I’ve been to Italy 4 times. I’ve been to Tuscany before, but not to Florence. Travelers have been visiting this small city for a thousand years and it’s been on my wish list for nearly as long.
I arrived by train and I had rented an AirBnB apartment in the Oltrarno neighborhood. Oltrarno, meaning Beyond the Arno, is on the other side of the Arno River from the main historic center. It is less crowded then the Centro Storico, without the crush of street vendors hawking tourist junk and the harried tourists looking for cappuccini. On the block where I stayed was a cute trattoria, a friendly cafe and two little markets where I could get delicious tomatoes and artichokes.
It was very hot and I learned to do what Italians do: take a siesta from 1 to 4 pm in the hottest part of the day. The Italians call it sonnellino pomeridiano. At 4, the shops reopen and commerce begins again.
Evenings are for strolling and everyone makes use of the piazzas and bridges to hang out and socialize. A couple catches a private moment on the Santa Trinita Bridge, with the famous and picturesque Ponte Vecchio in the background.
These couples steal some time at the Piazzale Michelangelo, a popular hilltop park that has the classic view of the city and fills up with hundreds of visitors at sunset. The massive Duomo, the iconic symbol of Florence, towers over the daintier, low rise sprawl of Florence’s Renaissance architecture.