Florence, or “Firenze”, as it is commonly known as, is as an artists day dream. A historians haven. A philosopher’s paradise.
Tourists wander around this magical city as if in a daze, with their minds overflowing, boggling with the sheer amount and value of appreciation to what they see before them. Everything is so beautiful, so detailed, it seems one is in a parallel universe; where an external force has created everything in perfect equity, displaying all the incredible architecture of the world, world class art and picturesque streets, all in one place and titling it absent-mindedly, Florence. The name, Florence, meaning “to flower”, is ironic. The time of the creation of these stunning buildings, it seems the makers already knew what was to become of this slice of heaven, what it would grow and continue to grow into: becoming the most important political, economical and cultural city for 250 years. The birth place of fashion (Gucci and Roberto Cavalli both were born here), of literary artists like Dante, artisans like Michel Angelo, philosophers like Galileo and the birthplace of opera, which still continues to develop and swell in popularity on an international scale.
It is no wonder the streets of Florence are always busy, as the whole world queues up to catch a glimpse and essence of what life is like in this city that tells a thousand tales in its walls, where food and wine make your legs shake, where buildings are romantic and can charm even the most cold hearted loner. Who couldn’t be touched in any way by the idyllic ice cream parlours that serve gelato that melt on the tongue, the casual strolls in the warm evenings that leave you feeling floating on air, and the incredible views that are enough to seduce you to move here. It offers frescoes, churches, sculptures, palaces, museums (over 80 of them) and picture galleries that are enough to leave you breathless.
The city’s heart and soul, the most iconic landmark, is the Duomo. Different to the one in Milan through both shape and design, this Duomo illustrates a medieval style with different hues of marble that combine together, creating a mirage similar to a mediaeval style of architecture. Head up to Giotto’s Bell Tower for an incredible view over Florence.
For more Romanesque architecture head over to the baptistery of San Giovanni, where this 11th century building tells the story of humanity and redemption on three sets of doors, both compelling and extraordinary. Another treasure chest of masterpieces is the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella which contains great art work as well, look out for the frescoed chapel by Domenico Ghirlandaio, Masaccio’s superb Holy Trinity fresco and the painted crucifix by Giotto.
Whilst in Florence, you must head over to the Uffizi gallery, home to the worlds best collection of renaissance art which truly is outstanding. However, the real essence of Florence isn’t in stuffy art galleries, but out in the open air, with the warm sun reflecting on your sun glasses, or the night sky illuminated by the lonely moon, seeing the real art of the sculptures. Florence is renowned for its superb collection of sculptures which can be found in Bargello or the Museum of the works of the Duomo, or even Accademia. I enjoyed the Piazzle Michelangelo the most. On the outskirts of town, (or a walk up some steep steps) the iconic naked statue of dishy David enters the plaza, and with the sweeping city scape of Florence behind, it made my trip to Florence. Come here any time of the day, whether it be when the sun dutifully rises rearing its head over the sleepy city, or when the sun disappears dipping and bursting of varying pinks or purples, or even when the blanket of night smothers Florence, in each scene, each time, it is incredible.
After soaking in the beauties and incredible achievements by the creators of Florence, head to Basilica Di Santa Croce, to mourn for the deaths of the greats: Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Dante, and so many other influential figures, by visiting their tombs. It is a sombre place, dismal because of such greats to have left this earth, but also inspiring, to have seen the work they created, without the modern technological advances we are lucky to have been blessed with today.
Do remember to rest whilst in Florence. Italians are known for doing this well. For relaxing, for catching up with friends and making it home in time for dinner. For eating healthy and drinking equally as healthy. And Italy is definitely the place to gain a few pounds whilst thinking about nothing, or everything. Trying to write poetry even though you don’t know how, reading a trashy novel, reading a good novel, reading anything. Florence is yes, a place of beauty, wonder and architectural brilliance, but it is also a place to lose yourself. Have a wonder through the Piazza Della Signoria where there are an abundance of statues to gaze at, or cafes to drink in. Wander to Ponte Vecchio the oldest and only Florentine bridge to survive WW2, and is still surviving. The area is filled with quaint shops and cafes, where street performers come at night and entertain those that gather.
Food in Florence is fantastic. And I am not just saying that because it’s Italy, it’s different to what you find in Milan. The food in Tuscany is equally as good as the food in Naples, just different spectrum’s and different styles. Naples you can gore yourself on a greasy doughy pizza, but here you can try different types of home-cooked bread that is warm from the oven, crumbles in the mouth and served with numerous antipasti and toppings. Or whilst you are here try the gorgeous, “Pappardelle sulla lepre”, wide ribboned pasta with creamy meat, (Tuscany love their meat which maybe why I love them)– delicious.
Coming here at a young age means, unfortunately I did not go clubbing or hop to any bars, (I am sure to the relief of my parents) however, I do not remember where we stayed either. What I do remember is the hawks and calls of men trying to catch my attention whilst I absent mindedly walked ahead from my mum and older brother, and the casual slimy stroke I received up my leg whilst walking up a busy street. Even at a young (13 year old) age, I was still getting unwanted attention from men, so women look after yourself!