One thing about the joy of living in London is the extremely easy and quick access to anywhere in Europe. So earlier in late september, I decided on a very spontaneous moment to get away from London for a good 3 days, and on a very last minute decision, I picked Florence, Italy.

I’ve been to Florence few times when I was young, but I was too young to fully understand the art, culture, history and heritage of the beautiful city. I do remember it as a very beautiful and romantic city, so I decided to detach from everyone and everything, and went on a mini detox for 3 days. In less than 3 hours’ time I had arrived my first hotel (Grand Hotel Baglioni, which I will write a bit about it in my later post).  Getting to the city center from the Florence Airport was also easier than I thought- there is a bus to downtown, and it is a direct bus to Santa Maria Novella train station which situates in the city center. Single journey only costs 6euros- and it only takes roughly 20 minutes! Since my room wasn’t ready when I checked in, so I decided to take a walk around and come back at a later time for a little rest.

Even it’s not the first time I travel alone, I’ve had family and friends expressing concern about my solo adventure in Italy, which I do agree that there is always a certain level of potential risks and danger to go anywhere alone, regardless of gender. But my take on this is, there is always 2 sides on a coin, even the safest place can be dangerous, so I believe as long as anyone who goes solo just follow the common sense of keeping your properties safe, staying on well-lit and main roads, be vigilant and staying alert..and bring your brain with your heart…that should be good enough to stay away from troubles.

IMG_2042

Anyway, Florence is a very small city, it is easily walked around and it is indeed very safe. At the first glance of the map, it looks complicated with so many roads pointing to different areas, in fact, once you’ve identified a main landmark (such as the Duomo, or the Palazzo Vecchio), use it as your orientation point to navigate. Within 20 mins you can easily walk from the main train station (Santa Novella Maria station) to the other side of the river and reaching Ponte Vecchio. It is in fact so easy to walk around that in less than an hour’s walk around the city center, I didn’t need the map or google map anymore unless I have a very specific place I need to locate, otherwise, the chance of getting lost in the city is really low. In fact by the evening of the first day, my mobile data ran out and I just walked randomly following my heart, as long as you get the direction right, you reach your destination within 20mins of walking.
IMG_1830

Duomo – you cannot miss this no matter where you are at in the city.
Proper name is actually : The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore ( “Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower “), one of the largest’ churches in Italy, and one of the signature landmarks of Florence, Italy. Originally called Il Duomo di Firenze begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the church is covered with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris. The beauty of this church is breath-taking and the art and sculpture is just beyond. Photos cant really show how magnificent they really are. Everytime I visit the basilica I just stood there and stare at it admiring for as long as my neck can stand. One thing I still haven’t done though, is to climb up the tower and the dome for a different view on the top of the city- that gives me a reason to revisit again later.

IMG_1718
IMG_1807
IMG_1808
IMG_1729

IMG_1207-2

 

Before walking towards the Duomo, I actually accidentally walked to San Lorenzo market and went into the Central Market (food market) inside the outdoor market. San Lorenzo market is an outdoor market in Florence where they sells lots of leather goods (think Jardin’s cresent or temple street in HK!), it is fun to walk around, but none of the stalls drew my attention. The area is filled with leather shops, I went to one and didn’t see anything I like, so I left. But if you wanted to look for genuine made in italy leather, do check it out in that area.
IMG_1087
IMG_1086
IMG_1085

The real joy began when I walked into the Central Market.. a 2-level food market mainly for locals, there you can find almost anything you can or cannot think of that general Italians will buy- from flowers to food. On the first floor it is like a grocery market, on the second floor they had recently renovated and reopened in May this year to become a modern food court style open space, where you can have a taste of authentic fresh italian food and a little supermarket with a fine selection of Italian products. I had no idea how much time I’ve spent in there but I definitely knew I wanted everything!!

IMG_1121
IMG_1110
IMG_1163
IMG_1160
IMG_1133
IMG_1107
IMG_1705
IMG_1711

After a day of wandering around the city, my legs are so soared that I needed to sit down for a little break…

what’s better than having a GELATO in Florence..Grom Gelato is one of the best home-made gelato in Italy, need I say more…IMG_1731

Continued wandering around, I found myself at the front of Palazzo Vecchio (the town hall of florence and a museum with rich heritage), which is next to Uffizi Gallery and overlooking Piazza Della Signoria where a copy of the David statue stands, adjacent to the Loggia dei Lanzi, one of the most significant public spaces in Italy.

IMG_1753-2
IMG_1746
IMG_1756
IMG_1764

IMG_1527-1

(forgive my camera shake…)
IMG_2022

Vasari’s Corridor, connecting Palazzo Vecchio to Uffizi Gallery

IMG_1532-1
IMG_1430-2

few minutes later.. I found myself reaching the riverside and overlooking one of the landmarks of Florence – Ponte Vecchio. It is one of the oldest medieval bridge that has been built during as far back as 996! Rebuilt in 1345, it is one of the most visited places in Italy that connects the narrowest point of the River Arno.

IMG_1859
IMG_1802

Behind Ponte Vecchio on the other side of the river, there are few streets that are quite interesting to look at, it is also where the Palazzo Pitti is located. Back on this main historic city center side, I stumbled upon a pizza place that is so good, and it is instantly made in front of you after odering, in 3 mins’ time a freshly baked pizza is ready!

IMG_2048

IMG_2044

IMG_2049
Ponte Vecchio at night..

IMG_1649

 

View of Ponte Vecchio from Piazza Michelangelo
IMG_1612-1

 

Buonasera Firenze..Grazie.

and yes.. all photos taken by me. thats why they are a bit wonky..