Art. I don’t know the first thing about this genre and my attempts at drawing anything would make you wonder at my ability and question whether I could be a five year old with two left hands! It is safe to say that I don’t know the first thing about art BUT I am a huge Robin Sharma fan, and I must admit that it was his constant references as to how the masterpiece “David” was carved out of an unassuming piece of marble by Michelangelo that had my interest piqued in what is also known as the birthplace of the Renaissance and the cradle of Art- Florence.
But I have a confession to make. My last trip to an Art Museum was when M and I went to the Louvre in Paris to see the Mona Lisa and Venus. And other than seeing the two aforementioned pieces of art, I remember nothing else of that visit except wandering around the galleries, standing in front of paintings and looking at them in what I imagine to be deep in thought, umming and ahhing like I think you are supposed to, and leaving the corridors of the famous museum hours later none the wiser. So, M and I decided that since we aren’t really Art buffs, I could get my fix of David in Piazza della Signora instead of waiting in line in the Accademia itself, and given the reality that Florence was but a pit stop into the Tuscan countryside which is what we really wanted to explore, we would simply spend our time wandering around this city, eat gelato and soak in its vistas.
Rolling into Stazione Santa Maria Novella, we joined throngs of other harried travellers all keen to get out and about and after a short wait in a queue we managed to get a taxi from just outside and made our way to our hotel, which was surprisingly easy enough. Pictures can make you want to pack your bags and head off to a place, but reality checks in once you arrive, and I have to say that there was something about Florence that just didn’t resonate with me like I have read on so many other blogs and in many articles. Don’t get me wrong – it is a beautiful city with a tonne of gems that we discovered and loads more left to unearth. But my first experiences here didn’t warm the cockles of my heart. Perhaps it was the check in at our hotel on the banks of the River Arno, overlooking the Ponte Vecchio that we had paid hundreds of dollars to be in but which felt more like a hostel than a five-star hotel. Maybe it was the people at this hotel that were checking us in and who were so impersonal. It could have been the actual crossing of the Ponte Vecchio, which I had imagined to be this totally romantic experience but which in reality was thronged with hoardes of people doing the same thing, selfie sticks in hand, and before I knew it, our jaunt across this famed bridge was over and we were on the other side of it and that was that. No stopping to soak it all in, no seeing what the shops were all about, just moving along with a sea of other people. If I am to be truly authentic, I’ll be bold enough to say that Florence didn’t float my boat in the way that I expected it to. BUT, I am an open minded person and I’ll also say that maybe I didn’t give it a chance and explore fully and so, maybe one day I will go back and give “Firenze” a second chance.
I’ll tell you what though – it also wasn’t all bad. M and I ambled around in the summer heat, and we had some really cute moments. Seeing the Ponte Vecchio from another viewpoint was actually much nicer than being on it, because you can make out the silhouettes and windows of the little shops that line it and imagine what it was like years ago with butchers on it rather than the gold and silversmiths of today.
Walking around the city was easy because it is mostly pedestrianised and so there is very little traffic flowing around. There was lots of people watching in the various piazzas as they came out in their hundreds for La Dolce Far Niente; the famous Italian pastime which means “the sweetness of doing nothing.” Just walking around, window shopping, holding hands and simply just being which was so fascinating to watch. And of course – shopping. One of my favourite experiences was popping into the luxury boutiques on Via della Vigna Nuova – because Florence is the home of my favourite brand Gucci, and I just had to indulge in some retail therapy here and pick up one or two pieces that I have been coveting for a while! Second to shopping was a tonne of “tasting” gelato and indulging guilt free in this iced and creamy treat that I could honestly live on – my addiction to salted caramel flavoured gelato is all thanks to Florence!
I did see David in Piazza della Signora and ogled at him for all of 3 minutes while recalling some of the lessons that Robin Sharma imparted using him as an analogy before swiftly moving on and making the cutest discovery in a side street just off the piazza– Gepetto’s workshop! Now, I am a HUGE fairy tale fan (you know this because I have often said that my world consists of rainbows and butterflies) and after Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio is the Disney character second closest to my heart. This fairy tale was one of the first plays I ever acted in, and so seeing this shop was like discovering a rare metal or something. I felt like a kid let loose in a candy store, marvelling at all the beautiful trinkets carved out of wood, reminiscing about the story and wanting to buy everything that I saw!!!!
Another very Florentine sight that we actually wanted to go in to but couldn’t because of the long queue was the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore, the famous cathedral which is synonymous with Florence. There is no entry fee and the queue was snaking all the way around and so, sadly we had to give it a miss. Its façade is pretty mesmerising – the entire cathedral is covered in green and pink marble with white strips and indeed you do feel dwarfed in its mighty presence. The interior is said to be quite Spartan but I wanted to go into the Cupola because I have read some interesting snippets about how it has been constructed.
The moment that stands out most in my memories of our time in Florence was seeing the Duomo dominate the Florentine skyline from Piazzale del Michelangiolo. M and I went up here close to sunset and it would appear that everyone and their dog has also heard of this place because it was buzzing with activity, and thronged with people so there was very little space left on the steps of the piazza to sit on and watch the sunset. There was lots of space to wander around though, and loads of scenic viewpoints from where to soak in the view of the skyline. Crowd and all, there was still something really romantic about being in this piazza at dusk, watching the buskers strumming out tunes on their guitars, and hearing the voices from the chitter chatter of excited people being carried in the gentle breeze, watching star crossed lovers sitting on patches of grass, smiling away…and as the sun set over Firenze and the twinkling lights of the city came on, I was still glad to have experienced a little bit of magic in this city.
What would I want to do in Florence when I go back? Here’s my Wanderlist:
1. See the “real” David in the Accademia and spend some time really soaking in his grandeur.
2. Walk across the Ponte Vecchio in the early hours of the morning without the crowds and amble along, at my own pace. And imagine what it was like in the olden days when there were butcher shops instead of what is there today!
3. Walk along Vasari’s Corridor.
4. Actually go into the Duomo and brave climbing between the two layers of Brunelleschi’s Cupola.
5. Climb up the 400 something steps in Giotto’s Campanile and see the Duomo and its Cupola from a different perspective.
6. Hang out in the Boboli Gardens and amble around the greenery (while eating gelato of course!).
Well fellow Wanderlusters – have any of you been to Florence? If you have and you have recommendations for me to add to my Wanderlist, then leave these in the comments below and I will definitely tack them on!
You will be excited to know that my adventures around Tuscany outside of Florence were everything I dreamed of and more, and so, stay tuned for more of my escapades in the next few posts! As always, thank you for spending a part of your day Wanderlusting with me – I truly appreciate you all! xoxo