When the time came for me to hop onto the plane to Rome, I was, should we say, slightly more excited than usual. I have been to Italy more times than I can count, and yet I don’t think I could ever grow tired of this lovely country rich in cultural heritage… and gelato.
And how could anyone get tired of it – first and foremost, the country is regarded as the cradle of the civilised world, and as such it boasts a plethora of museums, art galleries and historic buildings. Secondly, Italy is the home of many a designer brands, which is particularly great in the evenings when you walk through the streets, and the glowing light from the impeccably arranged boutique shop windows never fails to catch your eye. And last, but by no means least – it’s where you get gelato, abundant, creamy, sometimes sticky, bursting with flavour when it melts on your tongue… an absolute delight of a country!
I visited Rome last year (before I started this blog, pictures to follow) so the plan was to board the train to Florence straight away for a 2 day tour, and then come back to the capital and spend the last day visiting some of the places we missed last time.
Once we arrived in our little flat in Florence, we had a rather brief, but close to perfect dinner with fresh ingredients sourced from the nearby grocery store. We then headed out into town to explore the streets under the darkening sky.
^ Beautiful Cavalli dress and staple serpentine bracelet
In the morning we left our flat full of excitement. We crossed the busy Piazza della Signoria square and entered the Uffizi Gallery, home to a number of great Italian masterpieces created by the hands of Botticelli, Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Caravaggio. The gallery is a masterpiece in itself with its painted ceilings and lavish interiors. Visitors leave the Uffizi from an exit on the side of the building overlooking the Arno river, so we were treated to a great view of the Ponte Vecchio, a very old bridge flanked by souvenir and jewellery shops.
Speaking of views, our tour took us across the river and up a hill that revealed a gorgeous view of the city. The Palazzo Pitti, the next stop on our list, used to be a residence of the wealthy Medici family and as such it amassed a number of paintings, plates and other pieces of artwork. Its gardens are an absolutely wondrous sight to behold as well!
Next we stopped by the Florence Academy of Fine Arts. We expected to be impressed by Michelangelo’s statue of David and the exceptionally lifelike warning glare of his eyes pointed towards Rome, Florence’s age-old rival. However, there were also other unexpectedly great works of art, from various statues to exquisite manuscripts.
While David was quite colossal, he paled in comparison to the Duomo di Firenze, the Cathedral whose impressive dome designed by Brunelleschi defies gravity, as by all rules of architecture it should have collapsed ages ago. After I was done peering at the inside of the dome, I took to the Campanile tower and climbed over 300 steps in order to look at the dome from a bird’s eye point of view … but as you already know, I would do anything for a panorama.
Just when I thought I’d seen the very best of Florentinian architecture, it was time to visit the Palazzo Medici Riccardi and the Palazzo Vecchio, and both of these marvellous palaces showed me how wrong I had been in my assumption. Palazzo Medici had some outstanding painted ceilings and was the home of a collection of very old and fragile-looking books, whereas the Palazzo Vecchio mesmerised me with its ancient crenellated tower and the numerous paintings nestled within opulent gilded panels. ^ Some afternoon entertainment at the piazza to welcome us to the Palazzo Vecchio in style.
Needless to say I couldn’t resist climbing to the top of the crenellated tower for a look at the sun-drenched city and the shimmering river below.On the way out of the palace we found ourselves in a shop full of home decorations which just couldn’t be bypassed. Once we stepped in we realised it had been a while since we had last casually walked around shops, as we had been so busy soaking up the city’s culture. In order to correct this obvious misstep, we headed to the Mercato Centrale de Firenze where we had probably the best pizza in history.
Our last day in Italy was a lazy walk around Rome including the customary scone of gelato at the striking Piazza Navona with its marble fountains. We couldn’t resist seeing St. Peter’s basilica for the second time, and taking a stroll around the shops near the Spanish Steps, but then we headed to a place we hadn’t had a chance to visit on our previous trip…
^ I fell in love with this lovely outfit from Gente Roma ^ Sergio Rossi’s shop is a must when ogling Italian goods in boutique windows
^ Another unmissable item on the high street – roasted chestnuts!And completely unrelated to shopping or chestnuts, some cute French Bulldog puppies. Very much related to our next activity, however – namely finally getting to find the time to visit the Bioparco di Roma .
^ Look at this little fella sunbathing… what a life!
The terrarium was excellent, built like a real jungle with lush green trees and a little waterfall. Unfortunately my camera gave out under the pressure of all the snapping, so the only picture I have from the terrarium is of this little guy.
It’s really great to see animals which are taken care of and live in good conditions, so I definitely recommend paying Bioparco di Roma a visit next time you’re in the Eternal City. It’s a different activity that will turn your trip to Rome into a memorable experience. And as for Florence – make sure you soak up all the culture, gape in wonder at all the amazing art, and have all the gelato you can get your hands on. No need to worry – there are so many hills, towers and viewing platforms to take pictures from, that you could easily justify yet another scoop.