Published in Weekend Argus 2/ 3 June 2012
Florence is special.And it’s not something in the water.
Kate Middleton and Michelangelo both studied here and each one of them carved out a future for themselves that will eternalise their names in history.
Did Florence have something to do with it…? Who knows. I like to think so. The place is like that. It inspires people.
Florence has an almost mystical feel about it when you first arrive. A melting pot of history, art and culture that has so much to offer you’d need at least a week to get a proper taste.
The city is rich in breathtaking moments with masterful architecture and artwork on display everywhere. The Santa Croce Gothic church is therefore most appropriately the last resting place for a lot of history’s most famous artists, poets, architects and philosophers, including Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante and Galileo Galileo.
The main Piazza in the heart of the city is the best place to start sightseeing. This is the where the marble-dressed “lady” stands that attracts many tourists to the city— the Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo. An architectural wonder of her time with her double dome, resembling that of St. Peter’s in Rome.
Just down the street, to the east, lies the piazza Singoria, an open-air gallery which can be visited at no cost. Here you can appreciate beautiful sculptures including Neptune’s Fountain and a replica of the David statue.
As if this al fresco gallery is not enough its neighbour is the well known Uffizi gallery which begs you to come and have a look at her treasure-chest of artworks. Be warned though, for this gallery you need almost a day to get through. (Don’t take anyone with you that is not really into these things…it might mark the end of a relationship.)
Next to the Uffizi snakes the river Arno. The river is caressed by quite a few bridges but the most widely known must be the Ponte Vecchio—with its petite shops, now display areas for jewellery stores but in centuries past, owned by butchers. This is also the best place to capture a Florence sunset on your camera.
If you’re feeling fit, the bridge will lead you across the river upwards to Piazza Michelangelo where you will get a splendid view of the whole city. If you’re not up for a steep walk, there is a lovely, sweet, syrupy hot chocolate waiting in the direction we came from, right next to the bridge at Caffe delle Carrozze. Whether it is summer or winter, this drink you need to try. You should also not leave Florence before tasting its famous Gelato (Italian ice-cream)which you can get at any street cafe.
For a last “must see” walk back towards the Duomo and walk through the piazza to the other side, up in Via Riscasoli. On your right you get the hidden entrance (I am still surprised how difficult it is to find) to the Galleria dell’ Academia who looks after the real David. Don’t forget it is closed on Mondays…I had to learn that the hard way. The gallery is filled with other stunning works, mostly sculptured by Michelangelo. Nothing compares to the main attraction though.
“He” stands in the honorary spot, at the end of a long corridor—the David, perfect in its perfectness. For a moment it will feel like time standing still. It is placed in such a way that you can inspect every muscle and toenail in the finest detail and you’ll feel humble when you realise that someone dedicated a few years of his life to sculpt this perfect replica of a young man.
It’s very difficult to see everything if you have little time, therefore this city should be tackled with good planning and a good map. Unfamiliar places like Michelangelo’s house and a variety of unknown churches should also be taken into account when planning a trip.
One thing you don’t need to worry about…and that is food. The Italians like to eat and around every corner is a divine restaurant or small cafe inviting you to enter. Don’t stress over your diet or a bigger size pants…that is something you can fret about later.Two definite recommendations are Buca Poldo, located in the basement, with its Penne alla Casa, and the home-made Spaghetti and Ravioli of i’Toscana.While browsing a flea-market, with unique Floridian souvenirs, at the legendary Fontana del Porcellino or Arno-piglet, an old poem popped into my head, confirming the sentiment I feel for this city…
“Italy is the garden of Europe, Tuscany is the garden of Italy , Florence is the flower of Tuscany”
Before leaving the market I religiously toss a coin in the fountain next to the Arno-piglet and rub it’s snout. A ritual that will ensure you come back to Florence one day.
Do it. It works for me…every time.