Florence – the hidden gem of Italy?
I’m not sure if its my love for the Italian cuisine that has stuck with me since childhood, or my admiration for the Italian culture and people or perhaps all things combined but something in me had always longed to visit Italy and when I finally did as a seventeen-year-old I found to my delight that it reached every one of the exceptionally high standards. So when I travelled to Italy for the second time with a couple of friends in tow I am ashamed to admit I had only a vague picture of Florence in my mind from my families brief visit.
Throughout our ten day trip that took us from Milan to Venice, Florence, Rome, Sorrento and Naples one of my friends had raised our hopes for Florence by entertaining us with a story of a girl she knew who had intended to stay just several days in Florence but ending up staying for two weeks because she loved it so much. When we did arrive, already captivated by the sights we had seen across Italy, it did not fail to impress.
Despite arriving in a torrential downpour for which each of us were ill-equipped as we stood huddling together waiting for a bus the weather soon changed as did our moods and we dumped our belongings in our cabin and heading out for a night in the town.
It is very true that the best nights are always the unplanned ones. We had gone out with the intention of finding a bar to have a quiet drink but instead strolled out of the American themed Irish pub we had come across on our wandering into a nightclub that doubled as a karaoke bar. Here we found all the likeminded tourists and locals sharing a taste of the Italian nightlife and having socialised with a range of different people we didn’t find ourselves back at our campsite until four o’clock in the morning.
Not deterred by our lack of sleep we still arose early the next morning to indulge ourselves in what Florence does best – culture. Back in the day British aristocrats would send their impressionable young family members to Florence in order to get cultured and it is easy to see why as soon as you find yourself strolling down the Piazza della Signoria surrounding by collections of ancient statues, the various pizzeria’s and people selling beautiful drawings on the street.
There are two must-see museums in Florence when attempted to visit, unfortunately our lack of time meant we couldn’t waste two hours standing in line on our last day for entry into one but fortunately we had got our fill viewing the many stunning art works on display in the Accademia museum. I have always had an interest in the arts but for those of you who don’t you just cannot visit Florence without taking a trip to one of these museums and you will surely not be bored.
The “studenty” vibe that seems to encapsulate Florence is a refreshing break from the hordes of tourists that flock the scenes of the iconic locations in Venice and Rome during the summer months. Part of the magic I found in Florence was its lack of this that allowed me to imagine for at least a moment that I wasn’t a tourist myself.
We couldn’t, however, escape this when we strolled across the famous Ponte Vecchio, one thing I did remember doing during my first visit. One travel article I read before arriving condemned this bridge as a tacky tourist trap and you can’t say they’re wrong when you view all the glitzy designer shops that attempt to beckon gullible tourists. But even this couldn’t distract me from loving this aspect of Florence and the photo opportunities available from looking across at the bay are worth the trip alone.
For a student trip especially, Florence does truly seem to be the gem of Italy for its buzzing nightlife that boasts crowds of young clubbers and the welcome escape it offers from the flocks of tourists even during the summer. For anyone interested in art and culture it is a true must and for those less interested the stunning beauty of one of Europe’s most spectacular cities is a welcome draw!