It was hotter than Hell in Florence during our five-mile exploration there earlier this week. Over 100 degrees F with high humidity! It seemed appropriate to find the tomb of Dante, tucked inside the relatively cool Santa Croce cathedral. Surely touring Florence during an unseasonally humid heat wave ranks as one of the tortuous nine circles of the underworld.

As miserable as it was, we couldn’t skip the opportunity to return to one of the world’s most important cities. Known as the “Cradle of the Renaissance,” Florence is home to many important historic sites, thanks mostly to the powerful Medici family of savvy merchants and bankers. One of the most influential families in Europe, they ruled this city from the 15th to the 18th century.

As we walked around, seeking shade when possible, we couldn’t help but see the Medici family’s fingerprints everywhere–especially in art and architecture. They built or commissioned some of the city’s most famous landmarks, including the Uffizi Gallery, the Medici Chapel, and the Palazzo Pitti. They were patrons of the arts and sciences, bringing some of the greatest innovators of the era to Florence.

This brings us back to Dante and Santa Croce, one of the most interesting churches in Florence, located a short walk from the Duomo. It’s known as the “Temple of the Italian Glories” because it is the burial place of so many important figures in Italian history and culture. Besides Dante, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Gioacchino Rossini, rest here. It was inspiring to be so close to some of the greatest minds of humankind. Mary agreed, ranking it above the exceptional Zara she discovered later.

Risking heat stroke and dodging dense crowds of tourists, we also managed to view the David replica, the Duomo, the Palazzo Vecchio, and more. And we savored superb plates of pasta vongole in an air-conditioned restaurant off Santa Croce Square. Obviously, we’ll have to return – there’s so much more to see. But next time we’ll schedule during fall or spring when it’s not so devilishly hot.
P.S. If you are coming to Europe this summer, book ahead to avoid disappointments. Tourists are back, lines are long and some must-sees are sold out.