The most memorable time I visited Florence was for my 30th birthday, when friends flew me there to celebrate. I now live in France only a few hours away but I don’t go back often enough.
I was recently invited to take a Tuscan cooking class near Pisa and spending a few hours in Florence was part of the excursion. I jumped on it.
For once I wasn’t traveling solo so rather than regale you with the best 72 things to see if you only have six hours in Florence, I’ll instead share these lovely photos taken by my partner, photographer Anne Sterck.
To my mind a city is best seen from above, at least in introduction, and this view from the Piazzale Michelangelo of the Duomo – officially it is called the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore – was my welcome back to Florence.
Catholicism reigns in Italy, of course, but the turquoise roof of Florence’s synagogue is a reminder of the city’s tolerance. There are few Jews but a Jewish presence has existed here since the Middle Ages.
After the Duomo, perhaps Forence’s most famous building – if you can call it a building – is the Ponte Vecchio, the Old Bridge, built over the Arno river. It was once populated by butcher shops, now replaced by jewelry and trinkets. Apparently the sunset behind it is glorious.
Even in October the city is crammed with visitors, so many I can’t even fight my way onto the Ponte Vecchio but no matter. I spend some time with Hercules and Cacus instead, David in the background eyeing the crowds. Art is, after all, what draws the multitudes to Florence.
And art, of course, means different things to different people.
And here it is, the visual pièce de résistance, the Basilica, up close, its multi-colored panels of marble lighting up the facade like filigree and lace.
Like any city, Florence has an everyday life, which is part of its charm.
Finally, the last stop: Central Market, a mixture of foodstuffs and eateries, the type of market which is now the rage in Europe’s major cities (like Les Halles in Lyon or San Miguel in Madrid) and for me, a must-see or must-lunch wherever I can find one. Most started life centuries ago as produce markets, evolving into today’s fashionable food sanctuaries.
Things every Woman on the Road should know
- The easiest way to reach Florence is by train but it has an airport with flights from a number of European cities.
- The Central Market is a fun place for lunch, in the heart of the ancient center and surrounded by every leather stall under the Tuscan sun.
- Just wander. I had no map, no directions, and thoroughly enjoyed getting lost downtoan. When it gets to be too much, stop for a gelato but stay away from tourist panini or pizza.
- Souvenir stalls have plenty of postcards depicting Florence covered in snow. I’m sure it doesn’t happen often but if you happen to be there when it does…
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