Florence, Italy


View of the Ardo from Ponte alle Grazie

I am in love. Every morning, I wake up and walk through the city center on the way to class, passing tourists gaping at the Duomo (aka the Cathedral de Santa Maria del Fiore), locals going about their business, coffee shops on every corner, and bustling little market places full of kiosks and leather goods. I stop by one of several regular coffee shops and order “un cafe” with a pastry, today it was a tart with strawberry filling for a price of €2. Locals are standing at the bar, chatting, while drinking espresso from their tiny cups. It seems to be a local custom, and with how cheap it is, I can see why!

This city is unlike anything I have experienced before. I wander the streets for a few hours after class each day and I am constantly finding interesting new statues, old buildings, and interesting little shops. There is a very strong artistic and artisanal culture here. I suppose it stems from the fact that Florence was a central part of the Renaissance. It became prosperous due to its banks financing the rest of Europe, and the Medici’s were famous patrons of the arts. Even now, there are numerous little shops that would have a very difficult time making ends meet in most other parts of the world, like bookbinders, wood carvers, leatherworkers, and of course bespoke shoemakers. Of course, there are plenty of tourists that come from all over the world to tempt.

View from the Plaza de Michelangelo
View from the Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio

I have just started my rounds of the museums and palaces, with the Palazzo Vecchio and the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Palazzo Vecchio is the old government center of the city. At times it was the seat of the Signoria of Florence, a palace of the Medici family, and the temporary capital of the Kingdom of Italy. Now it is a beautiful museum full of beautiful artwork. Everything is gilded, covered in frescos, and is about as elaborate as you can imagine. The best part is climbing to the top of the tower and seeing the city! The Palazzo Medici Riccardi is the original residence of the Medici family, and where they ran their bank. Now it is a beautiful museum which happens to currently host a Banksy exhibit, which was pretty cool.

Me, on top of the tower
View of the Duomo from the Palazzo Vecchio
Panini from All’Antico Vinaio

The food here is the best I have ever had. This is a combination of factors. Taste of course, besides the wonderful flavors, every restaurant and cafe that I have been to make their own food from scratch. The atmosphere is also important. Many restaurants and cafes are in beautiful old buildings, often repurposed, like one we go to regularly where the dining area is an old crypt. The owners are friendly and relaxed, so much so that I forgot to pay at one cafe. I came back to pay later, and she ended up making me some free coffee. The absolute best part about the food scene here is how cheap everything is! You can go to a cafe or bakery and get a full meal with coffee for €5! A nice meal at a restaurant off the main tourist spots can be had for €8, no tip. If you want wine or a drink, its only a few euro more. Or, better yet, get some street food! All’Antico Vinaio is the best that I have have had yet. for €5 you get a huge panini filled with ham, fresh mozzarella, mushrooms, and truffle oil. You want a drink? Go to the wine shop across the street, buy a bottle and have yourself a picnic at the Piazza della Signoria right across from the Palazzo Vecchio.

View from the Palazzo Vecchio — Where the old parliament used to gather
Street artist
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