To say that Florence is one of the most romantic and beautiful cities in Europe would not be an understatement. There are so many wonderful places to see in Florence and the Piazza della Signoria is certainly one of them for many reasons. The plaza is an outdoor museum with many different historic statues. It is also the location of the Palazzo Vecchio, which is Florence’s town hall. It is a great place to sit in an outdoor restaurant and people watch and soak in the ambiance.
One of the most notable features of the square is the Loggia dei Lanzi, which is a covered area with columns and many statues that can be seen in the three openings. Of the many statues that can be found in the Loggia, one of the most famous is the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna. Another of the statues is Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Cellini. The famous Medici Lions can be seen standing guard just outside of the columns.
The Palazzo Vecchio looms overhead with its large bell tower and less ornate architecture than much of what is found throughout Florence. The Piazza della Signoria is actually an L-shaped plaza, giving you different perspectives from almost every direction. A replica of Michelangelo’s David is also on display, but the original is in the Galleria dell’Accademia. There is also a much larger replica of David located in Piazzale Michelangelo, which has wonderful views of the city.
The Piazza della Signoria should certainly be a part of your itinerary when visiting Florence. We enjoyed spending about an hour in the plaza between walking among the statues as well as sitting at a café for a glass of Italian wine. After leaving the square, we wandered down one of the narrow streets where we passed by Dante’s Church, which dates back to 1032 and is one of the oldest churches in Florence.
If you want to visit a place that has a thriving art scene, some of the best food in the country, and a relaxing atmosphere, then Santa Fe, New Mexico, might just be the place for you. It isn’t all just art and food, though, there is plenty of history as well with both the oldest church in the United States as well as the oldest, continuously occupied public building in the United States. There is also a house that claims to be the oldest in the United States, but if nothing else, it one of the oldest houses depending upon the information that we have seen.
Santa Fe is about a five hour drive from Colorado Springs, so we decided to go on a quick weekend getaway and enjoy a couple of days there. Since the elevation of Santa Fe, which is about 7,200 feet (about 2,200 meters), is very similar to where we live, we didn’t have to worry about acclimating to the altitude, but for those coming from sea level, drinking plenty of water is definitely advisable. Even though it is mountainous, it is still a desert region, so expect high temperatures if you visit during the summer months. Although we didn’t have the opportunity on this trip, there are a lot of trails for hiking if you want to get out and explore the natural surroundings.
The historic downtown region is in the heart of Santa Fe and is where you will find a lot of art galleries and restaurants around almost every corner. The city was first established in 1610 by the Spanish, which also makes it the oldest state capital in the United States. You will find a lot of tourists wandering the streets, which all meander somewhat haphazardly around the central plaza where you can find some shade and grass to escape from the summer heat. In the late afternoon on weekends, you will likely find live music to enjoy as the temperatures start to become more tolerable. The historic area is also where you find the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, which is one of the must see sites in Santa Fe.
There are other churches worthy of visiting as well, including the Loretto Chapel, which is home to the Miraculous Stairway, the San Miguel Church, which is the oldest church in the United States having been built in 1610, as well as the Santuario de Guadalupe. Sitting along side of the plaza is the Palace of the Governors, also built in 1610, which is the oldest public building in the United States and where you can find vendors selling jewelry and other art in the shade of it’s roof. Not far from there is the building that claims to be the oldest house in the United States, which was built in 1646.
Whatever you do in Santa Fe, take your time and relax, everyone else will be. Whether walking in and out of the many art galleries or having a drink on one of the rooftop restaurants, no one is in a hurry to rush around as they visit the various sites. Not far from the downtown plaza is the Railyard Arts District where you can find many local artists, more breweries and restaurants, as well as catch the Road Runner Express, which is an active railway that runs between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We certainly enjoyed our time walking the historic streets and stopped in several restaurants to have locally brewed beer, New Mexico’s southwestern food favorites, and people watch as tourists meandered the streets. We will likely return soon to enjoy one of the many spas in the area as well as get out and do some hiking.
We had a twenty-four hour layover in Lima during our flight to Bolivia, so we decided to make the most of the opportunity and do some sightseeing around Lima. We’ll do a full post on it when we have the opportunity, but here is are a couple of photos to give an idea of what we will be sharing.