I spent the first few days after returning from Florence in a haze. Florence had been so magical and so beautiful that I just wasn’t ready to face my regular world with its petty problems again and when I did finally return to the everyday, it felt like Italy was a lifetime away already. We did and saw so much over the four nights that we stayed in the capitol of Tuscany that I almost don’t know how to start writing about the experience and yet we barely only managed to scratch the surface of this endearing town.
Florence is a small city, but its incredible wealth and plethora of culturally and historically relevant places could easily fool you into believing the opposite and while we gave exploring Florence our all, we knew that there was still so much more to discover. When we left, my boyfriend and me both agreed that we easily could have spent the whole summer in Florence without getting bored and I am already looking forward to the day that I can visit Italy again.
The first time I visited Tuscany was in the summer of 2005. My parents had rented a holiday home in a little village somewhere deep in the Tuscan countryside for two weeks and every day we would drive somewhere to visit a new place. One of these occasions saw us taking a day trip to Florence and to be honest it didn’t leave too much of an impression. I barely remembered anything of Florence except for waiting for ages to get into the Uffizi Galleries, while most other towns in Tuscany – most notably Siena, the eternal foe of Florence – enthralled me and made me long for a return visit long after I had left.
But the idea of Florence nevertheless continued to captivate my imagination and I knew I would have to go back one day. Despite my unremarkable first encounter with Florence, I had high expectations for my second visit and hoped that this time around I would fall in love with this city like I had with the rest of Tuscany ten years ago and from the moment we first stepped onto the streets of Florence and laid our eyes on the magnificent architecture I just knew that this was exactly what was going to happen.
People aren't kidding when they say that Florence is touristy. Visiting in Mid-June allowed us to avoid the worst of the masses, but Florence was certainly no quiet hideaway from the rest of the world. There were times – no doubt at least partly owing to the large amount of visitors – when Florence felt a little bit like an open-air museum, but for some reason this only seemed to make the city more captivating.
People also aren't kidding when they say that Florence is exceedingly popular with Americans: I’m really not exaggerating when I say that I have never met so many Americans in one place outside of the US. A huge love and longing for Florence seems to be integral to the American soul and I can’t say I blame them: Florence embodied every cliché about Old Europe flawlessly – great food, old buildings and stylish fashion – but appeared to do so without feeling like a tourist trap or surrendering its modern spirit which was one of the major reasons why I fell in love with the city.
Appreciating Florence as a young adult was a lot easier than as a young teenager. For one, I obviously had seen a lot more places in the previous ten years that I could compare the experience to and so the beauty of Florence just really stood out. But since I had also become a lot smarter since I was thirteen years old (or at least I hope so!), it was also much easier to appreciate the importance Florence had had for the development of modern Europe: As the birthplace of the Renaissance, it certainly didn’t feel too presumptous to say that the progression from the Dark to the Modern Ages had its root in the streets of Florence.
The history of Florence was tangible in the air we breathed, the cobblestones we walked over and the monuments we visited and every corner and every alleyway seemed to hold another treasure. Broad boulevards lined with high-end fashion stores were next to little streets with even smaller sandwich shops, wide squares were bustling with both fancy cafés and selfie-stick sellers and the ban on cars in the city center ensured that Florence felt busy rather than chaotic.
Florence really was like no other place I had ever visited: It was old, but not antiquated; touristy, but not kitschy and it had enraptured me long before I even boarded the flight to Italy. Florence was one of those few places that more than lived up to its enchanting image, that pierced itself deeply in your soul if you let it and that I was sorry to let go when I had to leave.
Looking through the ridiculous amount of photographs I took in Florence in preparation for this post leaves me feeling like I am looking at the memories of another person. It hasn’t even been two weeks since our plane has taken off in Pisa and yet it feels as if I have visited Florence in another life. But for me, these are the best kind of travel experiences: The times when you live so intensely and feel so strongly that surely the memories can’t be your own.
I’m going to write separate posts on all the things we did and ate another day, but for now I hope you enjoyed this first compilations of photographs and thoughts on Florence! There is so much to write about Florence and too many things will have to go unsaid, but if you only take one piece of advice let it be this: Visit Florence and do so soon!