Florence in Context

It’s true: I don’t love Florence. I like it fine. It’s pretty and interesting, but it just doesn’t speak to me the way Rome or even Genoa do. I get lost really easily in Florence for some reason- no matter where I think I’m going I end up down some frustrating side street in the opposite direction. It’s a small city but to me it seems huge: I just can’t get a grip on this place.

This visit I decided to try a little harder… and to bring in some expert help. I really needed to take a tour of Florence to try to wrap my mind around the vast culture and history laid out before me. Luckily our friends at Walks of Italy invited us to test out their Florence City Stroll, an introduction to the city with an expert local guide. I was really excited to learn more about Italy’s Renaissance Capital.

That morning we met our super-knowledgable guide Fadi, who is a professor of architecture and art history at the local university when he’s not guiding tourists around town.

Instead of giving us a chronological history of Florence he walked us through an introduction of the city’s highlights- and actually made me start to appreciate the place a little bit more. Our winding tour lead us through a 16th century traditional villa, by the Ponte Vecchio, through numerous piazzas and inside local churches. We heard about Florentine feuds, legends and rumors. It was better than a history lesson, it was a locals take.

There are so many beautiful pieces of the city that I’d walked by, looked at, but not really seen. Like the Gates of Paradise on the baptistry across from the Duomo. They are quite impressive golden sculpted doors, and I’ve photographed them in the past thinking “oh! Shiny!” I had no idea they took 27 years to create or the amount of work, controversy and craft that went into getting them just perfect, or that some consider them a more brilliant piece of art then the entire Duomo.

In the course of the nearly 4 hour tour our stomachs started to grumble, so it was time for a pit-stop to try one of Florence’s street food delicacies- lampredotto, or less glamorously: tripe. I was slightly apprehensive of eating cow’s stomach- but it is some of the countries oldest fast food. It was delicious! It was so delicious that Mike and I finished our shared portion and then ate everyone else in the group’s leftovers. Yum.

Finally there was the David- Florence’s crown jewel. I remembered him fondly from my last visit- he’s still the most gorgeous piece of art (or man) I’ve ever seen in person. It’s seriously hard to overstate how beautiful and well crafter this statue is- you just have to see him in person to really “get” it.

Only this time instead of just gawking and taking sneaky pictures (which are not allowed for some stupid reason), I was treated to an art history lecture. A really interesting walk-through of the history, theory and construction of this enormous statue. It’s really, really an amazing piece of art: totally revolutionary for it’s time and mathematically and biologically exceptional.

No, I don’t have a crush on a statue. Shut up.

Florence still isn’t my favorite city, but I feel like I can appreciate it more for what it is: the birthplace of Italy in so many ways.

Thanks to Walks of Italy for inviting us on the Florence City Stroll tour. All opinions are my own.

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