When you travel to a new place, you notice that your surroundings aren’t familiar and you’re constantly observing and discovering; senses awaken and you become alive! In Florence, even if it’s a repeat visit, this feeling never ends! Travel recharges the batteries and wakes up the spirit. Only in Florence will your senses scream la dolce vita! You can see art of the Renaissance, touch the thin crispy crust of a pizza Margarita, taste the Chianti wine, smell the fruity olive oil, and hear Giotto’s bell towers…I become zoetic in Florence with its beauty, history, and love. Florence is surreal; the images that you’ve seen in photos and movies magically come to life before your eyes. It truly is a different world.
Florence was originally named Florentia which means “may she flourish.” Considered to be the most beautiful city in the world it is also the birthplace of the Renaissance. What I love is that the people of Florence are so proud to share their country with you; they are very helpful and eager. It is home to Dante, da Vinci, Michelangelo, the Medici family, and Galileo. Florence is the capital of art; not only art history but the decoration of their houses, gardens, and fashion is perfection.
I am a fan of all things Italian: gelato, Sienna cinnamon colors, maze of paved stone streets, vespas, pizza, pasta, terracotta pots with colorful red flowers, piazzas, osteries, trattories, lemoncello, leather, jewelry, lace lingerie, Pinocchio…
I used to imagine myself as a travel writer/food critic before we had children. I still subscribe to Condé Nast Traveler and love thinking about planning our next trip. I really look forward to taking our children to Italy; once my youngest gets a little older I think we could do it. Italians love children, that’s not what worries me, it’s the flight there! Italy is known to be the best country in the world to have a child, and to be one! Children are greeted everywhere with enthusiasm.
Enjoying Florence takes time and that’s exactly what you’ll need if you plan to share this extremely fabulous town with thousands of sightseers. The good news is everything in Florence is within walking distance: restaurants, churches, museums, outdoor discotheques…The bonus is that once in the Italian time zone, you magically have more time to just be!
Walking around you will find the Florentine bats are confident creatures (just like Italian men); they are not afraid to swoop down and check you out (again…just like Italian men)! Both are harmless, it’s just their way!
It’s difficult for Americans to adjust to the Italian lifestyle; they linger over meals (being slow is a privilege); taking long strolls, naps, and they never talk about money! Traffic lights are optional and more of a decoration! When an American comes back home they long for that slower pace of life like they felt in Florence, unfortunately that is not American! Unless driving, Italians rarely say vai! vai! (go)!
You can eat very well in Florence, the simpler the restaurant, the better the food. I prefer that simple unrefined cooking that has no airs. It is very Italian to eat what you know; Italians are comforted by the familiar. The Florentines are convinced that the origins of French cooking are directly attributed to Catherine de’Medici’s move to France, naturalmente!
There are beautiful details throughout the city; even the street names… Via delle Belle Donne (beautiful women street). Another reason to walk, you never know what street you’ll end up on for that Renaissance photograph.
Before you go, find inspiration and get the most for your upcoming trip by reading or watching A Room with a View, The Light in the Piazza, and Life Is Beautiful. Listen to the Big Night soundtrack and prepare your palate and belly for the ultimate gastronomic experience.
Things to do in Florence…climb 400 some steps of the Duomo, see the Uffizi museum (make a reservation), see David at the Galleria dell’ Accademia , the original baptistery door panels by Ghiberti , Fra Angelico’s “The Annunciation” at Museo de San Marco, eat at Villa San Michele (don’t stay there, they will bankrupt you), Piazza Signoria where you can see the most perfect example of a tirebouchon (corkscrew) sculpture.
Photo: Above, Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines stands outside Palazzo Vecchio. Below, one of Ghiberti’s original baptistery panel.
Then in the end it’s always nice to throw down the guide book and follow where your instincts tell you to go. My husband and I loved stopping in a Tabacchi to pick up cigarettes and wine to enjoy on our hotel balcony. Those were some of the most memorable nights; people watching in Florence you will find a plethora of entertainment. Having a gelato in the piazza, you will see just how small our world is. We are all neighbors! I remember seeing the same couple several times during our stay there; I may have gotten a little too friendly when she thought I was going to eat her dessert!
During these last winter weeks you might be suffering from the blues, you could become your own therapist and prescribe a week or more in Florence. It has medicinal cures that are sure to revive your spirit. Even if it’s a long way away until you’re able to go, its fun to plan for the future and Florence awaits with its pizza, pasta, and piazzas! Buona Fortuna! Cin cin! Ciao!
Photo: My husband Derek getting “Italian” therapy!