At last, I’ve been to Firenze; the city’s Italian name, and I prefer it.

From San Miniato, we drove to Empoli train station. The journey into Florence is straightforward and terminates in the centre where sights, only glimpsed in travel features before, are immediate.

First of all, the romantic setting of Santa Maria Novella Piazza complete with blush-coloured rose-edged lawns. Sweet musky perfume spiralled around the Dominican church. Its Gothic-style monochrome façade and elegant obelisks gleamed in the sun, creating a dramatic beginning to our visit.

After studying a guidebook over cappuccino and cake, we found our way to the busy thoroughfare around the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Artists’ displays and cafés encircle Florence’s primary landmark. This time, it wasn’t roses that perfected the scene. Strands of music floated serenely from the bow of a single violinist at the main entrance. Disappointingly, the snaking queue was long and we hadn’t pre-booked.

“There’s so much to see,” I said to Mr Word Loft, as I gazed around at the abundance of history and art everywhere.

“We’re probably better to come back again.” And we agreed that’s what we would do.

Our accommodation owner had warned us that morning, that we should have booked ahead and he had supplied a list of other venues to explore. San Lorenzo church, in the main market district, was recommended.

I was delighted on the way there to come across Dante’s house and museum, as I’ve always wanted to learn more about the Italian writer and philosopher who spent many years in Florence.

Within Dante Alighieri’s family home, the exhibits and manuscripts are fascinating, but not original. Nevertheless, they illuminate his life and literary studies in and around the city he loved. From the upstairs windows, the neighbourhood is flecked with travellers, a lot different from the scenes in his day.

Eminent for his input to Italian literature, he is also believed to be the father of the Italian language.

In pursuit of San Lorenzo, we came across the Bartolucci Store, crammed with handmade wooden items – many celebrating Pinocchio. Its wide range of fine quality merchandise is reasonably priced, and after a lot of consideration, we chose Christmas tree decorations. I always buy new ones throughout the year and these will be a fond reminder of our holiday.

After being sidetracked, we eventually arrived at San Lorenzo, which is the Medici family’s burial place. The church’s exterior is plain and rough, and not in keeping with the rest of Florence’s ornateness. This is because Michelangelo was commissioned for the decorative part, but for some reason, never happened. The walls and columns inside are mainly sandstone, housing exceptional art, including Donatello’s last masterpiece.

The cool and airy cloister gardens add a touch of colour to the building’s austere appearance. In one corner, an entrance leads to the Medici Crypt and chapel which was discovered, remarkably, only in 2004.

Living in Cornwall and seeing water at every turn, it felt strange to be continually surrounded by countryside. So it was heartening to see the River Arno. Spanned by numerous bridges, the most famous of all being Ponte Vecchio. Medieval, and constructed on the foundations of a wooden bridge dating from 1218.

Crossing it is like going back in time. A long hamlet with plaster and beamed living quarters above jewellers. Originally, the shops were occupied by butchers, bakers and all sorts of small businesses. Once across, it is a good idea to walk along the riverbank to take in its charm from a distance. The shops and dwellings jutting precariously over the ripples seem as if they might tumble into their reflections.

We had walked full circle and weren’t far from the train station. So with aching feet, we plodded there – pleased with the thought of returning to Firenze the following week.

Until next time,
Sue. X