Having spent a wonderful long weekend with 13 of our old friends in Tuscany, it was time to say goodbye and head off to Florence for a few days. We dropped them at the airport and luckily spotted a coach behind us with Florence as its destination. Should we? Shouldn’t we? Will it be smelly, will it be hot, will it take ages etc etc? We decided to bite the bullet, and 28 euros later, luggage on board, we were ready to go.
Just over an hour later we arrived at the Stazione Santa Maria Novella, Florence’s main station, refreshed and relaxed, with only a short walk to our hotel. We had booked so far in advance and secured a very reasonable price for an amazing city hotel, the 4 star RoomMate Luca.
A funky place with its modern reception of jazzy chairs, and a small bar for pre-dinner drinks. It was a perfect base for us. The hotel upgraded us to a spacious superior room, and my favourite perk of all, they provided us with mobile wi-fi, free of charge. A great bonus due to the Italian Mobile networks not working as well as those we’re used to in the UK.
Florence is a victim of its own success, my last visit was 35 years ago, with parents and Grandma, and my only memory was of the naked statue David!!! This time, the streets were packed and the summer season was not even in full swing. Trainers or flat comfortable shoes are a must. Queues for the galleries and usual sights were miles long, our walking speed on the pavements was similar to that when you get off a tube train and you’re struggling to get up the escalators and out of the station!
Walking in the road to avoid the mele wasn’t always an option as the roads are often as packed with people as the pavements. It was stiflingly hot and also pungently smelly in some streets. I had thought only Venice was smelly in the summer. We tend to avoid the usual tourist spots and buy a guide book to the ‘secret’ sights of any city we visit. It’s a bit like a treasure hunt. Before we immersed ourselves into the walk, we ventured over to the Boboli Gardens, a welcome respite for some air and space, but don’t go there thirsty, as there are no cafes or bars inside and the walk up or down the hills can be quite challenging.
We Came out of the gardens, stopped for an aperetif, and then started our guided secret walk. First walk led us to a beautify square with a across a tiny grated window right in the corner with a small box underneath dating back to 1873, The story goes, this was an old hospital where people used to leave their babies if they couldn’t look after them!
Another one was a well-hidden window up high in an old palazzo, the story was that a newly married woman waved goodbye to her husband as he went off to war. She used to look out of the window onto the square every day whilst she sat making clothes, waiting for him to return on his horse. He never did, and she sat there every day until the day she died. The window was once closed and rumour has it that things flew across the room smashing against walls. Since then the window has remained open due to the fear of what would happen. It’s a great way to wander round a city and see things you’d never spot without the guidebook.
World Cup fever (2018) could be felt there and we spent 2 out of the 3 nights in bars watching the match. One bar named “Fashion Foodballer”, (no longer there) was owned by an ex footballer, it had a small ‘museum’ of collectors pieces and an Astro turf room for private parties. There was a great atmosphere on both nights, shame about the result!
We drank cocktails in the coolest bar, with retractable roof and a living wall for interior décor (Locale Firenze), and if you ask them, they’ll let you go down to the hidden cellar which is an underground house, rooms still in tact, once belonging to a family related to the Medici family (I think?!) It was fascinating! No photos allowed though.
We ate some delicious food of course, well it is Italy. Trattoria dei 13 Gobbi, for traditional Italian fare and nice cold local wines, it’s the one we always go to when in Florence and is full of nooks and crannies to eat in. This time we were in a small room downstairs, but still full of people and atmosphere.
In Florence, you will find an abundance of leather shops, jewellery shops, designer shops and independent boutiques, there’s truly something for everybody. Prices aren’t too bad, and an average meal costs 70-80 euros for two with wine. It’s definitely one to add to the list of city breaks and we would consider returning, even it its just to buy some more handbags!!
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