Italian Job: A holiday in Florence

One of the most beautiful cities in the world, Florence is renowned for many things: its beautiful Rennaisance architecture, bountiful array of stunning Churches, searing sunshine, exquisite Tuscan cuisine, ice-cream practically dripping from every street and very beautiful, very tanned locals making you feel like a very fat, very white, and very badly dressed blob. Attempting to go on a romantic couple-y holiday (don’t say anything, I am judging myself as well), Florence seemed like the perfect location. 

As it turns out, going on holiday with someone really reveals some different sides to their character, previously hidden under a guise of normality. Like the fact, for example, that their previous laid-back demeanour will instantly crack when at all hungry and reveal the whiny teenager beneath and that walking around sight-seeing for a day will result in a cross between a two year old having a tantrum and your dad on a long car trip.

Sadly, I too was not exempt from these revelations and my obsession with puppies, fat waddling babies and trees in foreign countries finally broke out into the open, alongside an inability to eat any food without spilling it, causing slight problems in a country where tomatoes seem to be the flavour de rigeuer. 

Florence being in Italy, and it being July, you might, with good reason, have expected a little sun. Sadly, however, it managed to rain every single day. Without fail. Although rat tail hair did not make for particularly pretty holiday snaps, the rain did at least mean we got some of the typical touristy attractions all to ourselves.

For some reason, cowering behind a small stone pillar on the top of a very gusty Duomo bell-tower during a thunderstorm was not most people’s idea of a good time. Nor was sitting shivering on the outside table at a restaurant whilst rain watered down your food and the cutlery blew off the table around you a popular pastime for the hordes of other tourists. Go figure. However, it did at least make for a wide variety of entertaining photos, some very fashionable neon ponchos and tourist attractions free of tourists. 

I mean to sound as cultured and pretentious as possible when I say the Uffizi Gallery is a ‘must-see’. The building itself is absolutely stunning, and the art inside is okay too. Completed in 1581, the gallery was one of the star pieces of the Medici family and boasts a pretty impressive collection of statues and paintings, along with some fantastic nude works of the male form boasting very tiny genitalia.

The two things which we most wanted to see, however, were the ‘Birth of Venus’ and Michelangelo’s ‘David’. After cooing at the ‘Venus’ for a bit we set out to find our next box-ticking masterpiece. Stumbling across the Michelangelo room, we thought it a bit odd that one of his greatest works wasn’t there, however, we came to the conclusion that there might be a special statue room.

After a couple of hours of looking for this ‘special statue room’ and giggling at the many minuscule penises on display, we finally decided to ask one of the attendants. The conversation went something like this: “Where is the David?” “It’s not here.” “Um… where is it?” *eye roll at the stupidity of tourists* “Sir, it’s in another gallery.”

As it turns out, if one day you take a fancy to visiting Florence and seeing the David, it is housed in the Accademia Gallery which costs €10 and was therefore too expensive for us to go and see. Happily though, we managed to buy a postcard and a statuette of it, so we can pretend to everyone that we did manage to fulfil our cultural check list and see the David. Unless, of course, they happen to read this article. 

Another tip I would give you if you’re in the area is to make sure you learn some Italian, or at least get a translation app on your phone. Marco, the guy at the B&B, told us that there was a beautiful spot called the Piazzale Michelangelo, which, for some reason, we assumed was a beautiful park overlooking all of Florence and only a 40 minute walk from the bus station. We decided to forego the 40 minute walk and hop on the next bus which said ‘Piazzale Michelangelo’ on the front.

After a kerfuffle with figuring out if the buses were the same as in London where you have to buy a ticket before you get on (they aren’t, you don’t), we eventually settled down to what we assumed would be a 15 minute bus journey. After around 15 minutes, the bus stopped and all of the other tourists got off to what looked like a large square.

Laughing somewhat smugly, we stayed on the bus, sneering at the tourists who had fallen for the ‘tourist spot’ whilst we knew that this Michelangelo park was the place to go. An hour’s bus journey and €4 later we tried to avoid eye contact with the driver as we sheepishly got off the bus at the same bus shelter we had got on at, later finding out that ‘Piazzale’ means square in Italian. 

Since we had missed out on the view from the park that day, we decided in the evening to brave the hills again for dinner. Jumping into a taxi, we gave the address of the restaurant TripAdvisor had enthusiastically recommended and looked forward to a beautiful sunset amongst the Tuscan countryside overlooking the city.

Online, the journey was estimated to be around a 15-20 minute drive— expensive but our splash out for the week. When you give an address to a taxi driver, however, and he shakes his head slowly saying ‘good restaurant but far, no?’ you should probably rethink your strategy if you’re on a budget. We on the other hand were set on this idea after the fiasco of the bus ride. Unfortunately, though, this resulted in a taxi bill of around €60 which meant a beautiful, romantic dinner feasting on beans, free bread and tap water, whilst we adamantly stayed outside, refusing all offers of warmth, since we were going to have our view no matter what. 

Returning with many food-spattered white shirts, a postcard and statuette of the David we never saw and a cold, I would definitely recommend Florence to anyone who has a lot of money, a little Italian and a knowledge of art. Failing that, idiots like us.