Florence. Firenze. Famous for its history, its art, its fashion and its buildings.
There was no way we could be living a two hour drive away from Florence for six months and not go.
What we found was a city which was undoubtedly breath-taking, but whose beauty may have gone to its head somewhat . . .
The architecture is stunning, that’s clear. You can stand in front of the Gothic Cathedral – Il Duomo de Firenze – for hours tracing the patterns and detail across the white facades.
Every side street and nook and cranny is packed with reliefs, statues peering out of niches, with the most ornate work around roofs and doorways. They crammed my camera so full of pictures I had to gut most of my SD card to fit them in.
And of course everything looks that much better set against the stark blue sky of late August heat.
Bar that though…I wasn’t sure what Florence had to offer. We were there for a day and felt like we had managed most of it in those few short hours. Admittedly we didn’t go into any of the major tourist attractions. But how could we? Each looked like it required so many hours of queuing that our trip would be wasted.
Everything seemed to require paying, queuing, and then queuing some more. We were wilting in the intense heat at the end of a long day and fancied stretching out in the shade of the park. I know there are a few parks up on the hills in Florence, but in walking distance from where we were there was only the Boboli Gardens, and the price to get in just for a wander around made my eyes water. It was just one more thing that we had turned up to look at and then balked at the price, so it was a case of a straw breaking the camel’s back.
We ended up in a café attached to an art gallery in a gorgeous square, cool and far away from the madding crowds, and that was a much loved part of our trip. We had a chance to people-watch whilst the locals around us caught up with friends or worked on the little stone tables.
Back out in the heat of Florence was a different thing. I know we went in August – notorious in Europe for bringing out the crowds – but it was right at the very end of the month when most schools are back for term time. Regardless, it was still packed. The Ponte Vecchio (the famous Medieval bridge) was stunning from afar, but once on it we power-walked through in about ten seconds. We just wanted to get out of the human mess stewing on the cobblestones in the heat. You couldn’t move for knick-knacks stalls, people (Americans) with cameras bigger than their heads and lenses longer than their arms, and the heat just made it all that more stressful.
Sat in the little haven of calm we found in that café, we realised that we had seen pretty much everything we wanted to see. From the outside, granted, but there was just no option to queue. So we decided to wander back through the centre and head to the car and drive home.
And why do I think the beauty has gone to its head a little? It certainly knows how to milk money out of tourists for the privilege of seeing what it has to offer. I understand they have a lot of treasures to look after. But it gave Florence the feel of one very large, expensive museum.
If I was to return to Italy for a holiday, I certainly wouldn’t want to return to Florence. I didn’t have a bad experience at all, it was a fun day and I am glad that we got to see all of that stunning history that makes Tuscany so special. If I had come for a weekend trip I am sure we would have found things to fill the time and been able to take to the streets at a steadier pace.
There are many more places in Italy to be seen, and I feel like I have firmly ticked Florence off my list.