Thursday, 29 August 2013

28 AUGUST 2013

So I've been away from the blogosphere for a little while, but I've been super busy! Last week I was in Florence, Italy, taking a long awaited break from the 9 to 5. 

A melting pot of culture, Florence is the art-lover's paradise. Galleries, sculptures and a virtual menagerie of boutique shops surrounds possibly the most beautiful building I have ever seen - the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, know locally as il Duomo di Firenze.

Il Duomo di Firenze - Santa Maria del Fiore

We spent our days exploring the cobbled streets and the artistic offerings of this beautiful city, unearthing picturesque gardens and piazzas tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the main tourist attractions. One of my favourite spots was the Giardino di Boboli - a park containing sculptures dating between the 16th and 18th centuries, located south of the Arno river at Piazza Pitti, in the slightly more bohemian and less crowded area of the city. 

Views from the Giardino di Boboli

At night we soaked up the atmosphere at the Piazza Santa Croce. A church with a stunning facade designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the designer of the the infamous Duomo di Firenze. Here we dined al fresco and listened intently to the acoustic tones of a Florentine busker, who performed his own original renditions of classics like The Power of Love, Hallelujah and The Sound of Silence. 

The Santa Croce church at Piazza Santa Croce

We had been warned by friends that Florence was not a cheap holiday, and were given the impression that all our money would be spent on food rather than souvenirs. At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking this as competition for tourist business has driven prices in the city centre and north of the river sky high (particularly for leather products and other luxury goods). However, a little research goes a long way in Florence - if you have the time to scout out the cheapest places to eat and shop, you can eat very well for under 20 euros a day and find some real retail bargains. For instance, there are gorgeous vintage shops dotted around the city, and if you know where to find them, you can grab a vintage designer gem for a around 40 euros! Here's my vintage Trussardi bag which I found in Verabis - a true Aladdin's cave of vintage treasures! Follow Vera on facebook -

Our hotel - Hotel Benivieni - could not have been in a more perfect location. Set in the quite cobbled street, Via delle Oche, it was no more than 50 metres from the magnificent Duomo and only about 30 metres from Grom - home of the best tasting (and value for money) ice cream I have ever had! If you are ever in Florence, you have to try it, you owe it to yourself! Find them on Via del Campinole, a small side street off the Piazza del Duomo -

Florence, like most of Italy, is famous for it's leather. If you're looking to browse for leather bags, belts, shoes and gloves you will not be disappointed as there are literally hundreds of boutique shops and outlets. For the more upmarket shoppers, you can pick up some absolutely stunning handmade leather products from the area surrounding the Piazza Santa Croce. A little out of my price range, I decided to purchase some driving gloves from a family run shop just off the Ponte Vecchio for a modest 35 euros. I also purchased a handmade pendant from a tiny but exquisite boutique jewellers called Fiori del Tempo, managing to avoid the allure (and stratospheric prices) of the artisan pieces from the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. The lady here hand makes all her packaging and stamps it in wax with a tiny gold Fleur-de-Lys, very cute!

Packaging from Fiori del Tempo - Via di Ginori 27A

All in all we had a fabulous time - we saw Michelangelo's David, climbed the nearly 600 year old, 376ft tall Duomo di Firenze, ate beautiful food, bought gorgeous hand made gifts, and generally absorbed the exquisite bohemian atmosphere and artistic culture of this wonderful city. I highly recommend a visit if you're looking for a romantic city break. X

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