The Golden Hour (thanks to Sanctuare Press for bringing that term to my attention): the time just after dawn or before sunset when the light is at its best. When you visit Florence, you will probably have many sunsets but how many dawns will you see? I know, I know, you are on holiday and getting up early is the last thing you probably want to do but it will be worth it. Firstly, the place is practically deserted. If you want Florence to yourself, this will be your best chance. You can get great photos around all of the landmarks with just you in them. This simply doesn’t happen any other time. Plus, you will really appreciate your cup of coffee after your dawn stroll. So, set your alarm clock just for one day and see Florence as it once was; you won’t regret it!
Bardini Gardens reopened in 2005 after being allowed to fall into disrepair over 50 years. It sits on a 10-acre site which houses the Gardens and also the Villa Bardini. There is a sweeping baroque stairway, hidden statues, fountains, grottoes, a small amphitheatre though most tourists will be here for the breathtaking views over the city of Florence.
Giardino Bardini was originally two gardens, one belonging to the Mozzi family. They owned a stretch of Florence between Costa San Giorgio, Piazza de’Mozzi and Via San Niccolò. The the other half of the gardens was attached to the 17th century Villa Manadora.
Flip Florence took an outing with the 500 Touring club earlier in the Summer, taking all 6 of their classic cinquecento cars into the countryside of Tuscany. There was local Chianti wine with lunch by the poolside of a beautiful villa in the Tuscan countryside and time to chill out before setting off back to Florence. This has to be the best Florence Tour if you are looking for a day trip out of the city.
They have a selection of tours of Florence, from just a couple of hours to experience the vintage Fiat 500 in its natural habitat to a full day with wine tasting (local Chianti of course!) food and a stop off for photos in Piazzale Michelangelo. Check out their blog for more information on which tours of Florence or Tuscany you can choose from;
This restaurant is just off Piazzale Michelangelo on Via Galileo in Florence and has lovely views of the hills and large houses on the Southern outskirts of the city. It’s slightly more expensive than restaurants in town for the food (a standard pizza is €3 or €4 more than in town) but it’s worth it for the view and location. I’d avoid the soft drinks at €6 each though as that’s a bit steep even for Florence tourist-central.
You can exit the restaurant, turn left and then walk down the steps almost immediately on your left and they will take you down to the heart of San Niccolo. Keep going towards the gate and just before you reach it, there is the Bar “Fuori Porta” or Outside the Gate; perfect for an after lunch/dinner drink!
The Lantern Festival (or Festa della Rificolona) of Florence is a true family event in the Florentine calendar. The colourful lanterns, lit by candles are carried from Piazza Santa Croce, past the Duomo to Piazza Santissima Annunziata. The centuries-old tradition to celebrate the Festa della Madonna which is tomorrow is continued with modern enthusiasm and the addition of vans selling sweets for young and old alike. Many of the lanterns are traditional with the purple colour of Florence, other less so. Unless “Hello Kitty” has a Florentine history I’m unaware of. Not only do the kids get to carry real fire, they also use blowpipes to try to puncture the lanterns, or take out their mother’s eye depending on how much candy floss/cotton candy they’ve eaten.
At 414 steps, the climb to the top of Giotto’s famous Bell Tower (Campanile in Italian) probably shouldn’t have been undertaken at 12:30 in the afternoon, in August. But the queue for Santa Maria Del Fiore and the famous cupola was massive (take note; early morning, it opens at 10, or late afternoon are better unless you book a tour which lets you skip the queue) and I wanted to make a Flip Florence Video with a panoramic view of the centre of Florence. I needn’t have worried as there are 3 stops on the way up which offer gradually more spectacular views. Be aware that although it doesn’t appear in most of the video, there are wire grids covering the apertures which can make photos less impressive.
There’s an interesting trick of perspective going on with the Campanile which is almost as good as David’s wonky eyes. The three top levels of the Campanile (which were designed by Francesco Talenti not Giotto) are not the same size so that they appear to be the same size. Follow? Each of the three is larger to give the illusion from ground level that they are in fact the same size. Plus, you can thank Francesco for not following orders not building the spire that Giotto had planned. With it, the tower would have been higher (by 120m) but would have been lacking the flat observation deck from which some of this video is taken.
The history of Giotto’s Campanile, like most Italian monuments is a long one. The Campanile was not even planned until 30 years after the death of the first Master of the Works of the Cathedral, Arnolfo di Cambio. At this time Giotto was a not-too-spritely 67 (this was 1334, remember) but he set about planning a great tower to accompany the main cathedral. Unfortunately (not for Francesco), Giotto died three years later having only finished the lower floor – just be grateful he wasn’t fitting your bathroom. In Giotto’s place, Andrea Pisano (he did the bronze door on the south side of the Baptistry; it took him 6 years) was appointed and he followed Giotto’s design exactly until the Black Death arrived in 1348. This was Francesco’s chance and he completed the campanile to his own specifications in 1358. 24 years after Giotto first put pen to paper, or quill to parchment.