Perhaps the first thing you notice about Florence is her astounding beauty and romance, a city surrounded by evidence of times past, a presence of beauty, and an endless charm for the future. Even with the tourists swarming at peak season nothing takes away from her beauty. It feels like you are in a cocoon, trapped in a particular time and in that respect she is otherworldly, brimming with life, and buzzing with history. It is that place I will always go, eager to return and never wanting to leave. Florence most beautiful Florence.
Florence. Where the great masters walked the cobbled streets- Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, defied imagination with incredible works of art- La Primavera, my favourite work of art, to stand in the presence of Venus is some kind of magic, The Annunciation, Il Davide. The world’s most incredible galleries- Uffizi, Galleria dell’Accademia, fascinating history and tragedies unfolded on bridges and waterways. Dynasties rose and fell. Hearts broken and lovers cast out- the place of Dante’s tragic love story, his most beloved city from which he was banished. The city that housed one of the most powerful families in the World, The Medici family- four popes, two Queens of France, a financial legacy yet to be rivalled and possibly the grandest patrons of the arts ever known. The name and symbol remain significant in all of Florence today.
Window shop for really expensive jewellery as you walk across the medieval stone bridge, Ponte Vecchio, over River Arno, into the old town. The Ponte Vecchio market dates as far back at the 15th century, and it was once an open air meat market but Grand Duke Cosimo, head of the Medici family in the 1400s banned the butchers because of the stench left in their wake after every market day, which often wafted through the Vasari corridor.
The Vasari corridor is an indication of the absolute position and power bestowed on men in the old days. Giorgio Vasari built the corridor in 1565, in five short months on order of Cosimo de’ Medici I, Duke of Florence, in preparation of the wedding between his son Francesco and Joanna of Austria. After the wedding, the corridor served as a safe and uninterrupted passage way for the Duke, between his home Palazzo Pitti and his offices in Palazzo Vecchio, members of his family and other such noble guests of the family. It snakes its way one kilometre over rooftops, through towers, homes- consent was got through force for homes in its path, except the Manelli family who refused to have a corridor go through its tower, therefore the corridor curved around it. Whilst on the bridge, be sure to slow down long enough and enjoy the view on either side of you, with the Uffizi steps away. Continue on into the old town pick up a couple cannolis and eat them as you amble along, any pastry will do, Italians do fabulous pastry. That little cafe pictured, I forget its name, does them all and its right opposite the bridge into the old town.
After a schlep into the old town, cross the Ponte Vecchio back into the the new town- more like not so old but still old it cannot be new- and join the people heading towards possibly the most beautiful church on the continent, have lunch in one of the many cafes that line the round and settle to take in the view; Santa Maria del Fiore most fondly known as Il Duomo. So close you can touch it. Imposing as it is beautiful.
There isn’t a more beautiful church on the continent that I’ve seen so far on my travels, Cambio and Brunellechi’s work confound the imagination and in person it simply takes your breath away. Its like a fat man literally plopped in the centre of the town with everyone staring in marvel. Step closer, study the religious figures and the different stories on the building. Yes there will be plenty of tourists but Il Duomo is big enough to contain all.
Night time strolls around the city are just as magnificent. It is easy to lose a sense of the present if you’ll let the many statues and stones take you into a journey back into their own time.
Walk the city and enjoy a surreal kind of beauty, like the pages of a magical book the characters come to life, a golden halo covers the evening and the moon light up the starry night sky, the statues become even more imposing sweeping you off your feet and transporting you to a world that time did not forget. At least not in Florence. She is grand and glorious, majestic and beautiful. Return to the present and indulge in a spot of late night window shopping in the fancy boutiques on Via de Tornabuoni.
Even when she is crumbly and old, Florence maintains her charm like no other, alleys and arches, piazzas and bridges, statues, even the naked ones. This is not some trendy old vanity project, neither is it a hipster’s joint of the moment, Florence is quite simply the most achingly beautiful place on earth, which is why falling in love with Florence is inevitable at first sight.