Florence (Firenze to native speakers), the essence of Italy, home of the Renaissance,the formation of the Italian language and the centre of any Tuscan tour.
But what if you don’t actually make it there – what do you need to make dinner party conversation and convince yourself that, actually you might have really been there?
Here are my top tips to blag your way round a mini-break in Florence.
1. History and famous Florentines:
Florence – established as Florentia in Roman times in 59 BC it has since fallen into
the hands of the Lombards, the Franks and others until the Medici empire began
shortly after the Black Death struck in the 1340s. This lasted for over a century until
Savonarola’s Bonfire of the Vanities. Machiavelli had a brief role as adviser before
the Medici returned in 1512. Inevitable decline followed until the Medici line died in
1737. Since more modern times, the ancient buildings have faced their share of
natural and unnatural destruction, fighting against the rise of newer, less
distinguished office blocks and industrial parks.
Other famous Florentines include: Dante Alighieri( Divine Comedy), Leonardo Da
Vinci, (strictly speaking from Vinci), Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Donatello, Botticelli,
Galileo (now the middle finger of his right hand) and, of course, the Florentine
(A Florentine biscuit (or, more correctly, a Florentine) is an Italian pastry made
from setting nuts (most typically hazel and almond) and candied cherries into
a caramel disc, which is then often coated on the bottom with chocolate. Other
types of candied fruit are used as well. It typically contains neither flour nor eggs).
2. The journey
First you have to get there. In this time of low cost airlines, the natural instinct is to
take a flight. The alternative is to take the train. It takes a bit longer, but means
you can also tick off Paris en route and you arrive in the city centre (near as) ready
to go. See this post for more details.
3. When to go
You’d be forgiven for thinking that spring time or the warm summer months would
be the best time to visit the most beautiful city in Italy. What you might not have
taken into consideration is that November also comes highly recommended, not
least because of the grande festa that is the Firenze Marathon. Ideal running
conditions, lower numbers of tourists and a great time to have a break before the
Christmas festivities kick in.
4. What to see
Florence is not a modern city. You won’t be wowed by its skyscrapers or awed by its
interconnected transport system. It is a city that flourished in the 16th century, when the art of science was established and the art of art was born. This is what you’ve come to see. In churches, museums and galleries, the history of renaisssance art is told and in the buildings themselves, the Medici influence and wealth can be seen.
4a) Uffizi gallery
This should be part of every visit to Florence with Florentine and other Italian masterpieces both paintings and sculptures. Located alongside the Palazzo Vecchio
off Piazza della Signora. Highlights of the gallery are classics from Giotto, Piero
della Francesca, Michelangelo and Titian. The palazzo Vecchio, once the seat of
government is flanked by the Uffizi on one side and a copy of Michelangelo’s David
on the other. Inside you would want to admire the decorations, frescoes and paintings. Outside in the Piazza della Signoria the open loggia has more sculpture by Benvenuto Cellini and Giambologna to balance the less well received Fontana del Nettuna.
The original crossing point over the Arno makes use of its narrowest point and
several variations of the present day bridge have been there since the roman times.
Today it houses goldsmiths – a law enforced since Grand Duke Ferdinando I banned
butchers due to the stench of the meat that was disposed over the side of the bridge.
For more on Florence go here