Florence is my piece of heaven on earth. It's my favourite city ever and the city that kicked off my love of Italy and all things Italian.
I had been on half a dozen dates with a guy at the beginning of 2007 and he asked 'have you ever been to Florence? Wanna go with me next week?' Eh? Florence? A manic google search ensued and within 30 minutes I probably would have won Mastermind with all the information I bombarded myself with about Florence. i.e. the Capital of Tuscany, the birthplace of the Renaissance, often called "the Athens of the Middle Ages". How very romantic? How very scary?
When we landed in Florence it became evident that this trip was going to be one of discovery, not only of this magical city but also of the relationship myself and this guy had and were to have. We stayed in very basic but very central accommodation – the Hotel Aldini which is a mere stone's throw from the Piazza del Duomo. This is a budget hotel but because of location you will pay more than maybe the room is worth. Don't get me wrong it was a perfectly comfortable en-suite room which suited us just fine.
There's something about Florence, something that makes you feel at home yet overwhelmed all at the same time. The buildings are stunning, so old, so intricately decorated, so romantic. The museums and art galleries are something else, walking hand in hand around them with your partner, pointing and chatting about what you see. Or strolling across the Ponte Vecchio and doing a bit of shopping -priceless. The highlight for me was visiting the Galleria dell'Accademia and seeing Michelangelo's David in all his (marble) glory – he is fantastic! Unfortunately you are not permitted to take photographs of him however there is a replica located in Piazza della Signoria (also known as Palazzo Vecchio) which you can take as many pictures of as you like.
If you are a fan of Italian food than Florence is a must. I was so excited to have my first actual Italian pizza in Italy and I was not disappointed. We chose to eat at Le Botteghe di Donatello which is a traditional Italian restaurant overlooking the Duomo. I'm a fussy eater, ask my husband he will confirm how many restaurants we have visited and have had to leave after looking at the menu. Here the choice was endless, I literally would have eaten anything (and possibly everything) on offer. And this is where I found it – the One, the dream – the sausage and broccoli pizza. Sounds gross, but oh my gosh it's a taste sensation and I have hunted world trying to find such a culinary delight and failed miserably.
The Duomo (The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) itself is fantastic and somewhere you should really set time aside for to explore. Construction started in 1296 in the Gothic style and was structurally completed in 1436 and to this day the dome remains the largest brick dome in the world. On the Cathedral site you can also find the baptistery and Giotto's bell tower (Campanile) which if you are feeling fit you can climb this 277 foot beauty too. We climbed the 414 steps in total from bottom to top which is, I'll be honest it's hard work on the steep, narrow steps but the views from the top make the (blood), sweat and (yes) tears worth it.
So 3 nights in this city with someone I truthfully didn't know that well, surely it was doomed from the start right? Especially if you believe the old saying 'you never really know someone until you travel with them'. Well…..I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Florence for being the backdrop to my real life fairytale because 3 and 1/2 years later I married the guy that I had only been on a handful of dates before travelling to Italy with. Did Florence help our love blossom – I'd like to think so. So, when deciding on a location for our 1st wedding anniversary holiday it was a no-brainer, it had to be Florence – bellissimo!!! This time staying at the fantastic La Dimora degli Angeli B&B (cannot recommend this place enough). Would I return for a 3rd time?…….. In a heartbeat!