After Rome, Florence and Venice are arguably Italy’s most popular tourist destinations.
After Naples, the two cities were my next targets.
One is the hub of art, architecture and culture—the cradle of the Italian Renaissance.
The other is the romantic deteriorating city of sparkling aquamarine canals, gondolas and Carnevale.
Florence is harmonious. Colored marble facades and terra-cotta roofs dominate.
Venice is eclectic. Styles and colors run together pell-mell.
Florence glows at dusk.
Florence is opulent grandeur. Palaces. Bridges. Masterworks.
Venice is damp and disintegrating. Slimy seaweed. Rotting water-logged wood. Musty bookstores.
Florence is stomach-turning tripe. You take a bite before throwing it mercifully into the trash can.
Venice is inky black cuttlefish pasta. It tastes like the sea, but less salty and more earthy.
Florence is three separate trips to Gelateria Carraia. White chocolate pistachio. Lemon cookie. Ricotta pear.
Venice is sipping limoncello canal-side to escape the flood of tourists.
In Florence you stare, mesmerized, at lifelike statues.
In Venice you stand still as a statue with soggy bread in your hands, tempting pigeons.
Florence is grounded, solid. The hint of movement frozen in stone.
Venice is untethered, fluid. The moored boats straining to join the current.
Stability and order are friendly comforts. Freedom is vertigo-inducing but not unwelcome; I’ve found it’s refreshing to be unbound.