I experience a lust to visit Florence from two completely different sources of pop culture; 1. From a series of Jersey Shore (God I miss Vinny and Pauly D) and 2. From Dan Brown’s latest book. Yes Jersey Shore may have included scenes of Snooki vomitting in the street, Mike “The Situation” headbutting a wall like the gimp that he is and Deena flashing her gash at every given opportunity, but it was all done against the backdrop of winding streets and Italian Renaissance buildings – plus the pizzas looked fantastic. And sure, Dan Brown’s book was all about an evil mastermind releasing a deadly virus to kill the worlds population but as with all of his books, the protagonist always has time for a bit of sightseeing and to give us a history lesson along the way. Florence was definitely on my ‘to-do’ list.
When I was planning the Italy trip I had to decide between using Florence or Pisa as a base and just the fact that Pisa was closer to the coast and had a hotel with a pool swung it. Florence is definitely bigger, more beautiful and there’s tons more to do. I was initally just going to visit for the day from Pisa as it’s only an hour away on the train but I found a cheap enough hotel and decided to stay overnight. Hotel Panorama, as the name suggests, had an amazing view over Florence’s famous cathedral ‘Il Duomo’ – we loved the roof garden in particular and the window in the bathroom afforded a great ‘poo with a view’. Not that I poo of course, I’m a lady… I simply excrete rose scented waste gas from my pores.
“Poo with a view” – The view from our bathroom in Hotel Panorama.
The view from the rooftop terrace in Hotel Panorama.
Things to see:
Michaelangelo’s statue of David – Originally outside the Palace Vecchio but now replaced by a replica due to damage by the crowds. The original can be seen in Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze but expect massive queues.
Supposedly a specimen of male perfection although there’s a “little” thing I’d change.
Botticelli’s Birth Of Venus – You know the painting, the one with the naked woman standing on a shell, that’s in Florence in the Uffizi Gallery but again, expect to be queueing a while. (I got lucky when I went to the Louvre in Paris, I’d never seen queue’s so long and was about to swerve it altogether when I accidentally stumbled on a side entrance with no queue whatsoever – Mona Lisa and Venus Di Milo are the big ones to spot in there.)
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Il Duomo) – Florences cathedral and possibly one of the most famous in the world. It’s not hard to see why. It’s beautiful.
View of Il Duomo from the rooftop bar in Rinascente department store.
Palace Vecchio – The Vecchio family owned half of Italy at one point (thanks Dan Brown) and this is one of their many palaces. I think I spotted one in Bologna as well.
Ponte Vecchio – People who’ve visited Venice will notice similarities to the Rialto Bridge. Back in the days of yore this bridge was a main thoroughfare in and out of the city and was full of shops and houses. Today it’s full of jewellery shops and they’ve just started ‘love locking’ here.
Things you might miss but you certainly shouldn’t:
Biblioteca delle Oblate – on Via dell’Oriuolo. It has a great little rooftop bar serving cocktails, beer and aperol spritzers all with a fantastic view of Il Duomo. A peaceful little haven in the middle of the city, away from the throngs of tourists and motorbikes.
View from the biblioteca
Rifrulo garden bar – on Via San Niccolo in the San Niccolo area of the city. A peaceful little garden on the way up to the huge hill overlooking Florence. You can use it as a pit stop or a destination… a little clue to what I used it for – I don’t like climbing hills.
San Niccolo beach – What? a beach? In the middle of the city? Yes, along the banks of the Arno river in the San Niccolo district they’ve created a man made beach complete with umbrellas and sun loungers. And to think, I chose Pisa.
Rinascente Rooftop bar – This department store has rooftop cafe with amazing views over Florence (see above). A little pricey but worth a stop off for a quick beer.
For more tips and beautiful pictures of Italy check out my other blogs on my whistlestop tour of Europe’s shoe.