I have been mulling over what to write about my recent trip to Florence, so much, too much… and then I realised I couldn’t do better than write the kind of post I wanted to read before I went. It was my first time, and I had the list of all the things I should do, but I was looking for personal suggestions too. So here are my very personal TOP TEN THINGS FOR WRITERS TO DO IN FLORENCE…
1. EAT SOMETHING NEW. And where better to try than Florence. Not just ice creams either, visit one of the food markets, such as the San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, and browse the stalls. Or join an excellent food tour, I spent a lovely morning with Sam from Florence for Foodies and enjoyed new tastes, got told good stories, and met some really nice people. How else would I have learnt that Grappa comes in spray form ! Our best restaurant find though was the Trattoria Sabatino – inexpensive pasta, wine and lots of friendly locals.
2. PEOPLE WATCH. If you can drag your eyes away from the treasures at the Uffizi, it’s worth watching the tour groups too. We were gripped by the real battle going on between two different ones when we were there as they struggled to get prime position in front of the masterpieces. Almost as much of a victory for those who got to the front as this lunchtime tripe stall.
3. WALLOW IN THE SENSES. Smells first… There are some amazing farmacias in every street it seems, but we loved the choice of natural perfumes at the Farmacia Munstermann, I came away with Tabac, nice and earthy and just a bit addictive.
4. STATIONERY PARADISE. Again many many paper shops, but my favourite has to be Il Torchio … the perfect place to stock up on journals and happiness, both of which are hand made on the premises.
5. RING ALCHEMY. It’s not a word to be used lightly in Florence, but I’m convinced that the jeweller, Allesandro Dari is a genius. A visit to his workshop and showroom is a must for firing up the imagination.
6. VISIT A GARDEN. Well, of course! Boboli Gardens is a must and do make sure you are around for the scheduled opening of the grotto (normally on the hour).
But one of the highlights of our whole holiday was a visit to Villa Gamberaia, just a bus ride (No 10 from San Marcus square) away. A magic dreamy garden from which to view Florence from a different angle.
7. ROOM WITH A VIEW. There are plenty of chances to see Florence from up high. TAKE THEM ALL! Climb the Giotto’s Campanile and the Duomo. Walk up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. Stop on the bridges at dusk. Visit the Bardini Gardens. Have your picture taken with Florence behind. Try not to look nervous in case you fall backwards…
8. WRITE PICTURES. Everywhere we went, we came across art and architecture students drawing details in their notebooks, so I started to do the same. Too much, too much… until I took Anne Lamott’s advice and remembered her advice to use a two inch window frame to look at just a bit of the overall picture. Amazing how much more I noticed when I was writing the details. Just look at the expressions here – a whole novel surely?
9. STORIES, STORIES... And once you notice the details, you can’t stop seeing more and more stories you NEED to write. This is from the Boboli Gardens.
10. READ! A visit to the Biblioteca Laurenziana is a must, and not just for Michelangelo’s stairs. Just imagine working here, the books laid out for you…
But here’s our guilty secret. We also loved the Reading Room at the Gucci Museum, with shelves of art and design books to drool over while we had a necessary cup of pick-up tea.