Firenze, Italy

Wednesday, Our First Night in Florence

Driving to Florence

Next we drove from Greve in Chianti to Florence. Here are some views along the way.



Getting to our hotel

We stayed at the Hotel Costantini, Via Calzaiuoli 13 — 50122 Florence.
I chose this location because it was centrally located and was close to the duomo.

However, because of this I was a little leery about driving into Florence to get to the hotel. This wasn't helped by the fact that online maps won't give directions into this part of the city.


See the grayed-out area in the middle of this map of Florence? Google maps will not give directions into this area. I had problems with other online mapping sites also. So I was concerned about getting to the hotel by car.


I contacted the hotel by email before we left home, and they gave me some directions to get to the hotel, so this helped ease the concerns I had. The red line shows the approximate route we would have taken if we had followed their directions.


However, we followed the directions from the GPS and it took us on the approximate route shown by the red line on this map. There were some very narrow streets and some areas where I wasn't sure we should even be there! Especially once we got onto Via Calzaiuoli.

Sign in Firenze

One of the things that heightened my concerns about some of the streets we were driving on was signs like this one that we saw in several places.

Here are some photos taken as we drove into the city of Florence, making our way to the Via Calzaiuoli. These were taken through the windshield which explains the glare. This should give you some idea of the reason I was a bit nervous about driving in Florence.

Firenze Probably the Lungarno delle Zecca Vecchia, along the Arno River


There are a lot of shops on the Via Calzaiuoli, and it appears to be a pedestrian mall, so I was uneasy until I saw a police car on the street and he wasn't coming after me. I asked the police about the location of the hotel. There was no sign for the Hotel Constantini, but there were two buildings that had Hotel signs on them. The police man had no idea where the hotel was, so Karen got out of the car and walked around and found the hotel. It is located on the second floor of one of the buildings with the hotel signs.

I drove the car in front of the door to the building; we got our stuff and brought it up to the second floor; I gave the keys to the person at the hotel desk and he arranged for the car to be parked.

Views from our hotel room

Duomo in Firenze

Once we got into the room and got settled, I looked out the window and was surprised at just how close to the duomo we were. This is the view from our window looking to the left.

Via Calzaiuoli in Firenze

I looked down and saw these guys laying out prints on the street for sale. After a few minutes, they grabbed up all of their prints and ran off to another location. We saw them in many places around the city, them or other groups like them. They seemed to take off whenever any policemen were getting close, so my assumption is that they were doing something illegal — selling without a license maybe.

Via Calzaiuoli in Firenze

Looking to the right you can see why I was uneasy about driving on this street. There are seldom any vehicles on the street, and seems to be a good candidate to be made pedestrian only.

Piazza della Republica in Firenze Just around the corner from the hotel is this street, the via degli Speziali, which leads to the Piazza della Republica

The Orsanmichele

Once we got settled, we took a walk, with no particular destination. Just down the street from the hotel, we came to Orsanmichele. This building was originally a grain store, with the grain storage on the second floor. It was converted into a church in the late 14th century, but some of the chutes for the grain can still be seen inside.
This church became a powerful symbol of the guilds in Florence, and they commissioned the statues that can be seen around the outside of the building.

Orsanmichele in Firenze This is the south side of Orsanmichele along Via Porta Rossa.

Orsanmichele in Firenze
Orsanmichele in Firenze
Orsanmichele in Firenze
Orsanmichele in Firenze

(South side) Left to right:
Saint Mark; Donatello, 1411-1413; Guild of Linen Drapers and Peddlers.
Saint Jacob; Nicolo di Piero Lamberti, 1422; Guild of Furriers.
Madonna della Rosa; Govanni di Piero Tedesco, 1399; Guild of Physicians and Apothecaries.
John the Evangelist; Baccio da Montelupo, 1515; Guild of Silk Weavers.

Orsanmichele in Firenze
Orsanmichele in Firenze
Orsanmichele in Firenze

(East side) Left to right:
Saint John the Baptist; Lorenzo Ghiberti, 1416; Guild of Merchants.
Christ and Doubting Thomas; Verrocchio, 1465-1465; Guild of Merchants Court.
Saint Luke; Giambologna, 1601; Guild of Magistrates and Notaries.

Orsanmichele in Firenze
Orsanmichele in Firenze
Orsanmichele in Firenze
Orsanmichele in Firenze

(North side) Left to right:
Saint Peter; Donatello, 1413; Guild of Butchers.
Saint Philip; Nanni di Banco, 1410-1412; Guild of Shoemakers.
Four Crowned Saints group; Nanni di Banco, 1414-1417; Guild of Stone and Wood Masters.
Saint George; Donatello, 1417; Guild of Armourers and Swordmakers.

