Thursday, 2 April 2015

Impressions of Florence

Two weeks later here I am, memories of Florence still fresh in my mind and pile of revision prompting me to find any excuse of procrastination. I swear if anyone asks why I have a blog that the most honest answer is to procrastinate efficiently and productively - as if that was ever a thing. So let's keep it short and sweet whilst I virtually walk you through my favourite haunts in the Renaissance jewel that is Florence.


Your starting point should and will mostly be Piazza della Signoria, the large square with the Palace from where the Medicis used to rule. Next to it you will find the U shaped building that is the Uffizi containing 10% of all European art. It's a must see in Florence since it will be like an open window into the era that consecrated not only Florence as the seat of Renaissance art but Italy as a whole as well. You can find almost everything your heart desires, from the ancient roman Laocoon that inspired Michelangelo himself, to Leonardo Da Vinci paintings and Old Dutch Masters. Such a great museum comes with a price: huge queues. You should allow a few good hours if you want to make the most of it but you could also purchase the Amici delli Uffizi card that gives you priority unlimited access for a whole year. 

Also in Piazza della Signoria you will find copies of famous sculptures under a stone canopy that looks spectacular especially during the night when they light it up.

Arguably the most photographed place in Florence is Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge still preserving the original shops from the 1400s. Apparently Jewish jewellers were only allowed to open their shops and boutiques on that bridge so they could be easily taxed and prevented from taking over the town pretty much. Nowadays it retains the same aesthetic but I find the shops to be overpriced and too commercial - it's great for photos but I would venture on the small streets of Florence for authentic jewelry.

On par regarding the amount of photos taken here is the Duomo square. It's a must when visiting Florence because it's absolutely stunning with it's polychrome marble exterior and typical Tuscan architecture. The tickets include going up the Duomo which I highly recommend if not for the panorama over the city then for the closeup view of Vasari's depiction of the inferno on the inside of the dome. The Baptistery is also very impressive and included in the Duomo ticket.

If the Uffizi didn't quite fill in that arty void, head off to the Academia Gallery where you can admire Giambologna's Rape of the Sabine Women sculpture, unfinished Michelangelo sculptures and of course David. 

*Word of warning: You might have a Pygmalion moment and fall in love with David*

The Medici Complex is also nearby and would be free with the Uffizi card. It consists of the Chapel where most members of the Florentine family are buried, a monumental chapel in marble of all sorts and a separate smaller one designed by Michelangelo, the same artistic licence behind the beautiful Laurentian Library within the San Lorenzo Basilica that has a very Mediterranean looking inner court.

Another type of museum would be the Feragammo museum in the Piazza della Trinita. I was expecting just exhibited shoes and a bit of text but was pleasantly surprised by the amount of information, not just on the brand and it's creator but the mechanics of walking, walking in sculptural art and even modern dancing. 

The old market square just off Piazza della Republica is very photogenic at night when all the street vendors selling fake bags and selfie sticks leave. This is also where the Boar bronze is. Legend has it that you need to put a coin in its mouth and if it falls within the little sieve at the bottom your wish will come true but only if you also rub its snout for good luck.

The Boboli gardens are also a must on a sunny day for a short nature walk and views of Florence. We also took to making flower crowns, it's an optional tourist tip.

Churches are also a must, my two favourites being Borgo Ognissanti church with a crucifix by Giotto but there are so many churches you're bound to find something awe inspiring in each and everyone of them. In this particular area I'd say being curious and going in would be the best policy.


Being such a compact and relatively small city, Florence is prime territory for wanderers. Perched up on a bridge railing, sipping coffee by a window or just walking along, camera on hand, you will undoubtedly catch a glimpse of Florentine life that will seem both authentic and ethereal. 


The Arno is the heartbeat of Florence, the tune to which the city chimes (if you disregard the cacophony of church bells). So make sure you stroll by the river at different points throughout the day to capture the light on the river, the clouds of mist or the beautiful reflection of the buildings on the water surface. 


In Italy food is synonymous with life pretty much. Florence is a treasure trove for foodies with many cool bars and restaurants (or osterias) tucked away around the Piazza Santa Trinita and Spirito Santo. In between the Orsanmichele church and the Piazza della Signoria are most of my favourite panini shops including Pizza Toto and Verrazzano. For fresh fruit and veg I suggest Mercato Centrale for a tour de force of Italian gastronomy. Gelato is also a must - our faves were La Carraia, Emporio and Dei Neri. 

Allegedly the world's best sandwich place 

My second home during the trip - try Verrazzano for foccaccia slices and biscuits
Customisable sandwiches at Prosciutteria 

Gustapizza at, wait for it, Gustapizza 

Santo Spirito street vendor

Stalls at the Central Market

Odeon Bistro - make sure to try their apperitivo buffet in the evenings!
La Carraia icecream brioche, only 3 euros 
Emporio ice cream parlour - try the black sesame, it's delicious!


There's nothing better than rounding up a day in Florence with a nice souvenir. For authentic handmade items I suggest Oltrarno, the south side of the river which is full of small independent shops such as L'ipogrifo that does handmade watercolours and sketches. The most charming antique shops are around the Ognissanti area and I thoroughly recommend Giovanni Bacanni's Little Blue Shop. Fashion wise, do stop at Viajyiu, a brand new concept of made-to-measure Italian shoes nestled on the side of the Feragammo museum. Il Papiro is great for traditional Florentine stationery in the marbled paper that is now solely a Tuscan artisan art.

I'm sure you'll fall in love with Florence as much as I have. Maybe you'll just have to try for yourself :) 

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