It didn’t take long to find joy in the city of flowers.
My first impression was through my hostel’s window, as the sun set over the city’s rooftops like butter melting across the sky. That’s how each hour felt in the Italian town, as though a radiant warmth was seeping further through my body with every passing moment. Every place you visit leaves you with something, whether it’s a cuisine you’ve never tasted or a simple life lesson, but Florence was different… Florence introduced me to a new emotion.
Its’ the sensation of unadulterated happiness, of seeing the world through golden windows. It’s a feeling that can’t be described or passed on, but only experienced.
This fusion of photography and text is my attempt at pinning down the enchanting atmosphere Florence exudes. Enjoy.
As we arrived with the setting of the sun, our first adventure was by the light of the moon. A ten minute walk through cobblestone streets and open courtyards lead us to the infamous Space Disco, where we sang karaoke to strangers and danced until the early hours of the morning.
Being woken up by a screaming alarm three hours after my head hit the pillow was disastrous (I’m not a morning person). But throwing back the curtains to reveal the red-bricked houses of a city waiting to be explored sent a shiver of excitement racing through my body. I’ve never thrown a coat on faster!
The first stop of the morning was at an antique leather store. After a demonstration and a peek at many multi-coloured hides in the forms of wallets, bags and jackets, I was an expert in Florentine leather (not literally). Not only did I learn how to tell the difference between fake and real leather, but I also heard an ancient tale about the seven hills of Italy.
From there, we ventured to the city square where we stopped in front of the Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore. The enormous building seemed to resemble a paper house that could collapse with the slightest breeze. A guide who met us outside the captivating building taught me far too many interesting facts to list them all, but I was amazed to discover that Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance.
Part of the appeal of the town is that so many creatives once lived and breathed this city, from the author of Pinnochio to Galileo, the inventor of the telescope. It’s incredible to think I was walking the same path that Leonardo Da Vinci or Botticelli followed hundreds of years ago.
After seeing the artwork in the Sistine Chapel in The Vatican, I was fortunate enough to witness another Michelangelo marvel: The David statue. The guide informed us that artists like Da Vinci were more than painters, as they would visit morgues and dissect human bodies in order to learn about muscles, veins and bones, to translate their findings into realistic sculptures. How did we lose this intense appreciation for art over the years?
A highlight of the visit was the Ponte Vecchio bridge, which arches over the Arno river. Little houses selling expensive jewellery are packed either side of the bridge, their display rings and necklaces glistening under the sunlight. Walking across the bridge, I was surrounded by sparkling light.
It was no surprise to find a beautiful carousel on the other side of Ponte Vecchio. It’s impossible to avoid immediate childish admiration when you’re glowing inside and out from the magic of a place, so of course a ride was in orde. Afterward, we found a hidden rooftop bar our guide hinted about that offered a brilliant view of the square below and of the duomo in the distance. Sure, we couldn’t afford more than a six euro coffee, but we made the most out of our dwindling savings.
Better than a rooftop view was seeing the entirety of Florence from the highest point in the city. A busker sang ‘Hallelujah’ as we settled onto the steps, gazing out at a place that filled our hearts with happiness. Dinner that evening was a three-course Tuscan experience. A charming Florentine man entertained us as we ate, singing rolling Italian opera before ushering us onto the dance floor in waltzing pairs. As the wine settled in our stomachs, the waltzing turned into a round of ‘Opa!’ and laughter erupted throughout the room.
You can’t go to Italy without stopping by the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We did the usual tourist thing with the classic poses and the photos, but what more can you possibly expect from a couple of 18-year-olds??
If you still aren’t feeling that Florentine sensation of pure joy after all this show and tell, you’ll just have to visit Florence yourself…
What a shame! 😉