After a handful of perfect days exploring Tuscany and relaxing in our amazing villa, I was kind of looking forward to Florence but had already given it a status of ‘second-best’ before we’d even arrived. Why? Because I’m usually not as impressed with the big cities and much prefer quaint historic towns like Lucca. But, my brother Reece raves about Florence, it’s his most favourite place. He actually lived there for the summer as an art student. He also speaks pretty good Italian, but is way too modest to admit it. We were all suitably impressed and really noticed the difference it made. The Italians are always welcoming and happy, but when one of your group speaks the language they are even more so!
Florence truly is a city of magic and I was blown away by its architecture, my opinion changing the more we explored.
Hiding around every corner seems to be a marble clad, brightly coloured, sculpture or building, reason for my jaw to hit the floor, swiftly followed with a “Ooohhhh, have you seen that!”
Keen to explore, and keen to totally immerse ourselves in Italy we walked all day around the sandstone streets marvelling at the scale of everything and stopping off for the odd espresso to fuel us up.
Sitting by by the river Arne watching the boats skim along the river whilst admiring Ponte Vecchio was something everyone needs to experience.
Its all beautiful, but if I had to pick just one thing to make a fuss over it would have to be ‘Il Duomo di Firenze’; Florence’s Cathedral. Its stunningly exquisite and kind of takes your breath away. I didn’t expect it to be so big, or so detailed! It’s probably, and this takes some beating, one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen.
Every angle is impressive, it glistens in all lights with shades of pink and green and white marble. You can stand and marvel…or gawp, from any direction and it will always be impressive.
We were lucky and the queue to go in was tiny. Reece commented on how unusual this was so we quickly took advantage and made our way inside. Calm, cool and quiet.
Candles keep the atmosphere warm and welcoming.
Taking advantage of our
tour guide, sorry, my brothers knowledge of Florence, we learnt that the cathedral was finished in the mid 14th century without a roof under the presumption that one day someone else would be able to dome it! This is when Filippo Brunelleschi entered and his solution was two concentric shells (so there is actually two domes – an inner and outer) which took a whopping 16 years to complete using no scaffolding, (which was revolutionary) and instead he used a brick laying method (called the Herringbone bond) that provided support as it dried.
The part that really took my breath away was the ‘The Last Judgement’ commissioned by Vasari in 1572. Vasari died only having carried out half of the work so a new artist called Federico Zuccari was called from Urbino to finished the work. He technically ruined Vasari’s plans too using a much more simple method of painting. The frescoes (thanks to Reece for teaching us the lingo) were then scrupulouslyrestored between 1978 – 1985. It’s truly impeccable and photo’s don’t do it justice. There’s only one thing for it… you have to go!
The streets of Florence are always busy. It all adds to the excitement and utter chaos, the echoing noise of chatter and if you pretend the selfie sticks aren’t there, it gives you an idea of the busy streets of the past. Just picture it.
My brother pointed out his student digs conveniently opposite Mercato Centrale – two jam-packed floors of foodie heaven. Heading straight upstairs it’s bursting with restaurants and things to eat. I wasn’t particularly hungry.. shock, horror i know… so I settled for some fresh vegetable tempura. Don’t be put off by how busy it is, the people move fast and the classically simple kitchens churn out some of the best spaghetti and snacks in Florence.
Renowned for its high-brow art scene and architecture Florence also has the most amazing sunsets. I’d been told that the only way to enjoy it was at a fancy rooftop cocktail bar. Reece soon knocked that on the head when he told us that actually, the best way to view the sunset is to follow the locals up to the highest point in Florence at Piazzale Michelangelo. I won’t lie, if you’re unfit it’s an effort but totally worth it for the panoramic views.
Use my strategy: “Be the turtle.” Slow and steady wins the race… 😉
We grabbed some cold Italian lager with some cups and climbed our way up. When you get to the top you’ll know. There are people everywhere! But keep on going a bit higher up some more steps (sorry) just to the right of the restaurant. It’s a bit quieter and there’s lots more room. We perched on some steps at the top and absorbed it all.
The perfect way to spend our last evening in Italy.
Oh.. and if you’re wedding venue hunting… ta-da! Can you just imagine?