I went to Florence for the first time during my second vacation in Italy. I stayed for a couple of days.
My second trip was a few years later during the first month I lived in Italy. I couldn’t wait to leave both times. The second trip was over nine years ago and I believed if I never visited again, it was okay with me. Never mind that at some point I would need to return for work. My plan was to get in and get out.
I loved the art and thought the city was beautiful, so what was my damage? I couldn’t get a read on the city, no sense of place. I had visited during the months of May and April respectively and couldn’t walk down the streets. It was that crowded with tourists. Florence felt like a Renaissance amusement park.
A friend in Los Angeles was dating a chef in Florence and she suggested I go to his restaurant for lunch. He couldn’t have cared less. Our mutual friend, had the same experience. She has spent a lot of time in Italy (from top to bottom) and shrugged at his rudeness saying, “Florence.”
Earlier this year, I was having drinks with a friend and his dear friend who grew up in Florence. She told me I needed to return to the city. That the energy in the city is completely different from my last trip. My friends who live in Florence said the same thing. I was skeptical.
I decided to go on my birthday to see what my Florentine friends were raving about. August is blazing hot and still high season, but I found an excellent same day fare on Italo.
This is how I felt after my day in Florence.
No, it’s not because Rome is a trainwreck right now (please get it together Mayor Raggi). It’s because I completely misread Florence.
Man, I used to talk so much smack about Florence. In my defense, I wasn’t the only one. A friend from NYC, who comes to Italy every year, emailed me during her first trip to Florence and said she was in the seventh circle of hell. She was there during the height of the high season.
Yes, Florence is very popular with tourists and American exchange students. Since my two earlier trips, friends have moved to Florence and their version of the city is not what I experienced back then. How could it be? I was there for four days max. They live there. They know Florence. Their version is the side I was able to see during my trip last month.
I had been to all the museums before and I didn’t have a crazy itinerary this time. I wanted to see the Boboli Gardens and friends who were in town but otherwise left my schedule open to just walk around.
I speak Italian now. When I walked into a store and the salesperson automatically spoke English to me, I responded in Italian. Their mood changed. Except for one dude at a handmade paper shop. I was looking for a birthday gift for a friend. I walked in and gave my best, “buon giorno”. He looked at me and then proceeded to ignore me. Hello, even in Rome they will at least give you a salty, “buon giorno”, or “salve” in return. I’m sorry that he had to work during Ferragosto while the vast majority of his peers were at the sea or in the mountains. Perhaps he should’ve closed his store during August?
Georgette and I finally met in person when she was in Rome earlier this year. I think Florence’s tourism board should give her a medal and a lot of money. I always forward her blog to friends, and friends of friends, who are visiting Florence.
I find Tuscan cuisine a bit heavy. These ravioli were light and delicious. The waiters were lovely. It was the perfect birthday lunch.
I met Veronica in Rome through friends at my favorite store Chez Dede. She saw my Instagram post about the Boboli Gardens and suggested I stop by their store And Company. I’m thrilled that they were open during Ferragosto. It’s my kind of place. I was so busy talking and looking at everything, I didn’t take any photos. I did post a few videos on Instastories.
I met Melinda at Ditta Artigianale for some iced tea and air conditioning. Melinda, an American, used to commute between Paris and Florence. Currently, she lives in Florence full-time. The last time we saw each other was in Rome years ago. We had a lot of catching up to do.
The Boboli Gardens were one of the many highlights of the day. It was extremely hot. I wasn’t able to take it all in. I must return in fall so I can spend more time exploring.
This was my first time visiting the church San Spirito. No pictures are allowed inside. Trust me when I say it’s worth a visit.
Georgette has posted a few cocktails from Irene on Instagram and she said the next time I came to Florence we had to meet there. We did. The cocktails were on point and the food was great too.
I went to the bar super early because I was basically melting in the heat. The bartenders couldn’t be more friendly despite the fact that I only ordered water to drink, while watching Instastories, as I waited for Georgette and her friend.
Irene is the hotel bar/bistrot for the Hotel Savoy. I loved the vibe with its fantastic interiors and the crowd was a mix of locals and guests of the hotel. It’s located right on Piazza della Repubblica in the heart of the Historic Center. The space is named for Rocco Forte’s (the owner) mother.
I took the fast train home. Florence is only an hour and a half train ride away.
There are a lot of day trippers, via cruise ships, in Florence. Once the sun goes down the city does empty out a bit. If you can stay longer than a day, I highly recommend it.
I definitely felt a different energy during this trip. A buzz, a sense that exciting things are happening on the creative front.
I left Florence feeling inspired by all the creative and talented people I met. I cannot wait to return.
Photos: Me and my iPhone unless otherwise noted.