The Birth of Venus, David, San Minato Al Monte…Victoria Cotman gives us Five Florence Favourites (health warning: may cause Stendhal Syndrome*)
Ok, you knew that – and for good reason! Its pink and green Florentine marble design makes it one of the most exquisite and elaborate buildings in the world. Like a giant fairy cake! And I do mean giant. You’ll never capture it in one photo – but don’t let that stop you trying.
Potentially the most colourful church – ever – Santa Croce was once entirely hand painted. Sadly, many of the 13th and 14th century frescos were damaged in a flood, but enough remains to boggle the mind. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, it’s also the final resting place of many Italian greats like Galileo, Michelangelo…Machiavelli. Still not impressed? Look down – you’ll no doubt be standing on one of the many marble tombs, dating back 500-odd years.
The Galleries: Accademia and Uffizi
The Accademia is home of Michelangelo’s David.
For a piece of art with which we’re all familiar, there’s nothing “been there, done that” about this sculpture. You will wander patiently through the preceding rooms, nod appreciatively at the strange flat faces of 15th Century nobles, until you realise all the paintings look the same and make a break for the main hall – under the dome of which stands David. Prepare yourself. He is beautiful.
Fun fact: Michelangelo was so cheeky – showing off his mad chiselling skills, he left the top of David’s head unhewn to prove he’d used every inch of the marble block.
The Uffizi: pre-book or gird yourself for a two-hour wait. Either way, totally worth it to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and The Spring – they’re everything the post-card industry promised they’d be, and more.
San Minato Al Monte
Yes, you have to go practically vertical to get to it – but! – 1. it has a great view of Florence, and 2. it has monks – actual, robed, chanting monks – with a garden and an apothecary! Also, the bones of St. Minias – if you’re in to that sort of thing. If not, don’t worry – architecturally speaking, this 11th century marble beauty is worth the climb. You might just cry, like I did. Stendhal Syndrome is real!
Gelateria Della Passera
The best gelato in Florence – scratch that – in Italy! Big claim, but I’m sticking to it. One Euro scoop of fresh gelato, made only from seasonal ingredients. If you’re there in Summer, try the margarita flavour. Thank me later.
*Stendhal Syndrome, or Florence Syndrome, is a psychosomatic condition caused by over exposure to art. Symptoms include: rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting and confusion.