Sighing with delight after turning the corner in The Accademia, my eyes gazing upon Michelangelo’s “David”;
Awed by the neo-gothic façade of pink, green and white Tuscan marbles of the Duomo;
Climbing to the Duomo’s Dome, with its exhausting 463 stairs, to be rewarded by the postcard-like Tuscan views;
Admiring Michelangelo’s “Pietá”;
Transfixed by the beautiful marble floors in almost every building we explored;
Walking to the top of the Boboli Gardens to breathe in the fresh scent of olive trees and gaze upon the raindropped Tuscan landscape;
Walking to the Bardini Gardens, a short distance from the Boboli, to discover the best view of Florence I’ve ever seen;
Taking the bus to Fiesole to watch a winter storm move across the valley, only to open up on Florence below.
Dreams do come true.
* Photos courtesy of the Hotel Panorama Management
Entering our room located on the top floor, I thought, “it’s basic, but this will work.”
Then I opened the French doors to the patio and …. I was breathless.
Stepping out onto a private patio, we had a captivating view of Florence, with the Duomo ahead and the rolling Tuscan Hills beyond. Oh, this was what I had waited for!
We sat on the terrace for about an hour, drinking it all in before deciding to simply walk around and do as the locals do – promenade.
The gastro experience was a highlight for us in Florence. The region of Tuscany offers memorable food – everywhere! We found two of our best meals at opposite ends of the spectrum from each other.
Ristorante La Grotta Guelfa
We wanted something authentically Tuscan and found La Grotta Guelfa. Indulging in Crostinis, Ravioli with Sage, an assortments of cheeses, we were in heaven. We devoured the delicious Tortelli al Cinghiale (tortellini with wild boar) and, while keeping our budget in mind, opted for the Vino dell Oste (house red wine). We were in Tuscany, how bad could the house wine be?! Not bad at all – delicious actually. We finished our meal in this atmospheric restaurant with cappuccinos and panna cotta chocolate. This was an indulgence for us, given our tight travel budget, yet opting to have this as a late lunch rather than dinner, cost us only 36 euros.
Il Centro Supermarket
Our other standout meal came from the Il Centro Supermarket. We love picnicking when we travel. It gives us sampling of what the region offers AND it’s cost effective. Here, we chose fresh Tuscan green olives, crusty baguettes, juicy red plum tomatoes and fresh deli-sliced salami. We picked from an assortment of cheeses, then, making the event adventurous we chose some deli delights that we had never heard of before. We topped our purchases off with a bottle of Chianti, a bargain at 3 euros. Bagging all our goodies, we ventured back to our private retreat at the Hotel Panorama, partaking in our own private picnic as the sunset glistened on the red tiled rooftops.
There is one reason you should visit the Accademia and that is Michelangelo’s David. Magnificent doesn’t even come close to describing this sculpture. (I have always had a massive crush on ‘David”). Of course, there are other sculptures and paintings within and they are worth also seeing. You also have to opportunity to see budding sculpture’s work. Definitely make reservations, especially in the high season.
Another of my favourites in Florence is the Boboli Gardens, located behind the Pitti Palace. it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by architecture and art in this city, not to mention the crowds. You need to just be for a while, to really absorb everything you see around you. The Boboli did this for me on both of my visits. Walking to the top of the Boboli Gardens to breathe in the fresh scent of olive trees and gaze upon the raindropped Tuscan landscape – it’s pure heaven. Take time to enjoy the gardens. It’s an afternoon you won’t regret.
Like Michaelangelo’s David, I’ve been in love with the Duomo in Florence since high school. I took Art in my final two years of high school where I studied architecture and famous world artefacts. The first time my eyes gazed upon the green, pink and white granite masterpiece, I cried. Literally. I stood on the pavement that surrounds the perimeter of the Duomo and cried.
The second time I visited, we climbed the 436 stairs to the very top. We were rewarded with postcard-like views of Florence and the Tuscan hills. This building is so brilliantly stunning it will cradle you in it’s arms. It’s amazing to think that such a masterful feat of architecture could have been constructed by 1436.
We decided to take in the Tuscan scenery so we took the #7 bus to Fiesole. Walking around this quaint hillside town was just what we needed. We were rewarded by watching a winter storm move across the valley, only to open up on Florence below. It was spectacular. In Fiesole, the Roman Theater and Civic Museum (Teatro Romano e Museo Civico) is worth a look as is the Franciscan Missionary Museum.
Fiesole as a whole is delightfully peaceful and the perfect place to roam. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy a picnic while looking down upon the beautiful city of Florence below.
The most important tip when visiting Florence is not to rush. This timeless place is meant for walking and exploring. Breathe in and enjoy the ambiance. Savour a café with the locals after indulging in a long, luxurious lunch. Take a picnic in the parks around. There’s time. And Florence is the perfect place to enjoy life. Godetevi la vita!
The Ponte Vecchio is a wonder – a golden wonder. There are inexpensive places to buy golden pieces, but Ponte Vecchio is renowned for it’s jewellers. Take time to window shop. Stop and have a chat to the jewellers. There is history here. It’s amazing what you may learn.