For my Great Travels project, that is following the amazing travels of the Lonely Planet guide, I decided to start from Italy, my home country… what better start?
The chosen travel, Italy’s literary myth, takes us in the cities which have been of inspiration to the great foreign authors, those who fell in love with Italy and so decided to live here, some for months some for years, to write their best works.
The stops of this travel are: Rome, Florence, Venice and Trieste.
As starting city I choose to spent one day in Florence.
It was one of the most fashionable city during the Grand Tour, and here the Shelleys had their son, named Percy Florence Shelley. The Brownings also lived here for many years, ’til Elizabeth’s death, also Lord Byron stopped here, and in 1868 Dostoevskij, whom gave the city the nickname “Paradise”.
The todo experiences to retrace the great author’s steps, and maybe to inspire your own soul, are three:
Enjoying a coffee in one of the historical cafes in Piazza della Repubblica. One of the biggest squares in Italy, with a lively history. It represents the center of the city from old Rome’s times, and according to Dante Alighieri next to the square was a Temple dedicated to Mars, which determined the city’s bellicose nature.
After the year 1000, the square started to host the market (which became Old when the New Market’s Loggia was built, next to Ponte Vecchio) and to became people’s meeting point. In 1571 Cosimo de’ Medici set here the city’s Ghetto, and obliged Jews to live there.
The current look of the city comes from the restoration and redevelopment jobs made after Florence was appointed as the capital city. On the triumphal arch in the middle of the square, called Arcone (Big Arch), stands a writing which celebrates the square’s redevelopment:
«L’ANTICO CENTRO DELLA CITTÀ DA SECOLARE
SQUALLORE A VITA NUOVA RESTITUITO»
That is: «THE OLD CITY CENTER FROM CENTURIESOLD SQUALOR TO NEW LIFE BROUGHT BACK»
Today the square hosts many cafes, the most important and historical of the city, a carousel, and most of all, at sunset it becomes theater for many street artists.
Cafes of the square are many, on every side, and each of them exists from at least 100 years.
The most famous, and historical, are: Caffè delle Giubbe Rosse (Red Blouses’ Cafe) (which takes its name from the blouses that, following the Viennese fashion of late 800, waiters used to wear; Gambrinus, the main meeting point of the 800 and 900’s Florence; Caffè Gilli, which exists from 1733 and where the famous Ruth Orkin’s picture American Girl in Italy, 1951 was taken; Caffè Paszkowski, which found its origins as a alehouse, but became famous internationally as “Caff Concerto”; and Caffè Donnini.
Neither of those is cheap, a standard cappuccino costs even 6 euros, but for an “historical” coffee it is after all worth it.
Visiting Uffizi’s Gallery. This, among the todo experiences in Florence, is the one you shouldn’t lose nomatterwhat. Not only for its cultural level, but also for the emotions it gives. How many of you studied or saw Italian art, and did not astonish for the beauty of those paintings and those master works? Immagine to find them in front of you, live. Amazing colors, works of the breathtaking beauty. Standing in front of Botticelli’s Venus I just stopped: I stopped walking, I stopped talking, and for a minute, breathing. I stood there 15 minutes, at least. And also the statues along the hallways, or in the room where all the statues gathered looked like dancing. Unique pieces, which can be admired nowhere else in the world. Not counting the marvelous view on the Arno river and Ponte Vecchio at the end of the way…
Admiring the sunset from Ponte Vecchio. This one is for the romantic souls, the lonely souls, or for whom, simply, wants to be enchanted. Florence’s sky, at sunset, colors itself of rare colors, from blue to purple, from red to pink, and all the shades inbetween. It prints in your eyes, a sunset like that one. Hard to forget it later, and hard to live it again like the first time… which is always the one you never forget. The perfect conclusion of a perfect day.
An advice on where to stay in Florence? Palazzo Gamba Hotel. It is in Piazza del Duomo, and it is not an ordinary Hotel: it is actually made by apartments, each one with the name of a Florentine artist. Luxury apartments, with a amazing view on the Square and every kind of comfort. The freedom of an apartment together with an Hotel’s comfort, with the staff’s smiles and cordiality.