After our excellent experience at Argiano Dimore in Tuscany, we hired a driver to take us to Florence. In 2019, I visited Florence and so I’ll focus this post mostly on images. The one thing I will say however is that while Tuscany was quiet and peaceful, Florence was a madhouse of tourists; it was overwhelming in the main spots.
We also found most service staff at the end of their tourism rope, with several mentioning that the tourism season started a month early in March and hadn’t ended in September like it normally does. We were into November and the streets, restaurants and shops were packed. Luxury goods stores had lineups outside that went on for 30-60 mins on average. Madness!
I think the Euro’s sharp descent at the time, along with strength in the USD helped play a role in the number of tourists visiting Italy at that time. Also, many Asian countries had just reopened their borders and so we saw lot of people from Hong Kong and Taiwan. I imagine 2023 is going to be another crazy year for Italy when Mainland China fully reopens!
One place however that was not fatigued by the tourists and provided the most welcoming hotel experience was Leone Blu Suites. Anastasia took almost an hour to check us in by ensuring we knew where to go, what to do and where to eat, and she also took the time to explain the building’s unique history and the fact that the owners descendants still use the upper floor when they’re in Florence!
Duomo di Firenze at Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
On our last trip in 2019, we climbed to the top of the Duomo and experienced an epic rainstorm. We ended up with some amazing images of a very wet Florence, but unfortunately, there was a huge red and white crane in most of the images. For the 2022 trip, we decided to go up there at sunrise. We bought tickets two nights before and were in the first few people in line when the doors opened. I’d highly recommend buying the Giotto Pass from the official website. The opening hours of the Duomo vary depending on season. For December for example, it opens at 8:30AM.
Upon arriving at the top of the Duomo, there isn’t much time so you need to be efficient. With so many tourists, the security person up top was managing the rotation of people. She would let in a certain number of people, give us about 20-30 minutes and then ushered us out. If you go, take as many pics as you can since the scene is mesmerizing and it’s hard to know what to capture when you’re up there.
As you can see in the images, we were greeted this time by a beautiful foggy morning. It looked surreal in real life, like being transported back in time. I don’t think my editing has fully captured the feeling, but perhaps if you look at the images on a larger screen, you’ll get a better feel for it. It’s well worth the early rise, plus there are tons of great cafes to explore along the way to the Duomo for a quick bite before the morning hike.
Giotto’s Bell Tower
Something not often shown in images is that there’s a wire fence at Giotto Bell Tower’s top. This makes for very challenging positioning of the camera. For this image, I left the wire mesh gate in the image so that people know what to expect. Towards the end, I noticed that someone has bent the metal fencing back enough to fit a mobile phone in there. Since I don’t condone defacing any tourist sites, I didn’t use the gap and stuck to the undamaged fencing.
Even though it’s probably the most visited location in Florence for the view, it’s still always worthwhile to go there and see the view during sunrise or sunset. It’s magical and unique every time. This time, there was a wedding that came along and asked everyone to move aside so they could take a full set of images, along with a drone video. You can imagine the chaos this caused, especially with all the serious photographers who had camped out for hours to lock in the best spot.
Something interesting happened while setting up my tripod for the following blew hour images. It’s something that has happened enough times that I feel it’s worthy of a mention. It’s the camaraderie from fellow GFX owners. There was a gentleman using a GFX100 with a very serious looking tripod who had come early and setup to capture the best angles. He had put a lot of time and effort into this as was evident by the lens choices, the filters and the absolutely perfect alignment of his setup.
Having taken all of this effort, I was therefore surprised when he offered to take down his whole setup to give me room to also get the ideal angle. As a fellow GFX owner, he felt it only his duty to give me the best shot at an image as well. Thankfully, I was able to convince him that this was not necessary as I had already taken images in 2019 that I was happy with and that I would feel it too great an imposition. He continued to be a true gentleman throughout the evening, with just the right amount of chit chat and knowledge sharing.
This actually ended up happening a few times on the trip to Italy. In a future post in Venice, I’ll share a story about a young man from America who was test-driving a GFX50SII. We chatted for a while, and perhaps a moment of true stardom appeared. It turns out that he had been reading my blogs and using the 2019 trip as inspiration for his 50SII! That was quite a special moment and after seeing his instagram, I can say that he needs no inspiration from me! I have no doubt that he kept the 50SII, or perhaps stretched to the 100S as I recommended during our chat.
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What makes Florence such an appealing place for me is that there is beauty around every corner. As many locals said to us, Florence is an open-air museum. The following images are taken from a number of streets, mostly from within the historic centre, but also from south of the river as well. Actually, the area south of the river is pretty funky and worth a day or two of exploring. It’s more gritty and edgy with a great selection of new restaurants to try out.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this set of images from the beautiful city of Florence!