A night and day stroll in Florence

Have you ever been to Florence? I am lucky because I live just 3 hours away from it, so I take any chance to go visit what many consider the most beautiful city on earth. The last time I went to Florence was in June 2019, although I have been there several times because I never get enough of it.

Florence is not only the cradle of the Italian language, but also the place where arts and architecture are so overwhelming that Stendhal coined the phrase “Syndrome of Florence” (aka Stendhal Syndrome) to identify that kind of sickness that affects very sensitive people before an art masterpiece. The syndrome is officially recognised by the WHO and I have to admit that, despite I have personally never fainted before an art piece, I perfectly understand the reason why it happens so frequently to those who visit Florence.

Think of this: Florence gave birth to the greatest names in history of arts such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Verrocchio, Donatello and Botticelli, just to mention some, as well as it also is the place where the Renaissance architecture turned the middle ages into the most splendid era of humanity. Florence in fact, is an open-air encyclopaedia of art and architecture. The most amazing dome on earth is here, as well as the most beautiful museums: the Uffizi Gallery, housed in the former administrative offices of the Medici Family, the Academy and the Bargello are just a few of them.

Florence at sunset

Strolling around Florence is a neverending discovery or arts and artists; not just the very big names such as Leonardo, but also those who you might have never heard, althoguh they are among the grandest masters of all time. It’s like turning ourselves into a 360 degrees camera to avoid skipping anything, from the smallest church to the grandest fresco or from the biggest dome to the most iconic statue in history. Take a walk around Florence and you understand what beauty really is as well as how much contemporary art, as good as it can be, cannot even be compared to what our ancestors left us to enjoy.

I’m not going into the history of Florence as you probably heard a lot or watched several documentaries and movies about it already. I just want to share with you a “night and day” perspective on it. In June 2019 I took a night stroll until the break of dawn, which is the best moment to visit the city in the tranquillity offered by the full moon and the quietness of the city that slowly wakes up. Here below I share some pictures of the same subject taken both at night and at dawn. Hope you’ll feel a touch of the magic of Florence. A city like no other.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Florence was a powerful city in Europe between the 1400s and the 1500s. Under the government of the Medici Family it managed to span its banking activity across Europe and endorsed the opportunity to transform the city into a place able to astonish every visitor since. The Cathedral was built for such a purpose: impressing the people. It still does, not only for the coloured marble plates that cover its façade and sides, but also for the mighty dome built by Brunelleschi with a technique that is not yet fully understood as well as the incredible bell tower designed by Giotto.

Duomo of Florence at night. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Palazzo Vecchio

The very heart of the city is called Piazza della Signoria. A place named after the wealthy families that ruled over it during the Renaissance, housing the Palace from which the governors were used to administer the city, called Palazzo Vecchio. It is nowadays home to the city hall, and it is open to visitors. The main hall, called Sala dei 500, is the place of the lost fresco by Leonardo da Vinci, depicting a battle between Florence and Pisa, as well as the place where Michelangelo wanted to duel with him by planning another fresco on the opposite wall that, unfortunately,  was never painted.

The Statue of Neptune in Piazza Signoria – Florence. Photo by Gabriele Merlo

The Church of Santa Croce

This church is a national monument. Not only for the complexity of the church and its cloister but also because it is home to the burials of the most important masters of the Italian literature such as Niccolò Machiavelli, Ugo Foscolo, and the so called “Italian Shakespeare”: Vittorio Alfieri. There is one burial missing here: Dante Alighieri. The father of the Italian Language, author of the “Divine Comedy” (a poem divided into 3 chapters called Inferno, Purgatory and Paradiso) lived between the 1200s and the 1300s. He was born in Florence, but he had to leave the city for political reasons and roamed around to Bologna, Verona and Ravenna, where he died.  The city mourns the lack of the burial of its most important citizen, thus a statue of Dante stands before the Church.

Piazza Santa Croce

Santa Croce Square at the break of dawn. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

This is definitely one of the most romantic places in town, with a very scenic view over the Church of Santa Croce and its square, framed by several Renaissance buildings that are home to numerous leather and jewels shops. Even during hot summer days, when the square is sunbathed by a scorching sun, it is a pleasure to be here.

Ponte Vecchio

Together with the dome of the Cathedral, Ponte Vecchio is probably the most iconic highlight of the city. During the Renaissance all the bridges in town had a similar shape, however Ponte Vecchio is the only one left. Jewel shops are located on the two sides of the bridge, as if you are walking along a regular ally of the city centre. The bridge crosses the river Arno, so that, halfway from one bank to the other, 2 two panoramic terraces are found, offering a gaze over the city centre. This is what you may consider the most beautiful city view in the world.

View over Ponte Vecchio at dawn. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

In the next few months, after the pandemic, Florence will be probably more enjoyable: less tourist around, shorter lines at museums and restaurants will make the atmosphere perfect for some very good pictures…otherwise just do like I do: walk around at night or just before dawn.

If you want to experience a real Florentine lifestyle, take a stroll in the Santo Spirito area, very close to Palazzo Pitti. Beside the church housing the only wooden statue by Michelangelo, you can also find many small restaurants and trattoria where you can taste some local (and less touristy) recipes.

And don’t forget: if you are a carnivore, Florence is the best place to try a T-bone steak (Bistecca alla Fiorentina) but remember: do not ask for “well done” meat here as it is almost an offence for the locals. The T- Bone steak must be rare.

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