Florence is famous for its shopping, and is particularly renowned for its leather goods, but when I visited in 2014 I had a completely different agenda, and way too much excess baggage, to hit the boutiques.
First order of business was to see Michelangelo’s David. Located at Galleria dell’Accademia, there is a small replica outside the museum at the original site of the sculpture which in itself is breathtaking. Then you see the original, which stands at more than five meters tall, and the craftsmanship and detail in this imposing marble statue is mind-blowing.
Sculpture is a hallmark of Florence, which is brimming with artworks and statues and it’s hard to comprehend the skill of the sculptors who used their art to tell the story, and the history, of the city.
Most of the famous sculpture in Florence was commissioned by the wealthy classes of the Renaissance, who displayed the statues as status symbols, so Michelangelo and his contemporaries weren’t starving artists, they were highly respected artisans. Nevertheless, it’s a surprisingly emotional experience viewing their works and imagining the skill and time, love, and precision that went into each carving.
Modern art also has a healthy presence in Florence, contrasting starkly with the works of the Renaissance. There are always public exhibitions dotted around the city so, if art interests you, it’s a great place to see a different type of sculpture, painting and beyond.
Florence is no slouch in the culinary department either. The city is made up of multiple squares (rather than just one central square) and the buildings clustered in those squares draw gatherings of people, creating intimacy in this sprawling city.
As you know, I always seek out a teahouse when I’m in a new town, and I found this beautiful restaurant teahouse (pictured) in Florence. I also indulged in a gelati during my stay. It’s one of Italy’s specialties for good reason. Neale Whittaker was also in Italy for Salone del Mobile Milano when I was there, and we met up for dinner in Florence. What an elegant place to catch up with one of the most elegant men I know!
Florence is in Tuscany and not only is the train ride there is magnificent, but the gardens and villas of the region are divine. A visit to Oltrarno’sVilla Bardini and its Renaissance garden is a must.
Give yourself plenty of time to walk around the gardens and the house within. It’s a must. Only recently opened to the public it sits high above Florence and provides 360-degree views of the city.
Dating back to the year 1259, the gardens were left to ruin in the 19thCentury, before being rescued and restored in 2000. There are other bigger, grander, villas in Florence, but Villa Bardini is petite and perfectly formed, with beautiful light and stunning aspects. Better still, it’s a bit of a ‘best kept secret’ at the moment so it isn’t (yet) thronged with tourists like some of Florence’s better-known villas.