If the five senses are the root of pleasure, then there is no place more pleasurable than Florence. Tuscany’s capital is dripping with architectural charm, illustrious art, old crafts, fine fashion and locals that are as fiery as they are friendly. Florence stands in the folds of the Tuscan Hills, a rolling patchwork of cypress trees and isolated farmhouses, while the sprawling River Arno cuts through the city. Good food and wine is at the centre of it all, with a cuisine that celebrates the fruits of the land – a colourful array of ingredients and a restaurant scene that champions brand new ideas as much as the tried and tested recipes of the past. For Florentines, every meal is a celebration, as small or extravagant as the mood takes them. Eating is an act of celebration; a feast of flavour, friends and lashings of wine.
By day, crowds flock the city centre to see works of the world’s greatest masters - Michelangelo, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, da Vinci, Raphael - and gawp at the treasures of the Ponte Vecchio’s jewellery shops, while locals gather around tables to gossip and share carafes of red wine while their manicured dogs snooze at their feet. As evening draws near, the last of the sunlight is thrown against the city’s houses and churches, which are the colour of lemons, tangerines and peaches. People climb into the surrounding hills to watch the whole city turn gold in the evening sunlight, the gleaming dome of the Duomo at the centre of it all. By night, the city sizzles as glasses clink, aperitivos are snapped up and the piazza’s fill with music and al fresco diners. Florence is a small city, easily scaled in less than four hours. Florentines never seem to be in a rush; they get around by foot and bicycle, or on their beloved Vespas, which can often be found leaning against a cobbled wall as its owner perches at a counter sipping espresso. Time pressure is all but non-existent in Florence, and visitors can find themselves sliding happily into its relaxed rhythm. In warmer months, the city turns its attention outdoors. People line the Arno’s bridges, dangling their legs over the calm water; the doors of the ‘antica’s (old cafes) are thrown open, and the endless gardens bloom with wild flowers and fragrant herbs.
There is a well-known phrase in Italian, a mindset that courses through the country’s bloodstream. Dolce Far Niente – ‘the sweetness of nothing’. This encapsulates an essential part of Italy’s personality; the idea that moments of simple, slow pleasure are the basis of a good life. A moment in a square reading a book, a glass of ice-cold grappa at the end of a meal, a lazy morning under the covers; Dolce Far Niente is about guiltless joy. And nowhere embraces this mentality more than Florence. Perhaps that is why in stays in the hearts of everyone who visits, leaving visitors glowing. With slow, indulgent joy at the forefront of our minds, we took a trip to Florence to discover the sensory delights of this small but exquisite city.