Of all the Italian cities I’ve visited, Florence is the one that has been slowest to capture my heart. Richard and I came to Italy shortly after we were married, spending almost a month, clocking nearly 3000 km on our small rented car. Back then Florence was much more indifferent to tourists, less willing to show the warm generosity of spirit that seems innate to all Italians.
But piano piano - slowly slowly - with each successive visit, the city reveals itself. Shunning modernity, proudly still Italy’s cultural capital if not its commercial one, the city is reflected in its citizens. Quick witted, practical and a bit self-deprecating, the pride of the de Medicis and the city’s glorious past are present in every Florentine, and even those not born there seem to have a bit of Dante, Leonardo and Machiavelli running through their veins.
We’d “done” the sights on previous visits – the David, the Uffizi, the Pitti Palace – of course the Duomo, climbing every one of those 463 stairs to the top. I can remember the first time I saw that enormous Duomo many years ago, and the sight of it still amazes me. It seems impossibly big, the buildings that surround it appearing almost superimposed against the rich red stone.
We started right in our own backyard - or in this case, our own 15th century palazzo, the place we would call home for a few precious days. The Four Seasons hotel in Florence, barely open two years, is a perfectly placed jewel in the city's centre, just 15 minutes from the Duomo. Set in the largest private garden in Florence, the hotel is both palace and cozy retreat, filled with staff that are warm, friendly and welcoming, and - best of all - a chef that is passionate about food.
That lunch was the perfect way to start our Italian eating adventures. Next chapter....watching the World Cup with thirteen hunchbacks; snacking Italian-style for lunch and devouring pasta with four lions.