I hadn’t been to Florence for a while and I missed it. The dark and dusty narrow streets that lead to the sunny piazzas. The living museum where art meets sky and the genteel elegance of the city itself. And my favourite pass times of cafe at Gilli and aperitivo at Rivoire… I missed it all.
But I wasn’t relishing going in July, in the heat of summer and bus loads of tourists, yet I couldn’t wait until the autumn, I wanted to go now. And so I did, and found loads of tourists but thankfully not as many as I had feared, and while the heat was hot it was manageable. Yet even if those things had been at their worst I still wouldn’t have given a toss as I was just thrilled to be back, walking those shady narrow streets, enjoying the laid back pace that comes with summer. Sitting in the piazza under the warm evening sky, grappa in hand and listening to the band play … movie themes, then a little Abba! and then wind down the evening with the required orchestral tunes like ‘O Mio Babbino Caro.’
Because I had been many times before I could forgo the usual stops like the Uffizi Gallery -though I was tempted as I do love visiting my favourite paintings, but alas, the queue was very long and I wanted to take in the joys of the city itself. I opted instead to check out the art works in Santa Maria Novella, and to listen to the monks chant in San Miniato al Monte. Explore areas where the locals hang out like around Santo Spirito and the Mercato Centrale, before taking in lazy, late afternoon views of the city from Piazzale Michelangelo. This was a more relaxed pace and a more intimate trip. Subtle yet infinitely more personal.
I took breaks, many rest breaks, in the many cafes and wine bars during the day. Discovering a new favourite snack of the truffle panini at Procacci on Via Tornabuoni where you can get wonderful wines by the glass and a selection of fine panini among them their now famous truffle panini which is the perfect nibble to accompany that glass of Brunello or Prosecco.
Instead of shopping at all the designer boutiques, where indeed there were many tourists, I chose to support the long held Florentine tradition of local craftsmanship and bought paper products, books, and hand crafted leather by smaller business. Especially the paper products as I fear without consumer support they may disappear and with it a long standing art form. I even walked into a sculpture studio where I was warmly greeted just to browse.
And so in the heat of summer Florence proved to be the perfect tonic. My Campari and soda on the piazza. And while I can’t think of a time to not go to Florence, I now think summertime in the small city might be one of the best times to go.