This was not the first time we had been to Firenze and hopefully not the last. But this time we were at first a little disappointed but then surprised.
Florence is a beautiful City that is famous for the art collections paid for by the renaissance nobility. The most famous family of patrons was the Medici who used the fortune they amassed through banking and commerce to exert significant influence over politics religion and and culture. Nothing new there!
Today, the legacy of this family is state owned and operated museums such as the Uffizi Museum and the Pitti Palace, and a slew of high end retail outlets many of who will survive on very wealthy tourists that spend up big. The architecture is also a major draw card and a steady stream of tourists (2.1M in 2021) including a constant 15,000 art students at any one time, provide the city with a bustle and energy that comes with the chaos of internationally popular destinations.
This time for us the experience of Florence was less than optimal. “Wall to wall” tourists didn’t help the feeling that this place is bursting at the seems. Sure, there were lots of people and we have been to India so we know what that’s like, BUT this is NOT India. Queues to enter galleries and understandably slow service for gelato on a hot day didn’t endear us to our surroundings.
Nevertheless we quelled our sense of disquiet with visits to some old haunts and discovering some new.
We stayed in Via Romana, one of the main streets that will eventually take you past the Pitti Palace all the way to the much loved and photogenic Ponte Vecchio. We went over the Ponte twice...that was enough to remind me of India. After that we went by Via Mazetta to Piazza Santo Spirito for lunch and to visit artisan restorers, Leonardo and Tiziana Cappelini who are Autentiqua, art restorers and artists and then Anna Antonini of Studiopuck.art.
In via Romana before the Palace we came upon a small shop front gallery with fantasy realist art in the window. We met the artist Giovanni Lopez working in the back room and chatted about his work. What a pleasure!
In this way, by avoiding the throng, we made new acquaintances , met artists making art and felt more connected with Firenze.
Certainly the weather was a factor and choosing a different time of year would help if the museums are on your list. So April-May and October- November are better times, but probably this is no secret!
So, if this was a first time trip or even a second or third time to Italy and you want to experience a Tuscan City, without the hordes, we recommend the historic city of Lucca before Firenze.
Lucca is known for its well preserved renaissance tree lined walls that encircle the city. They are very popular but can be easily walked or cycled around in comfort and are great for the early mornings. Art, architecture and food in Lucca are also very highly rated. We will visit Lucca again soon.