The smell of orange blossom drifted towards us and in the distance, we could see the steep cypress walk flanked by antique statues as we sat in the shade admiring the nautical scene of the Isolotto.
The Isolotto Basin in the Boboli Gardens
Sitting at the lower level of the Boboli Gardens, the Isolotto is a small island that contains the fountain Oceanus in its centre. Originally laid out for Cosimo I de Medici and his wife Eleonora di Toledo in the 1500s the gardens gained the Isolotto adornment seventy years later when it was added in 1618. The garden gained such a reputation that parts of it were used as inspiration for Versailles. The section of the garden directly behind the palace it adjoins takes you through an amphitheatre decorated by even more statues and a giant Egyptian obelisk that came direct from Luxor in 1789. The Boboli Garden's status as an outdoor museum is truly deserved.
The Ponte Vecchio
Painted in ochres and mustards, the Ponte Vecchio is one of the last Medieval bridges to still have a thriving community living on it. Underneath flows the river Arno while all day and into the evening a line of jewellery shops tempt the throng of tourists to buy pretty trinkets. Overhead a private walkway remains silent in contrast to the bustle going on underneath. Called the Vasari Corridor it was built in 1565 to provide safe passage to Cosimo I de Medici across the city without fear of assassination. The entrance to it is hidden behind an unmarked door in the Uffizi Gallery and it is closed to the general public, despite it containing an art gallery of 16th and 17th century paintings.
Il Primo - The Bruschetta
Bruschetta may be an old favourite back in Blighty but try this dish in Florence and I promise, tomatoes have never tasted so good. It may only be a simple starter of toasted bread, rubbed with garlic and soaked in freshly pressed olive oil with tomatoes on top, but the tomatoes are so ripe and rich with flavour that they glisten like bright red jewels. You can find this dish everywhere you go although this particular plate was from a restaurant in the Piazza Republicca.
Galleria Palatina in the Pitti Palace
Never have I seen such opulence. One of my favourite words, hyperkulturemia means to feel overwhelmed by art, a term that originated in reference to Florence. Understandable when you think there are more works of art per square mile than anywhere else in the world. The word for me also aptly applies to the Palazzo alone. The former palace of the Medicis, then the Dukes of Lorraine and for a short while Napoleon, it is home to the largest collection of Titians and Raphaels in existence. In each of the 28 rooms every surface is covered in decoration, from the ceilings, to the walls to the carpet on the floor. My favourite items included an enormous gilded mirror, a simple statue of la vittoria by Consani and an ornately painted vase. I also loved the fragments of clothing worn by Cosimo and Eleonora in the costume museum.
Santa Maria del Fiore and Brunelleschi's Duomo
The greatest view of all, perhaps was of the Santa Maria del Fiore and Brunelleschi's Duomo. Our first view of it I've already mentioned in my last blog post, where we had a room without a view but found a beautiful roof terrace to make up for it instead. On our first evening in Florence we went out to explore the city and we knew from our visit to the roof terrace that the dome was close. Outside we walked along streets, looking up at the beautiful buildings and within minutes we found ourselves in the square looking at the front of the dome. I couldn't believe how colourful it looked. I thought I knew what Brunelleschi's dome looked like and yet the amount of patterned marble and delicate carvings still took me by surprise. The size of it towering above us and the workmanship of the detailed carvings on the front was quite stunning.