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Travel: Jewel of Tuscany Florence is a real feast for the senses

A panorama of the Arno River and cathedrals of Florence
A panorama of the Arno River and cathedrals of Florence

Whether it’s Renaissance history, delicious Italian food, sunset views or the perfect selfie you’re after, Florence has got you covered. There aren’t many places in the world where you can walk in the footsteps of the Medici family, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante Alighieri and Galileo… just to name a few.

Florence is a walkable city so it’s really easy to navigate around all of the sights. One thing I would recommend is to book tickets for the big tourist attractions as you don’t want to spend precious gelato-eating time in their hefty queues.

We begin our sightseeing with Ponte Vecchio bridge – one of the most charming and historic sites in Florence. It is the oldest bridge in the city and overlooks the beautiful Arno River.  What gives this bridge its uniqueness is not only its history – the Medicis’ secret corridor was located here – but the little goldsmiths’ shops located on the crossing.

One of the main reasons we chose Florence on our Italian adventure was for the food and we were not disappointed.

If it’s fine dining you’re after you must add Fuoco Matto to your to-do list. Not only is it beautifully romantic inside, but you can get a cracking view of the chefs cooking traditional Florentine steaks – it got quite fiery inside let me tell you.

I opt for the ravioli cacio e pepe with liquorice, which despite my reservations about the liquorice aspect, was absolutely mouth-watering. My partner, meanwhile, devoured his steak with charred spinach.

The next day we visit the Medici Chapels which houses the lavish and jaw-dropping Chapel of the Princes.  The fact that both my partner and I said “wow” when entering the chapel says a lot – our breath was literally taken away by how stunning the decor was.

Next door you’ll find Basilica di San Lorenzo, which was the official church of the Medici family so one for you Renaissance buffs.

Our next stop – 463 steps.  That is what our climb inside the Duomo at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore involved. I won’t lie, halfway up I did think we had lost our minds, but it proved worth it. Not only do you get amazing views inside the cathedral, you come so close to the dome painting you can touch it, and then there is the view of Florence from the top. The nearby Palazzo Vecchio also affords stunning panoramic views of the city.

Afterwards we explore around the museum – Dante’s death mask is also located here – and the Hall of the 500.

Feeling hungry, we head to All’Antico Vinaio to grab one of Florence’s most iconic dishes: the Florentine sandwich.  With queues out the door we anticipated we were in for a treat and we were not disappointed.

Oozing mozzarella, basil and fresh, juicy tomatoes wrapped in crusty bread = heavenly.

We couldn’t come to Florence without heading on a tour of the nearby vineyards so, bellies happy after the sandwiches, we head on a guided sunset Chianti vineyard tour to Azienda Agricola Brogioni Maurizo where Maurizo proudly shows off his vineyard and the wine-making process.

We then enjoy a wine tasting experience with five of Maurizo’s wines, coupled with homemade olive oil, chocolate spread, bread and cheeses.

Our last day was saved for a grand tour of two of the most iconic galleries in Florence: the Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell’Accademia.

The Uffizi was designed in a U-shape, and has a narrow courtyard between the two wings. At the Uffizi, I spend a good 20 minutes staring in awe at Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Primavera paintings, both of which are worth a trip to the gallery alone.  Add to these, however, paintings by Leonardo di Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael and you can spend a few hours enjoying the world’s best Renaissance art.

Michelangelo’s infamous Statue of David is located at Galleria dell’Accademia and really does need seen to be believed for its sheer size and level of detail.

Florence: until next time.


Factfile

Save time and effort by purchasing a Firenzecard to get admission and priority access to a great selection of Florence’s museums. Priced at €85 and valid for 72 hours, you can purchase online at www.firenzecard.it.