Ahhh Firenze, what can I say about such a famous and great city that hasn’t been said already? If you want to go to one city in all of Italy, maybe even the world, for the perfect blend of culture, history, art, architecture, unique food & fantastic wine, this would be it. Florence is the capital of the Tuscany region which is world famous for its wine. The historic center of Florence was also named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Apart from being considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence also houses some of the most famous works of art in the world and is packed to the brim with monuments, statues, churches & squares, and some of the greatest art galleries you can find anywhere. It is one of the fashion capitals of the world with the headquarters of Ferragamo, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli, and Emilio Pucci located there, and some amazing designer outlets for those looking to shop designer at a steal.
Politically, economically, and culturally it was one of the most important cities in Europe and the world for a couple of centuries. Florence is believed to have the greatest concentration of art, in proportion to its size, in the world. In not just the world of art, but science too, they led the way with people like Leonardo Davinci calling Florence home.
Florentines were some of the richest people on the globe for quite a long time, and this definitely reflects in the architecture and the general vibe of the place.
This was the only place in Italy where we felt we didn’t have enough time. Word of advice, 2 nights is not enough for this magical town. But still, we were glad we had the little time we did, and spent it all in a happy, shiny blur traipsing through the stone paved streets of Firenze.
We had taken a train from Venice to Florence, which takes a couple of hours and is super comfy. After which, we posed for some pictures and then took a cab to the famed and ancient Ponte Vecchio bridge, for our next Airbnb find was basically right next to it, overlooking the water (we had a thing with houses that had water views on this trip. When is it ever a bad idea?). This house was definitely old, but spacious and full of charm with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Apart from a few shaky doorknobs we had a very comfortable stay, and best of all, the view from our living room window! The Ponte Vechhio was 50 meters to the left and across the Arno river we could see the dome of the breathtaking Florence Cathedral or the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower). I don’t think we would have found a view like that in many other parts of town.
The Ponte Vecchio or “Old Bridge” was the only bridge to have survived World War II, and is characterised by all the shops & merchants on the bridge that have stayed open through the centuries. It is said that the concept of bankruptcy came from here. When when someone could not pay his debts, the table on which he sold his wares (the “banco”) was broken (“rotto”) by soldiers, and this practice was called “bancorotto” (broken table). Without a table, the merchant was not able to sell anything and this would lead to his decline. How amazing to be surrounded by so much of the past, and to be able to see this historically significant bridge from our living room window! I love hearing/reading about fascinating little stories & urban legends like that.
Off to our first dinner, and always on foot, we descended into the Firenze dusk with eyes shining bright. I felt like every city I had been to so far, I had always loved the next one even more, and that was true of Florence like no other, but my heart stopped here and it remained my favourite. Crossing the Ponte Vecchio towards the Duomo, we headed towards dinner number one. An average meal not worth mentioning in detail, consisting of rabbit, beef, and pasta at one of the hundreds of restaurants in the historical centre.
After this we started our typical night time strolls through the city, grabbing a wine or two on the way and eventually coming back to the awe-inspiring, green, pink, & white marble masterpiece that is the Duomo. The construction of this massive structure, almost 90,000 sq. feet of building and a height of almost 380 feet for the dome. Today, it is still the largest brick and mortar dome in the world, and considered truly groundbreaking for its time. The facade of the cathedral is an intricate pastel dream made of white marble, accented by red and green marble and is just the prettiest damn thing ever. The size of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and Giotto’s Bell Tower combined is just mind-numbingly huge. People look like puny little ants in conparison. We sat on one of the benches and tried to soak it all in, having to tilt our heads all the way back just to see the top.
While exploring the city that night, I decided that anywhere in Italy was basically going to be surreal and magical in its own special way. Such an old culture, and so well preserved. Countries (hint hint India) should take note of the way Italy has preserved its heritage, which dates all the way back to the Roman Empire and even before. The people are proud of what the sit on and where they come from, and it shows in the passion they have for their food, history, art, architecture and wine. This makes Italy truly a pleasure to visit, no matter what part you go to.
