo with their “Room with a View” in Florence and groping her. This is the only part of the movie, I like.
So how did all this ruin our trip to Tuscany?
Well, it started on where to stay. Of course we had to find a hotel with a sweeping vista of the Arno. We needed the bay window that opened up to the city. We needed to schedule a nearby clock tower to ring at the exact moment that we kissed and arrange for some white doves to be released below. We did some research on this website for hotels in Florence. Quickly, we realized that our caviar dreams would not be realized on our peanut butter budget. We settled for a B and B within walking distance of the Arno. Our room had windows…they just didn’t open.
Once we checked into our abode, it was off to see the city and systematically retrace every movement of George and Lucy. While I talked my Luci out of reenacting all the scenes, we did see some of Florence’s best sights.
Take it to the Top
Forget a room with a view of the Arno, do not miss the view from the top of the Cupola del Brunelleschi. Our first stop in our grand Florence adventure was one of the most recognizable sights in all of Florence: the Duomo. Its iconic red roof rises 142 feet from the ground. The dome is an engineering marvel. It is larger than the domes of the US Capitol, St. Paul’s in London, and even St. Peters in Rome! Impressive! There is only one-way to the top: the stairs.
The journey is not for the faint of heart. The stairs are steep, cramped and crowded. Is the climb worth it? YES! The view of the city from the lofty perch is not to be missed. The view on the inside is equally as impressive. Giorgio Vasari treats you to an up-close view of a fresco and Federico Zucchari called “the Last Judgment.” Both heaven and hell are presented in very graphic displays. I was just glad that my “Luci” didn’t push me over the balcony and trade me in for her own “George.”
Another of Florence’s icons are her many bridges over the Arno River. Perhaps the most famous is the Ponte Vecchio. The pedestrian-only bridge is actually the home of historic gold and jewelry traders. We spent some time trying to find something that we liked and could afford. We were ultimately unsuccessful. Prices are much higher than the quality of the craftsmanship.
The bridge also has a secret. It secret elevated walkway served as a passageway between the Medici palaces on each side of the Arno River. It allowed the rich and powerful the ability to cross the creek without coming in contact with the unwashed masses. The Ponte Vecchio is the only Florence bridge that survived World War II intact.
Go See “the Junk”
Forget Cecil or even George…tourists flock to see one of the most famous “pair” in the entire world: David’s! The statue of David is housed in the Accademia Gallery. While visiting the Accademia is a must, our favorite museum in Florence is the Uffizi Gallery. The Uffizi is housed in an old Medici palace along the Arno. The family was a great patron of the arts and their collection rivals only the Louvre in Paris. A full day tour of the exhibits is barely during the place justice. All the greats hang on the walls here: Duccio, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Raphael and they even have a few Rembrandts. The museum actually has two museum stores, one as you go in and you guessed it, one as you go out. Both have great guides and art books about the collections.
The Postcard Place
There is one place not to be missed for taking the quintessential Florence Photo: Piazzale Michelangelo. The views of the Florentine skyline from the park cannot be beat. You can get great photos of: Santa Croce, the Duomo, and the many bridges on the Arno. A word of warning: you are not going to be alone. Throngs of “Lucy Honeychurch” worshipers converge on the Piazza at dusk. For good reason, sunsets from the very top of the park are simply priceless. The light on the red rooftops of the city creates a soft focus postcard worthy picture.
Florence American Cemetery
One of our favorite Florence sights isn’t in the city. The Florence American Cemetery is located a few miles south of the city, and is one of the most beautiful cemeteries and tributes we have visited in our travels. There are more than 4,400 service members interred in the 70 acres. Most of those buried gave their lives after capturing Rome during World War II. The day we visited, there was a light fog that made the entire setting hauntingly beautiful. The fields are filled with lines and lines of white crosses and stars. The grounds keepers were very helpful in sharing the history of the cemetery.
If you follow the Fighting Couple, you know our second favorite thing to do in Italy is to eat gelato! Florence has a number of fine establishments that offer this delectable treat. We usually have one shop that we highly recommend, but candidly we ate at a handful of different locations and didn’t have a bad batch. Go figure. Around the bell tower there are a number of really good offering. Send us a picture!
Romance in Florence
With tempered expectations, Florence is and will continue to be one of the most romantic cities on the globe. Watch the movie, but make your own story in this city for lovers.