Art and shopping in Florence

It’s been a while

It’s been a while since I’ve written a journal entry but I’m back. We left Firenze (or Florence) on a train bound for Venezia (or Venice) about an hour ago. We are currently passing through the beautiful highlands surrounding Bologna and Gardabella. Looking out the window, one minute I see gorgeous rolling hills where livestock graze, and the next, steep mountain sides whose peaks are invisible thanks to the blanket of thick fog that has greeted us on this chilly morning. Believe it or not, I packed my camera in the bottom-half of huge backpack. What a mistake!

Art and shopping in Florence are mainstays of the largest city in Toscana (or Tuscany), which is about three hours north of Rome. History also plays a key role, as many consider it the birthplace of modern Italy thanks to the Medici family. Millions visit each year to enjoy its churches, palaces, jewellery shops and art galleries. Like many other cities in Europe, however, it can be a bit touristy, and has fallen victim to mass American influences (shops, signage, trends etc).

Sights and smells

On the plus side though, Firenze still possesses the charm and sophistication associated with traditional Italian culture, offering tourists a combination of old and new which differs different from that of Rome in several respects. In short, Tuscany is a must for any traveler. There is plenty to do – why not enjoy a trip to the Palazzo Medici Riccardi (home/palace of the Medicis) and learn about the family’s role in uniting Italy, take in the beauty of both the exterior and interior of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiero, or just stoll along the Arno River.

Throughout the city, vast piazzas are lined with cafes and restaurants. Dozens of churches, former palaces and art galleries attract tourists, especially in the spring and summer months. Throw in Tuscan cuisine, its architecture and bridges, and you’ve got a mosaic of beauty. Luckily for us, mid-November is pretty quiet. We didn’t even need a hotel reservation!

Our guest house, called a ‘pensione’, was not too bad. It was located near the largest train station, major sights and inner city market, so it allowed us to merely stroll around freely. In general ,the city seems quite safe. We’ve stuck to the main streets, and even walking at night hasn’t been a problem. That’s a relief because the guide book highlighted personal safety and petty theft as two issues affecting Florence.

Art and shopping in Florence

Le Gallarie Degli Uffizi (The Uffizi), known as one of the world’s great art galleries, was wonderful. We strolled from room to room admiring the works by … and… Ponte Vecchio was also interesting, too. I enjoyed browsing around the antique and jewelery stores on the bridge, and marvelled at the architecture; more specifically, how the buildings don’t fall off the bridge. Saturday night was especially interesting as the whole inner-city seemed to spring into life. Restaurants and cafes were packed, as to were the bars and piazzas. The aroma of coffee and freshly cooked pasta filled the cold November air.

Sam has gone nuts in the shopping department and I haven’t done too badly either. I bought an amazing leather jacket, so soft, it’s like someone just cut it straight off the bull! Also bought some pretty flash leather shoes. She picked up her fourth pair of shoes in a week and a couple more tops. Wish I had her bank balance.

Irish-style pubs in Italy?

Finally, I must give a special mention to the Fiddler’s Elbow, a traditional Irish-style pubs we found in central Firenze. Such establishments seem as common as a American fast-food chain these days; they are quite literally all over the world. But this one was really nice, and not as overpriced as they usually are. Friendly staff spoke English well and served quality meals with tasty beer. It was a great way to cap off four days in this beautiful city. Anyway, I’ve written enough. Can’t wait to reach Venice and challenge those maze-like streets! Should be breathtaking. CIAO.

(C) Paul Johnson and Johnson English Service – 2021