On a peaceful Sunday morning, while locals were in church and the tourists were nursing hangovers, I was wandering along the river. The proud home of ‘the Italian language’ (thanks to Dante), more art and art galleries than you could visit in your lifetime, large parks, statue filled fountains, good shopping and huge pieces of steak (bisteca fiorentina), Florence is a city that has something for everyone.
One of the many jewels in Italy’s crown, Florence is a great city to be seen on foot, with little side-streets and alleyways hiding local eateries, shopping spots and other surprises. I started my exploration of Florence by visiting the Ponte Vecchio, the ‘Old Bridge,’ famous for the shops and houses built on it, as well as its gold shops. On a still and sunny Tuscan morning, it was a great way to get a feel for the city and what I would find there.
As the morning got on and temperatures started reaching 35 degrees, I didn’t have the energy to fight queues several hours long for the art galleries or the slightly shorter queues to climb the tower of the Duomo. Instead I crossed the river and made my way to the Boboli gardens to get a view of Florence from above — which I didn’t end up getting as the viewing site we went to was closed for safety reasons. But not all was lost as the walk was lined with beautiful old Tuscan apartments and the smell of delicious homemade Sunday lunches.
Coming from Milan, where the Duomo is grey on the outside, I loved the multi-coloured Duomo (Cathedral) of Florence. The interior was light and felt spacious, with frescoes on the ceilings but reasonably plain walls, a stark contrast to the Milanese Duomo – so intricately detailed, but dark and almost grim inside. Italy may be one country but the diversity of its churches gives a good example of just how different each region really is.
Florence is stunning and well worth a visit, but I felt it was overrun with tourists (yes, I know, I am also a tourist and yes, it was August, the peak tourist season). If you’re prepared to wait in lines (or book tickets online and jump the queues for those slightly more organised travellers), it is well worth a visit. I know I’ll certainly be back for more of that bisteca fiorentina.