Gahhh our only full day in Florence, and so much to see! We started off bright and early at the cafe right beneath our apartment on the corner of the Ponte Vecchio bridge (on the opposite side of the duomo) with delicious cappuccinos and freshly made gelato. Florence is known to have some of the best gelato around so eat it every chance you get (no one’s complaining about that). After this we started meandering around the city, grabbing an early lunch at one of the many piazzas (or squares) around the historical centre. All the squares hold replicas of the original sculptures, so the ambiance is fabulously preserved.
We definitely wanted to check out one of the galleries, and there were so many to choose from; the most notable being the Uffizi, the Vasari Corridor, Accademia Gallery, Leonardo De Vinci Museum, & the Pitti Palace. We finally settled on a guided tour of Uffizi Gallery. The lines for these museums are massive and you need to buy tickets prior to coming, either online or at the box office. Since they only allow a certain number of visitors inside at one time, the lines to get in during peak seasons can be 5-6 hours long. The guided tours may cost a little more, but you get to skip the lines and theres no need to book in advance. Just look for men and women outside the galleries that have an id card on their necks and are carrying brochures, make them show you their credentials as most of these guides are appointed by the city and you should use an official one. Once your group is 6-8 people big they will escort you inside through a quicker line and lead you through the most notable works of art in the museum, with a verbal history of the structure and everything you see inside. Totally worth going this route, otherwise you end up staring at art without knowing the history or significance. I got to see “The Birth Of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli, a piece I had studied in my World Culture class during high school, which was really awesome. It’s globally recognisable, and if I describe it to you, you’ll know it instantly. A red haired maiden standing nude upon a giant shell, flocked by angels and a woman with a shawl trying to cover her up. It’s a must see if you’re in Firenze.
Post the gallery tour, we headed home to quickly freshen up before walking to the other corner of Florence. The Piazzale Michelangelo is located on a hill south of the centre and offers breathtaking panoramic views. Its well-known as the ideal sunset spot and the stairs facing the view are covered with people hanging out and enjoying the view. There are vendors above the stairs that sell inexpensive bottles of wine and plastic glasses, apart from quick food and snacks. You do have to climb a lot of stairs to get to the top, but I can guarantee it’s worth it. The view is just unreal; the glistening Arno river cutting through the middle of the city, the dome of the cathedral in the distance and all the bridges lined up in a row. There was a live musician playing guitar and singing soft, melodic tunes at the base of the steps and we had cold glasses of prosecco in hand. Could not be more perfect. Add this to the top of your Florence to do list STAT!
Tonight’s dinner was a memorable one, at a famous Florentine eatery called La Giostra, truly a gem of a place. It reminded me of an old tavern with arches and white plaster walls, the entire ceiling was coated in orange fairy lights and candles did the rest of the job. The original ceiling of this place dates back to the 1600’s, and it has a romantic, old world charm complete with a complimentary glass of prosecco when you sit down. The owner was at tables taking orders and chatting with guests, and he was one of the coolest looking people I’ve ever met, a world traveller with his arms, hands and neck covered in jewellery. He is apparently somewhat of a local rockstar, and the son of the previous owner. He was very friendly & helpful in suggesting a wine pairing from their extensive wine list and chatted to us about our time in Florence. The food was just unreal and we had everything from homemade ricotta with honey & walnuts to ham, pecorino & pear ravioli, fish and more. One of the BEST places to grab a Florentine meal. I ended up giving the owner one of my rings from India to add to his collection at the end of the meal, since it was one of the greatest meals we had in Italy. If you’re in Florence and looking for a wonderful evening, look no further.
By now, tipsy from all the wine we decided to head out to some of the clubs in Florence. A fun one time experience but I would definitely not do it again. They charge entry, are generally super strict/unfriendly and the crowd is not that great. Stick to quaint little wine bars and restaurants with open air seating if you want to get your drink on. After a gorgeous, albeit blurry, walk home we ended our brief time in Florence with definite plans to return as soon as possible, and for longer. Tomorrow we were headed to our final destination together before parting ways- Rome.
If you found this travel diary helpful, or if it inspired you to see Florence then we’d love to hear from you. Check out my other articles on natural skincare, style tips and more in the mean time! Ciao from Firenze! xxx
Jasleen Gill is a fashion & celebrity stylist, model, and blogger currently residing in Mumbai, India.READ MORE