Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria is one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. We were lucky enough to find a place that we could barely afford just off the piazza-- Relais Uffizi ;It's a little hard to find, located down a little alley way, but the breakfast room has views directly onto the square.  We really enjoyed staying in the center of the city.  The Uffizi was two minutes from our doorway, the Ponte Vecchio was less than five minutes away, and it was a pleasant stroll up to the Duomo.  In this photo, I'm standing near the spot where Savonarola, famous for his "Bonfire of the Vanities," was himself burned about 500 years ago.

The Uffizi Gallery is found in this long, U-shaped building that stretches from the Arno River up to Piazza della Signoria.  The entrance to the gallery is found through the columns (on the left side of the photo).  The museum is the oldest (and one of the most famous) public art museums in the world.  Packed with works from Giotto, Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio among others, the Uffizi is always packed.  It is essential to reserve ahead or plan to spend most of your valuable time in Florence standing in line.  There is now a ticket web site on which one can purchase advance tickets and make reservations. You can make reservations for other Florence museums at the same site, but they're really only necessary for the Uffizi and the Accademia (for the David).  
  Piazza Uffizi

The Pitti Palace has a number of museums that one can visit, but the most famous (and the only one we chose to visit) is the Palatine Gallery.  In it are displayed the works in the private collection of the Medicis.  (You can also reserve your time for a visit to the Palatine Gallery at the same number above, but unless you're unlucky enough to get there just as two or three groups are scheduled to go through, you should be able to get in without a reservation.)  After visiting the typical gallery where the paintings are carefully arranged to allow optimal viewing, the Palatine is a shock.  With barely a gap in the wall space between the paintings, it's packed with hundreds of paintings almost from floor to ceiling in each room  Without a guide or guidebook of some kind, you're sure to miss something important.  Before leaving the Pitti Palace, be sure to visit the Boboli Gardens in the rear for some wonderful views over the city.

The Loggia dei Lanzi is one of the most important buildings on the Piazza della Signoria primarily because of the important statues underneath.  It was doubly important to us because it served as the landmark leading us to the tiny alleway leading back to our hotel.  I don't think we've ever been to Florence that some of the statues weren't covered, but luckily one of Brenda's favorites was "out of the box."  Perseus holding the head of Medusa was crafted by Cellini and remains a favorite of many visitors to the Loggia today.  

  Duomo Museum
In Piazsa del Duomo, behind the cathedral, you can find the Museo dell'Opera.  We'd been to Florence several times before we happened upon this small treasure.  In addition to a Pieta by Michelangelo and a statue of Mary Magdalene by Donatello, you can see the original panels from the Baptistry Doors.  The originals were moved to the museum and replaced by copies after they were damaged by flood waters in 1966.  

This photo of the Church of S. Spirito is included on this page for one reason only:  to remind everyone who takes photos during travel to act early in identifying the photos.  Otherwise, years later, you'll be sitting around looking at photos, wondering "Where in the heck was I?"  When I got these photos out to sort out what I wanted to include on the web page, I thought this might be a photo of San Marco.  (We've unsucessfully tried to see Fra Angelico's "Annunciation" there on three different occasions.  The opening times are apparently random.)  In fact, S. Spirito is on the opposite side of the city, between the Pitti Palace and the Carmine Church.  It was only with the help of a response from a knowledgable person on the AOL Travel Forum that I was able to identify it.  So, don't let your photos sit; brain matter withers faster than Kodak paper.

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