Orsanmichele in Firenze
Orsanmichele in Firenze
Orsanmichele in Firenze

(West side) Left to right:
Saint Matthew; Lorenzo Ghiberti, 1423; Guild of the Money Changers and Lenders. (Currently empty, waiting for copy.)
Saint Stephan; Lorenzo Ghiberti, 1427-1428; Guild of Wool Merchants.
Saint Eligius; Nanni di Banco, 1420; Guild of Blacksmiths.

The Piazza della Signoria

Palazzo della Signoria in Firenze

From there, we walked down to the Piazza della Signoria. This is the Palazzo della Signoria (Palzazzo Vecchio or Old Palace.) This was basically the "town hall" of Florentine society.

Perseus with the head of Medusa in Firenze

In the photo to the left, you can see an arched area to the right of the Palazzo Vecchio. This is the Loggia dei Lanzi built between 1376 and 1382 to house the assemblies of the people and hold public ceremonies. In the loggia is this sculpture by Benvuto Cellini, Perseus with the head of Medusa.

Savronarola plaque in Firenze

This plaque is embedded in the spot where Savronarola, famous for his Bonfires of the Vanities, was hanged and then burned.

Santa Croce

Santa Croce in Firenze We walked from the Piazza della Signoria to the Piazza Santa Croce and the Franciscan Basilica di Santa Croce.

Santa Croce in Firenze

See the dome in the previous photo, to the right of the basilica? That is the dome of the Pazzi Chapel which you can see in this photo. There will be more photos of it later.

Piazza Santa Croce in Firenze

This is one of the buildings in the Piazza di Santa Croce. On the left end of that building is the Gold Corner. We had bought some jewelry there on our last trip to Italy, and Karen wanted to go here to get some bracelets for our daughters.

Gold Corner, Firenze

Here is a photo of the Gold Corner jewelry store. The Basilica di Santa Croce is to the left of where I was standing when I took this photo.

The Ponte Vecchio

From the Piazza di Santa Croce we walked toward the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge.) On our way, we passed the Piazza Mentana with the monument in the photo below.


This is a monument to those fallen at the battle of Mentana in Florence, devoted to 150 fallen Garibaldi's freedom fighters. The inscription on the base of the monument says, Ai Forte Che Cadendo a Mentana Sacrarono Roma alla Libera Italia. This translates to, "To the brave who fell at Mentana, consecrating Rome to Free Italy."

Ponte Vecchio in Firenze Here is a view of the Ponte Vecchio with the setting sun behind it.

Some more views of the Ponte Vecchio:

Ponte Vecchio in Firenze
Ponte Vecchio in Firenze

Ponte Vecchio in Firenze In the middle of the Ponte Vecchio is this bust of Benvenuto Cellini.
Ponte Vecchio in Firenze A tower at one end of the Ponte Vecchio.

Ponte Vecchio in Firenze

There were butcher shops along the Ponte Vecchio originally. But they were so smelly that it was decreed that they be removed and replaced with goldsmiths.

Ponte Vecchio in Firenze Another detail on the Ponte Vecchio.

Da Pennello

We left the Ponte Vecchio, walked around a little more and then went to have dinner. The next two photos are views of the Casa di Dante, the house that Dante was born in and lived in until his exile from Florence, and is now a museum to Dante. However, in reality it is unlikely that this was his real home.

Casa Dante in Firenze
Casa Dante in Firenze

In my research before leaving the US, I found out about a restaurant in Florence called da Pennello (the Brush) which was established in the late 1400s. A renaissance artist named Mariotto Albertinelli presumably gave up painting for the greater art of cooking. (Cellini, Pontormo, and Andrea del Sarto used to dine here)

The restaurant, Trattoria del Pennello, is located in Piazza San Martino, on Via Dante Alighieri in the building where Dante lived.

Da Pennello in Firenze This is the front of the Trattoria del Pennello.

Da Pennello in Firenze

This is an interior view of the Trattoria del Pennello. The door on the left is the entrance to the toilets. Through the open doors that you can see straight ahead is an outdoors dining area. Our table was indoors, just to the right of the doors.

Da Pennello in Firenze

In this photo from their web site, you can see our table, in the corner under the painting of Albertinelli.

The food here was outstanding, expecially the Risotto Quattro Formaggio, — Four Cheese Risotto. People in Italy usually seem to eat late, at least by our standards. We went to the restaurant about 8:00pm. By 9:00pm the place was pretty full, but at 8:00 we had no problems getting in. Actually there were hardly any customers there when we arrived. And there was no rush on us finishing up and making room for someone else, like there usually is in the US. We took our time and had a great meal.

Then we walked around for a while before going back to our room.

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Contents © Copyright 2001 Author: Lee Briggs except where noted. All rights reserved.