Everything about Florence seems to be colored with a mild violet, like diluted wine.
- Henry James
The pleasures of Florence, Italy are innumerable. From sitting on Piazza del Duomo (in the shadow of Florence’s iconic dome) enjoying a coffee, to strolling through the Uffizi Museum, Florence beckons a visit from the most discerning of travelers. Perhaps Henry James felt that Florence “seems to be colored with a mild violet” because history and buildings are preserved with a voracity not seen in many places in the world. Pleasantly absent in the heart of the city are skyscrapers and obvious signs of architectural modernity; modernity is saved for the interior and window shopping in Florence’s high-end fashion district.
The designer boutiques call to serious shoppers no matter how slim their personal coffers may be. I recommend budgeting for the high-end shopping; I wish I had. If designer labels are not that important to you, Florence has wonderful street fairs wherein amongst other things, lovely clothing and leather goods are reasonably priced. I bought a silk scarf for fifteen euros; the design is intricate and appears to be much more expensive than it actually is.
Not only are beautiful art and clothing celebrated in Florence, but the aesthetics of nearly everything is celebrated including food. A special treat during the day is a visit to one of Florence’s many gelaterias dotting the city; at night, eating outdoors near the Fountain of Neptune on the Piazza della Signoria is a pleasure. The fountain takes on a different dimension at night and I found it to be more photographable in the evening hours.
As with any popular destination, Florence is more crowded on holidays. I was there on All Saints Day, and the city was flooded with visitors—not that the city couldn’t be enjoyed, but the popular Uffizi Museum and Il Duomo had long waits. However, a visit to the Uffizi Museum is worth any wait. Home of Botticelli’s, “The Birth of Venus,” and works by Da Vinci, it’s no wonder that some visitors to the Uffizi have reported to suffer from Stendhal Syndrome or “Florence Syndrome,” wherein people sometimes faint when they come upon great works of art. It is reported that the local hospital is well-acquainted with this problem.
Another place in which some have reported being overcome with artistic majesty is the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze—the home of some of Michelangelo’s statues including the superlative statue of David. Located in the foreign district, it is a bit of a walk from the center of the city but worth every step.
A surprising delight is the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum in the fashion district. Not only you see Ferragamo’s current stunning creations (his scarves and footwear are my favorite), you can also see some of his past creations. What I saw was an exhibition of some of his footwear worn by the likes of Queen Elizabeth and Marilyn Monroe. The exhibitions change, however; check the website for details.
For a change of pace, cross the Arno River on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge; built in the middle ages, the Ponte Vecchio houses various shops, particularly jewelry shops. Once over the river, visit the Museo Fondazione Romano, home to medieval treasures, or sit on the Piazza de Pitti near the Palazzo Pitti—a favorite congregating spot.
If Florentine pleasures call to you the way they have to so many artistic souls through the ages, IVHE has a lovely luxury exchange home in the area. See how this works, and view other Italy properties available.
Thank you to travel writer and photographer Sona Schmidt-Harris @Sonag2000