(Note: This post was originally written in February 2011 on my personal website)
I don’t know exactly what I was expecting on my trip to Florence, but whatever it was, Florence exceeded those expectations!….
I stayed at the Best Western Hotel Palazzo Ognissanti which was very well located just a few blocks from Santa Maria Novella Train Station and a few blocks from the Arno. It was the perfect location! I was just a few blocks walk from practically, everywhere! Every night, the Ponte Vecchio beckoned and provided a wonderful back drop for a peaceful stroll along the Arno River.
Due to some delays on Alitalia, I arrived to Florence 5 hours later than expected and missed my day scheduled tour. By the time I got to my hotel, it was already 8pm. But I just couldn’t wait till the next day to see the Duomo di Firenze in person. So I proceeded to explore solo with camera in hand. When I explore cities solo, I stay very alert and aware, but Florence more than smoothed my nerves. The streets were clean, peaceful, quiet, well lit and beautiful. I quickly found the Duomo and my jaw just dropped upon beholding it in person for the first time. It was awe inspiring, breath taking, amazing – all the above. Pictures don’t do it justice.
I instantly fell in love with Florence.
But there was more to explore! By luck or design, I was approached by an Italian middle aged gentlemen who I initially resisted talking to. He asked to help me take my picture in front of the Duomo, and since he seemed respectable enough (plus didn’t seem like he could outrun me : ), I obliged. As luck would have it, he turned out to be the perfect Florence tour guide. He works as a Doctor right in Florence, having studied at NYU Medical School. He had all sort of original information about Florence and showed me the nooks and crannies that a typical tour could not cover if it tried. I couldn’t be more grateful : )
There’s so much to be said about and so much to do in Florence that can not all be said in a single blog post. The art, the architecture, the culture, the design, the wonderful breath of fresh air.. You get this sense that you are definitely in another world of seemingly contrasting opposites.. old yet new, quaint yet modern, peaceful yet exciting… but they all come together so beautifully. Florence is truly unlike any other city I have ever visited.
While I am still undecided where Florence falls exactly on the list of my favorite European cities (it is definitely top 5), I know one thing for sure: It is definitely my favorite Italian city thus far! (having already visited Rome, Milan, Siena, Pisa and the small town San Gimignano).
Ah, Florence, you have a fan in me. I just can’t wait to go back : )!!
Please enjoy some of my images from Florence below…