What do I love about Florence?
For starters, I love being there! There is such a special affinity for the city, as if for a living being. I was born in another country and live across the ocean, but somehow, I feel that I was a Florentine native in my previous life.
There are a few things that stood out to me on my recent visit, which reveal many of the reasons why I love Florence:
● Streets’ names. One can understand a lot about a city from the names of its streets. I really appreciate Florence because almost all of the streets are named after people who played an important role in its development and occupy a place in history, often the world's history. Well, there are, of course, the streets of saints and other serious personalities not originally from Florence. For example, the streets are named after Garibaldi, Lincoln, Aldo Moro, Tasso, Verdi. Or in honor of other cities (Rome, Venice). But most streets are named after Florence’s own rulers, artists, sculptors, scientists, philosophers, musicians, etc! The maps are brimming with notable names.
● Dynasties. Fate brought me together with people whose ancestors lived in Florence five, six, seven hundred, thousand years ago! There was no trace of the US yet, and these families had already lived in Florence for centuries, while their descendants live in it now. These descendants are well-educated and have an unthinkably rich family history, with houses or palaces belonging to them in the city, with villas, and castles in the vicinity. Maintaining all these palaces and villas is expensive. They don't want to sell to foreigners and the state does not have time to restore everything; Maintaining all of this is difficult and expensive. Thus, they rent them out, turn them into hotels, venue spaces, etc. They treat these places with kindness because these buildings are a part of the soul of their beloved city. Here are several such names: Corsini, Gondi, Aldobrandini, Ricasoli.
Interiors in Palazzo Aldobrandini del Papa
● Crafts makers. Florence is incredibly rich in all kinds of crafts. In Italy, the craftsmanship passed down from generation to generation is still somehow glimmering. In Florence, I would single out, perhaps, these:
Leather products. Well, you don't have to look far; we all know Ferragamo and Gucci. Have you been to their museums? Very interesting, especially the Gucci Museum, right on Piazza Della Signoria near Palazzo Vecchio. But there are also Pratesi, Casini, Bemporad, Braccialini, etc - and a lot of tiny shops/workshops where everyone does it all at once, design and production, and also do it for generations. Shoes, bags, clothes, you name it! By the way, the workshop is called “laboratory,” and they create there. Many will gladly talk about the process if you ask.
Paper products. Italians have a reverent attitude towards paper, envelopes, postcards, folders, notepads, notebooks, etc. They still have great respect for printed books and love paper products, which are, indeed, quite amazing. This time I could not resist, came to Fabriano and bought myself a unique leather folder into which a notebook, pen, etc., is inserted. So beautiful! Two days later I came again and bought another folder for my passport and air tickets, very convenient. And a beautiful ballpoint pen. And then an ink pen. And immediately, with pleasure, I started writing- and my handwriting looked immediately better. Indeed, the feeling is magical.
Jewelry. The Florentine jewelry school has been perfecting the craft for centuries. The most famous shops are right on Ponte Vecchio. Sometimes I look at them with curiosity, especially on this bridge. And once I got a wonderful milestone gift from my husband, a golden necklace, while we were window shopping there. Take a look!
Perfumes. I don't know if you're aware, but there are a lot of "laboratories" in Florence that produce all kinds of perfumes, colognes, scented lotions, soaps, etc. Typically, this type of shop is like a museum, and the salesperson will go to great lengths to help you choose the right product. Very interesting, informative, and beautiful. For example, at AquaFlor.
Pharmacies. Well, we can’t forget about pharmacies! There are many historical pharmacies in Florence that have existed for centuries and sell, in addition to modern medicines, all kinds of beautiful and unusual things that allow you to be healthy, beautiful and energetic. All this is interesting to see because it is accompanied by many stories and legends. Let's not forget that the legendary name Medici (which means "doctors" in Italian) did not just come from nothing. Check out this one: Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di S. Maria Novella. Exists since 1221. I bought my face night cream there.
Clothing, accessories. Of course, in Italy, fabulous clothing is everywhere. In Florence, in addition to well-known chains, there are many tiny shops where you can find your happiness. Here to each his/her own. And if you want cool designers, then, for example, check the famous Luisa Via Roma, www.luisaviaroma.com
Louise was actually a Frenchwoman but created her store a hundred years ago in Florence. And now, her shop is known throughout Europe, and her grandchildren own it. Family business, after all.
What else, from light and good? Beautiful cafes, of course. And their content. There are a lot of them, and it's so great to drink coffee with a fresh pastry there! You probably know that Italians usually drink coffee while standing right at the bar. Cheap, fast, cheerful: while drinking, you will exchange a word with quick-tongued baristas and neighbors at the counter. The coffee is very tasty; the pastries are excellent. I love this bar in my favorite Piazza Della Signoria: Bar Perseo. But if there is a desire to sit and stare at people, then take your time, of course. It is nice to sit at a table and drink coffee (in the same place on the square).
Flowers. There are many gardens in Florence, which is not obvious if you come for a short time. Since I am not indifferent to flowers and other flora, I study them with pleasure.
This time I was lucky: I ended up in the Iris Garden, Giardino Dell'Iris. The irises bloom for a short time, from late April to May, just when I happened to be in Florence. You probably know that since the 12th century, the symbol of Florence has been the iris. Initially, it was white and was chosen because white irises bloomed along the banks of the Arno in spring. But then, in the 13th century, during the showdown between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, the victorious Guelphs changed the color of the iris to red.
I went to the iris garden and had a great time there. Irises were blooming, birds were singing, and charming volunteers were cleaning the flowers' beds, chatting. So peaceful and beautiful.
Exhibitions. There are tons of them. In fact, I never have enough time to see all that I want. There are many exhibitions, many very interesting ones. I went to an exhibition dedicated to Donatello, a famous sculptor who notably started the Renaissance in art. This very powerful exposition collected his works not only from Florence, Tuscany, and other parts of Italy but also from many museums across the globe. A very interesting documentary is shown at the entrance with comments by the curator. It will last until the end of July.
Drink, anyone? I recommend drinking a glass of Aperol Spritz or Prosecco on one of the fantastic rooftop terraces, there are quite a few in Florence. Check out Palazzo Guadagni.
Although, of course, it will be half the price just on the street, a little away from the center. But the view!
Last but not least: I LOVE doing weddings in Florence and around! There are fantastic options inside and outside, secret gardens, palaces, and museums – all within a reach. Let me know if you are interested!
My next blog will be exclusively dedicated to this particular topic☺
Photo credits: Primavera Dreams, Matteo Cuzzola Photography