As newly arrived residents of Florence, some friends and I decided to do a self-guided walking tour one of us had found in a travel guidebook. We wanted to get a sense of what the city was like and start to learn how to get around the popular spots without feeling so lost.
We started at Piazza della Repubblica, a city square with a merry-go-round and where many street-artists and musicians perform. From there we walked to the Mercato Nuovo, a small outdoor leather goods and clothing market, and took a peek through the different stalls. On the other side of the square there was a big bronze statue of a wild boar. It is a popular tourist site and good luck if you rub the boar’s nose!
We then made our way past Davanzati Palace (Palazzo), with its magnificent, large studded doors, and Chiesa di Santa Trinita, that has some interesting frescoes inside. The unexpected highlight of the trip was the Legatoria Alberto Cozzi, a shop that does paper marbling and leather book binding. The shop keeper, Alberto Cozzi, gave us a free demonstration of how he marbles the paper and leather. First he lays down the inks on a solution of water and algae that takes three days to make. He then uses several tools to different patterns in the ink. The algae solution is thick enough that the paper or leather can be placed on top of the surface to transfer the ink. The shop is a family business that involves brothers, sisters, and cousins and has been passed down for generations!
We also checked out some of the fancy retail stores and boutiques along Via de’ Tornabuoni, such as Moschino, Valentino, and the flagship location of Salvatore Ferragamo.
After the tour, we decided to cap off our exploration of the city with a walk up to Piazza Michelangelo to watch the sunset. The piazza is located on a hill about a 20 minute walk outside of the historic center and is a great place to look out at the whole city of Florence. First, we went to the local supermarket and bought some fresh bread and brie cheese to bring up with us, and then started our walk up the steps to the piazza. Upon arriving, we were greeted by an absolutely stunning view of the city from above and a blazing sunset sky. After taking photos of the view and of each other (of course), we sat down among the crowd of people on the piazza steps to watch the sun set over Florence while enjoying our snack.
On the way down from the piazza, we stumbled upon a rustic looking restaurant called I Tarocchi Ristorante near the Ponte all Grazie. The food was amazing, and we ate, talked, and just enjoyed the beautiful ambience. Later we met up with some friends at Ponte Santa Trinita to grab some gelato, as is customary in Italy. We sat on the bridge and tried each other’s unique flavors, such as peanut+chocolate, sesame seed, and Italian cream.
Just like the gelato flavors, I felt like I got a great first taste of Florence’s treasures. I’m already falling in love with Florence and the way of life here in Italy.