In 2010, Glenn and I took our first overseas holiday together. I had dreamed all my life of visiting Italy, and especially Florence. I even tried to learn a little Italian, which came in handy when we were trying to find our way around airports and train stations.
We spent 4 days in Rome (see my previous blog) and then caught the bullet train to Florence. That was quite an exciting experience – the train travels in excess of 300km/hour and a LOT of the trip is underground.
We had booked a room at the L’Orologio Hotel, within walking distance of the train station. The hotel was wonderful – I can truly recommend it, if you’re not scared to spend a bit more for a luxurious double-storey suite, a marble bathroom, a beautiful pub, and a sumptuous breakfast every morning. As an added bonus, the place SMELLS so nice – cinnamon, cloves and a touch of tobacco…
The most prominent building in Florence is the Duomo, which is part of the most elaborately coloured and carved cathedral I have ever seen.It was built by Brunelleschi and completed in 1436, 140 years after work on it had begun.
For a few Euro you can induce your own heart attack by climbing up to the top of the Duomo – a tortuous climb that gets steeper and narrower and seems to go on for hours. When you finally get to the lookout platform, it’s really all worth it (once the black spots in front of your eyes disappear and your heart rate returns to normal!) Do you see the people in the picture above? This is their view, looking straight down!
Florence is full of beautiful buildings and incredible art, but my favourite place was on the Piazzale Michaelangelo, a hillside outside of Florence, across the River Arno, where visitors and locals congregate to chat, drink wine and watch the sun go down. Here is the view in the middle of the afternoon (at 7pm!)
The sun stayed high in the sky and it seemed it would never set…. it finally started getting dark around 9 pm, and we were treated to this beautiful sight:
We sat for hours on the steps, watching the city and the people, drinking Chianti out of plastic cups, and when it was dark we found a nearby restaurant and had pasta to soak up the alcohol before the walk back to the hotel. It was a great evening!
There are 10 bridges in Florence. The oldest is the Ponte Vecchio. It is built on the site of at least three preceding bridges, dating from as early as the Roman Empire. It doesn’t look too impressive from a distance, until you walk across it and find that it is lined on both sides by jewellery shops absolutely STUFFED with gold, platinum, diamonds… Completely unexpected!
We walked for at least eight hours a day in Florence. There was so much to see, even though it is quite a small city. I caught this beautiful sunset, walking near the river one evening:
We hung around on one of the bridges for a long time, waiting for the sun to go down, and the lights to come up, and I got this shot, looking back at the Ponte Vecchio:
Florence was everything I hoped it would be, not least because Glenn proposed while we were there. I bought my wedding ring on the Ponte Vecchio, my wedding dress in one of the boutiques in town, and we were married four days later on a hillside overlooking the city, at sunset …
We are planning to go back to Florence for our third wedding anniversary next May – I can’t wait!