A postcard picture is not enough to describe the character of Florence. She is the treasure of Tuscany. She is not about the tourist attractions and selfie snaps, she is the art she hosts, the people she houses and the views she captures. She is terracotta tiles and soft reflections. She is perfectly poetic.
When I arrived into Florence after the most beautiful train ride, I was intrigued. Florence felt immediately different from any city I had ever visited, especially Rome. Who knew there could be such stark differences only a few hours away? The rolling green hills of Tuscany are the perfect welcoming committee to the warm tones that embrace you coming into Florence. Soft yellow buildings surrounded me as I pondered endless streets between buzzing piazzas. I perused boutique shops and watched locals ride by or walk their dogs into town. It felt like a cardboard city. The dark paper shutters swing around the windows hiding homes of Florentine families. The arched heavy doorways invite you to only imagine what the buildings could hold. If I lean against it, it may fold around me.
I believe that you can only understand the true character of the Florentine dwellings from one perspective. Upside down. Florence sits on a calm river, Arno, sweeping through Tuscany, traversed by a number of bridges. Arno changes depending on the weather looking down on him, but seemed to always be calm. In fact, earily still. He takes on the forms and colours of the buildings that sit beside him and displays them to visitors gazing from the banks or the bridges.
Another side of Florence’s buildings can be understood from the art district where you can find paintings bought forward in time from the Renaissance and some of the most elaborate sculptures man have ever created. You should visit the Piazza della Signoria when no one else thinks to. I enjoyed sitting and admiring the elegant ornamentation which engulfed my tiny presence. Even in these intricate designs, you can envisage the colours that make up the whole city.
Looking at Florence from above you see a dense map of irregular terracotta rooftops. It’s a striking image that belongs to only this city and you don’t have to be far above to see it. From Michelangelo’s Piazza you can get a perfect view of this small metropolis dominated by the immense cathedral. If you make it to the top of the cathedral, the view is something else. The warm colours, highlights and shadows, city and mountains, ground and sky.
One of my favourite viewpoints belongs to Florence’s cousin, Fiesole. She is a small village up in the Tuscan hills. It’s much more peaceful and with the terracotta rooftops slightly further away, you are surrounded by vivid green countryside. When the benches are empty and the sun is shining I can’t think of a better place to sit and observe. That’s how Fiesole felt to me. A place of observation.
There is not one word or even phrase to describe Florence. I can only urge you to go and meet her for yourself. Find the traits you love about her character.
In letter 6 I wrote briefly about my 5 night stay in Florence. In this letter, number 64, I wanted to explain the details of how this unique city captured me, so I hope you got a feeling for that. In just 2 short weeks I’ll be back in Italy revisiting Rome and heading up to meet Turin and Milan. Who knows, I may discover a new favourite Italian gem.
(who is now extremely excited for her Italian trip)