In every trip, there comes a moment when you know whether the trip is a good one, or if it’s a truly special one, the kind that you won’t soon forget, and will cherish as a memory for decades to come. While Rome, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast were beautiful, the trip up to this point had felt a bit too touristy and to some extent like an adult scale Disneyland.
Florence however would change that perception. From the moment we pulled our Volkswagen Golf through the impossibly narrow gates of the wonderful Horto Convento, just south of the Fiume Arno, we knew Florence would steal our hearts and souls. The stunning beauty of the capital of Tuscany is hard to describe in words, it has to be seen in real life.
The Renaissance Architecture throughout the city is breathtaking, and the ability to walk from end-to-end across the historic city encourages you to explore every nook, cranny and alley. If the architecture isn’t enough to grab you, the food certainly will. I think Florence has the best food in Italy and at very reasonable prices.
Trattoria dell’Orto is a neighbourhood restaurant with simple and great Italian food. You don’t go there for the ambience, you go there for typical high quality Italian food in a comfortable environment, with no-nonsense service.
La Buchetta has a great ambience, top-tier service and the best Florentine Steak we had the entire trip. In addition to the steak and pasta, the cheesecake is to die for. Even if you don’t like desserts, the cheesecake here will have you converted in no time.
Giotto’s Bell Tower
The famous duomo in Florence is of course a must see, but as with Rome, I highly recommend paying the extra euros for skip-the-line tickets. We saw enormous lineups forming after 9am and were very happy that we didn’t have to join them.
The tickets for the duomo include the ability to go up Giotto’s Bell Tower and I recommend waking up early and going up there first thing in the morning. The views of the duomo and Florence are awesome from up there!
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Everyone has to go up to the top of the duomo at least once in their life and walk between the two shells of the dome. The engineering masterpiece is incredible to be inside. I can’t fathom how they engineered and built that in the 1300’s. To build that today would be a challenge, let alone 700 years ago.
The final climb up to the very top of the duomo includes a very tight climb up a set of narrow stairs. It’s definitely one person at a time, and this will become important in a moment. While we were on top of the duomo, a sudden storm rolled in; with the stairway completely blocked with people, we had no choice but to remain outside.
We saw a lightening bolt hit a few hundred meters away while on one of, if not the highest, point in Florence. While most were scurrying to hide under any scaffolding they could find, we decided to test out the weather resistance of our cameras. The GFX 50R didn’t miss a beat while being completely drenched.
The upside of the storm was that we were able to get some unique images from the top of the duomo. They look like paintings rather than digital images, and I am looking forward to printing one of them as a large metal print. It’s such a beautiful city, and the rain just adds to the romance.
Some of the most spectacular sunset views can be found at the Piazzale Michelangelo. While we were there, the weather was a bit wet which made for great skies and lots of room to setup. There’s a large balcony from which to take images and lots of space to find your special spot.
One of our favourite cities on earth
Florence is amazing and is now one of our favourite cities on earth. We would love to go back there again and spend a week just enjoying the art, museums, architecture, and food. We barely touched the surface in the two days we were there, and definitely regretted that we hadn’t booked a longer stay.
Next stop is Siena
Next up on our trip will be Siena, the medeivel town that we’ll use as our base to explore the Tuscany region.