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Florence & Pisa

August 20, 2023   

A very historical city that reminds me of Xi’an.

Our stay there was cut short due to the extreme heat, which made outdoor activities and even walking outside nearly unbearable. Nevertheless, we managed to visit the magnificent cathedral and a few special spots I’ve always longed to see.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

This is the largest church in Italy, graced with the beautiful name of flowers. It was the first grand Italian cathedral we encountered. Italy, I feel, has a unique style of churches, distinct from anywhere else, characterized by pure white marble and unique patterns. As with other churches, I found the exterior of this church phenomenal, yet the interior was the most unadorned we had ever seen. The stained glass collection was minuscule, set against a vast white wall. Perhaps minimalism is part of the Italian church design ethos? Worth noting, however, is the dome and the relief on it - absolutely incredible. It’s hard to fathom how they achieved such intricate work centuries ago. It must surely be a divine feat.

We were fortunate enough to climb to the top of the dome, appreciating not only the relief but also the breathtaking view of the town from the very summit.

The tower

The tower depicted in the previous picture is also climbable, offering a view similar to that from the top of the cathedral. However, one unique aspect is that you can admire the beautiful cathedral and its dome from this tower. Although the climb can be quite strenuous with countless stairs to ascend, it is undoubtedly worth it.

Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence

Indeed, this is another cathedral, similar in style, but it is special as it houses the tomb of one of my favorite philosophers and politicians, Machiavelli. Later, I was surprised to discover that other notable figures, including Michelangelo and Galileo, were also buried here. It was an immense honor to see their tombs and pay my respects, knowing their remains are literally here. To me, this represents the veneration of knowledge. I couldn’t have been more excited to see Machiavelli “in person”. On his tomb, there was an engraved Italian text that translates to, “There is no praise that could be greater than this name.”

Pitti Palace Museum

I hadn’t originally planned to visit this location, but the intense heatwave and bright sunshine led me to seek refuge inside the museum. It proved to be another serendipitous decision. I was previously uninformed about Italian history, but I gained substantial knowledge about the Medici family from this museum. Furthermore, the paintings on display were outstanding, even to someone like me who lacks professional knowledge about art. They simply exuded natural beauty. I found myself irresistibly drawn to certain pieces, unable to stop admiring them.

Piazzale Michelangelo

The plaza provided a spectacular view of the city, particularly during sunset. The sight of the sun’s glow reflecting off the river and bridges was truly breathtaking, and it was such a privilege to witness this.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

On the second day of our trip, we drove from Florence to Pisa, which is an hour away. Despite the intense heat that was almost unbearable, we managed to spend some time at the Piazza dei Miracoli, marveling at the miraculous leaning tower. We also had the opportunity to climb to the top of the tower. It was probably my first and last time climbing a leaning building in my life. Surprisingly, the lean was much more pronounced than I had expected, looking quite dangerous. I found myself wondering why the tilt hasn’t caused the entire structure to collapse. Even though there were numerous restoration projects it had undergone, it truly is a miracle.

The piazza also features a cathedral and several other magnificent buildings. We only had time to visit the cathedral, which was beautifully Italian in style.

The heat in Southern Italy is quite intense. Although we didn’t have the opportunity to fully explore both cities, it was wonderful to see some famous landmarks that I had previously only read about in my elementary school textbooks. I could never have imagined that I would actually be here. I would advise against visiting Italy during the scorching summer months. My only advice is to avoid visiting Italy during the hot summer.