Tuesday, July 24, 2012

City I Love Contest Entry - "Finding Florence"


I am not a leading expert on metropolitan lifestyle. I haven’t been to some of the most major cities in the world, cities like Tokyo, Los Angeles, or Munich, and can’t tell others definitively that “this” is the “best” city in the world. I am just a humble teacher and travel blogger, trying to experience life to the fullest.

But Florence is the best city in the world.

“Why is that?” you might be asking. “Florence? It isn’t even that big - not compared to New York or Paris! How can Florence be the best city?”

Oh, let me tell you.(And I have to tell you in THREE points, in keeping with the “City I Love” blog contest.)

1.The History
Florence is a city immersed in the history of its country. The Italian Renaissance began here; the Medici family rose to power and literally invented banking here; Savonarolla the monk was burned in public for accusing the pope of corruption here; Machiavelli wrote “The Prince” here; Botticelli painted “The Birth of Venus” here... ah, such history!

Statue in the Loggia dell Signoria plaza

Statues of these famous individuals can be found strewn about the city: along the pier to Ponte Vecchio, along the walls of the Uffizi Museum (where “The Birth of Venus” is hung), in the Loggia della Signoria, and in basically every square in town. The Palazzo Vecchio was the political seat for the Medici family for hundreds of years. However, if I had to choose ONE thing that should be labelled a “must-see” in regards to the history of Florence, I would choose the Galleria dell’Academia, simply for the fact that within its walls stands Michelangelo’s statue of David, probably the most famous sculpture the world.Take a picture with him - but one that you can still show your grandma when you get home.

The statue of David in Galleria dell'Academia


2. The Colors
Not only is Florence a historical city, it is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever laid eyes on, especially from above. From below, the streets are all cobblestoned, the buildings made of brick and stone with complimentary colors of yellow or white plaster, and art and sculptures adorn each doorway, corner, and roof. But from above, it is a whole new world. The red terracotta, mixed with the yellow and white plaster, make the city look clean, colorful, and fresh.Everything is uniform and brilliant.

Ponte Vecchio at night - so lovely.

But the ancient world still peeks through. The majestic Duomo and Campanile (Bell Tower) hover above the city like a beacon, and remind everyone of how and why Florence became such a powerful and long-lasting settlement. My second “must-see” is to recommend you climb the 463 steps up to the top of the Duomo, after exploring inside first, of course. Perched on top, you can see for yourself just how spectacular the city view is, and get your daily exercise!

The view from atop the Duomo


3.The Shopping
Now, I am aware shopping when you visit a city is a very touristy thing to do. But I’m not talking about popping from store to store to find brand-name labels with bargain prices, or collecting as many Italian shoes as you can (that, my friends, should be reserved for shopping in Rome.) I am talking about the little stores with hand-crafted wares, and artisans who are willing to show off their crafts to you. I am also talking slightly about going shopping for gelato - one of the most popular things to buy in Florence!

Florentine gelato - yum!

My favorite shop in Florence is, hands-down, “Leonardo’s Leather Works” on Borgo del Greci.  This is my third “must-see” when you visit Florence. The store smells amazing, and they don’t just invite you in to sell you a purse or two. At Leonardo’s, I was ushered into the back of the store, shown some history about leather tanning, allowed to use some of the presses to indent a piece of leather on my own, and taught about some key styles of leather-working that are done only in Florence. It was like going to a museum rather than a store! I did buy a gorgeous purse, but that is because, yes, I am a tourist at heart.

Learning about leather at Leonardo's Leather Works

So that is why Florence is the best city in the world. It is hard to pin it down to just three “must-see” attractions, but on the same note, I could write lists and lists about this city and still not capture the twinkle of the Italian sun glinting off the rippling River Arno, the sound of the accordion player in Piazza Santa Croce floating on the breeze, or the feel of the uneven cobblestones under your feet as you wander the narrow and peaceful streets.

Some partially completed street art in Florence, Italy.

I think you just have to take my word for it, and go.

6 comments:

  1. I am visiting Florence soon. This is such a good guide for that visit. Thank you!

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    1. Florence is so beautiful - you will love it! Just wandering the streets is an experience in itself. Both museums are worth the admission price, and you must climb the Duomo if possible. Eat some gelato for me! ;)

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  2. I was in Florence about a month ago & your description is not wrong. It really is a great city to wonder round for hours.

    I second the gelato eating too. Anyone is welcome to eat some for me too :)

    Good luck with the 'City I Love' contest btw.

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    1. Thanks for the vote - what fun it would be to win! (I won't hold my breath though, just to be safe...) How long were you in Florence for? I honestly could have moved there.

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  3. I agree, Florence is a wonderful city for the reasons you mention and more. Anyone who takes the time to soak in the atmosphere of the city and learn about its fascinating history can appreciate the city on a deeper level. I also love that its center is so small and walkable.

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    1. Exactly - walking around Florence felt like walking around a place I'd known for years! It was beautiful but very 'homey' at the same time, which was why I could picture living there. I think you need to 'soak in the atmosphere' of any city you visit! (Edinburgh being another that has the best culture!)

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