WARNING: Lots of photos to enjoy!
The only way that I can describe Florence is as a magical film set, that comes alive at night and becomes even more enchanting than it was by day.
The crowds disperse as the heat cools and dusk descends and the live music players and opera singers come out to entertain the night owls.
The buildings look even more majestic somehow lit up by lights and the beauty of the architecture comes into its own, even more so than when lit by sunlight.
I love Italy. Always have. Florence was always on the top of my travel bucket list and somehow became third on my actual ‘Italian cities visited’ list.
It really is a magical place. Everything about it. Its architecture, its location, its people.
Everyone is so friendly and even though it is so busy with tourists, the locals engage in great conversation like they’ve never done it before.
I just love it! Have I said it enough yet?!
The only down side would be the sheer noise if you stay in the main Duomo area at night.
This mainly matters when you have children and have to be in bed by 11pm at the latest.
First Day… Duomo
When we first arrived in the heat of the day, we were mesmerised by the Duomo. We quickly went to our apartment and freshened up and headed straight back out to look at it in all of its splendour:
By the time we had dinner and got back to our apartment, it was close to 10pm when we finally got into bed.
We were so proud of ourselves; we had all showered and got in to bed early so that we could enjoy the next day properly after a good night’s sleep… oh boy were we wrong!
It was relatively quiet until 10.30pm and then we started hearing opera… very loud opera.
Then a short while later… very very loud live pop music came from another direction.. it sounded like it was a large open air concert. We thought it was probably a one off and it wouldn’t happen again.
By midnight, you could hear loud sirens and bin trucks and all sorts of other loud noises. Suffice to say we slept about 2 hours that night!
Next Day… Ponte Vecchio:
We went exploring the next day and came across Ponte Vecchio (the bridge)… it was busy with tourists but we enjoyed it.
We learned that the bridge was initially made for blacksmiths to make their goods and throw their rubbish into the river Arno, but it got so messy and dirty, that it was soon decided that the bridge would become an exclusive area for jewellers to set up… and so it was.
To this day the bridge has jewellers lined on both sides and from either side of the bridge you can see beautiful Florence.
Via Roma (Rome Road or the Road to Rome)
We stayed in an apartment on Via Roma, which was the most central you could get in Florence. We were surrounded by designer stores, the main piazzas and everything was in easy walking distance from there.
You could appreciate beautiful Italian taste in all its form, within a small stretch of this road…
We walked with great ease from Ponte Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, which is a palace that was bought by the Medici family in 1549.
It was the main residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It became a great treasure house as later generations amassed more luxurious possessions including paintings, plates and jewellery.
Napoleon used the palazzo as a power base, in the late 18th century. It is now the largest museum in Florence.
Piazza della Signoria
The Piazza della Signoria is a square just in front of Palazzo Vecchio. It is a central focal point of the history and origin of the Florentine Republic and tourists visiting Ponte Vecchio, Piazza del Duomo and the Uffizi Gallery meet there.
It was definitely the busiest place we went to and it was difficult to find shade, so was very hot indeed!
A reproduction of the statue of David (from the story of David and Goliath) by Michelangelo is located here among many other statues of famous people including Cellini’s Head of Medusa, Donatello’s statue of Judith and Holofernes and Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus.
Beautiful Interiors In Beautiful Buildings…
Inside the buildings around the Piazza Del Signoria area we saw some stunning interiors…
Beautiful Bricks and Architecture(!)
I love architecture and I love beautifully placed bricks of old… you’ll see below why I love them in Florence even more so than anywhere else I’ve been so far:
Before I left for Florence, I tried to search for ‘things to do with children in Florence’, one blog came up and it suggested, pizza and ice-cream making workshops for children, cookery schools and visiting markets.
I wasn’t keen on flying all that way and then dropping off my children to workshops and structured events.
We actually spent 5 days there and my children thoroughly enjoyed Florence, soaking up the atmosphere, looking at the different ways that buildings were made and their architecture (I love architecture and from a young age have shared my passion for beautiful buildings with them, so they were keen to observe and enjoy the sights as much as me thankfully).
Each day before we left we made a plan. My children had a map each from which they could help make the decision of where we would go and how we would get there.
They enjoyed seeing the horse carriages, the buildings, the different eateries and of course the daily dose of gelato! Yes I gave in to one a day whilst there, how could I not?!
The Good and The Bad and The Not So Ugly:
I will list below what we thought were the pros and cons of staying in and visiting Florence:
-Beggers harassing us
-Noise at night
To sum it up, do not delay visiting Florence. It is beautiful and its location allows you to visit other nearby cities with ease such as Pisa, Naples, Sienna and even Rome.
You walk everywhere in Florence. It’s lovely to walk at a leisurely pace, across roads and rarely see cars and bikes and when you do, they patiently wait for you to move out of the way. It is just the way over there. Even taxi drivers don’t beep you out of the way(!)
My children loved the freedom of being able to walk freely and not having to worry about the dangers of fast cars.
By the second night of our stay, we learned that Florence was indeed alive all day and all night and the music scene was at its best and loudest(!) by 11pm. So we adjusted and would try to get home by 10pm.
We would take leisurely walks around the main squares and my children would take sheer delight in playing with toys bought from sellers in the squares.
The tourists would disperse and would be back in their hotels or eating in restaurants so by dusk it was calmer and we had even more space to walk and for the children to run free.
We did feel like we missed out a little because we had to be back in the apartment by a certain time for the children to sleep.
When back in the apartment, instead of wasting my time trying to sleep in the noise, I would spend a few hours sorting out the laundry, having a shower etc, because I full well knew by this point.. I couldn’t!
So from night two, we started increasing our sleep per night and by the fifth night, I think I managed 6 or 7 hours! Woo hoo! 😉
So my advice to any of you wanting to travel out there soon would be, try to not stay too centrally if you have children, solely due to the noise at night and for wanting to sleep.
If you have no children… stay central and don’t return back to your hotel or apartment until at least 1am.
Enjoy the sounds and the sights until Florence decides to quieten down ….. ever so slightly. 🙂
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