For me, the attraction to visit Florence was its long association with leather goods artisans and craftsmanship rather than its abundant Renaissance art, medieval history or famous architecture. Florence is after all, the birth place of Italian fashion and home of Gucci. And I am after all, someone who loves fashion. In July 2015, the stars aligned and the time had come for me to finally visit the Italian fashion capitals of Milan and Florence. Off I went to spend a few days in the heart of Florence to soak up the fashion history and discover what delights this ancient, medieval city had to offer. I must admit, I didn’t know too much about Florence other than it was reportedly beautiful and synonymous with Gucci. I must also admit that, at this point in my life, Renaissance art doesn’t captive my heart. Which is why any meaningful commentary about the abundance of Renaissance art in Florence is missing here; apologies to any Renaissance art lovers. Maybe I will gravitate towards this period of art history later in life. In the meantime, here are 15 surprising things I learnt about Florence:
- The Gucci Museo although small, is a must visit for fashion lovers and Gucci girls. You will want to steal every vintage item on display; from the Flora prints, to the iconic Bamboo bags, to the glamorous evening dresses.
- The trendy Roberto Cavalli cafe – Caffè Giacosa – makes the best iced coffee in town. Sugar syrup is optional.
- The most fashionable items were on elegant mannequins in the Gucci Museo and wall-to-wall shoe displays in the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo. All stylish Florentine locals were probably hiding from the throngs of annoying, haphazardly dressed tourists.
- The Ponte Vecchio bridge is prettier when it turns golden at sunset.
- Seeing the Statue of David in person is indescribable and totally mesmerising. To avoid the queue and view David in relative peace, get there early! Pre-book your tickets online for an 8.15am entry time.
- Florence is hot, very hot in July.
- The city streets leave a film of black grime on your shoes. Leave all white, cream, light coloured soles at home. Unless you want to spend the evenings scrubbing your shoes clean.
- The beautiful pink, white and green marble facade of the Duomo is breathtaking. Except for the least photographed, dirt-covered northern side.
- The amount of beautiful architecture is overwhelming. Sensory overload fatigue is most likely to occur.
- If you can ignore the crowds, the sunsets are magical and romantic. Magical if you are travelling solo (me). Romantic if you are with said partner, boyfriend, husband (not me).
- Florence is a stationery and journal lovers heaven.
- Fruit jelly candy is still a thing.
- Without a map, you can get lost for days in the Giardino di Boboli garden.
- The southern side of Florence is hilly, especially in the gardens.
- To reach the breathtaking views from Piazzale Michelangelo on foot, fitness levels should be checked and sneakers issued before climbing the million steps of the Scalea del Monte alle Croci (not me, the other tourists).
Read about my Milan adventure in 3 Reasons To Avoid Milan in July article.