Ciao for now

Yesterday, our last day in Italy, we left the city of Florence and headed out into the countryside for a night of four star luxury at the Hotel Mulino di Firenze. 

A five kilometre drive out of the centre, the hotel felt just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of city life to allow us to completely unwind, yet also near enough to be convenient for today’s departure (sob) to the airport for our flight back to London.
The Mulino couldn’t be much better situated, with many of its 35 bedrooms – ours included, thanks to an upgrade due to a mix up with our hotel shuttle booking – directly overlooking the beautiful River Arno. The hotel is built around a restored water mill, with the mill itself integrated into the glorious swimming pool. 
We spent the afternoon lazing by the pool, and in the evening played cards on the upstairs veranda looking out over the traditional Tuscan landscape, before eating dinner on the hotel restaurant’s frankly stunning terrace, where we had an unrestricted view of one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever witnessed.
When the time came to leave this morning my heart felt heavy; after an eight year absence Italy had worked its magic on me and seeped back into the very core of my existence. But instead of being sad to be back I’m determined to remember every sight, sound and smell I’ve encountered in the last week, and to make sure next time I don’t leave it so long to return to the country that I love so much.

Firenze, Ti amo

Yesterday began in somewhat of a rush, after a miscommunication regarding the start time of our visit to the Medici tombs (which I can’t deny may have had something to do with the slightly excessive alcohol consumption the previous night). Nonetheless, after the initial panic things were swiftly back on track, and after a salad lunch on the terrace and an afternoon rest and market browse (where some scumbag vendor tried to fleece us out of 15 Euros-not so fast sunshine) we were ready to enjoy our final evening in central Florence.

A tip for anyone visiting Florence is to pre-book tickets for the famous Uffizi art gallery one or even two days before you plan to visit, as this will mean avoiding the huge queues on the day. The gallery is well worth a look around, being full of treasures such as Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. It’s well organised, air conditioned and has some of the best vantage points along its numerous corridors and terraces to enjoy unrestricted views of the Arno river, Duomo and town hall.
After two hours spent wandering around the Uffizi-the only mild irritation being the hordes of tourists and tour guides passing through the halls-we went back to the restaurant where we’d dined on our first night for one last plate of mixed grilled meats, which we followed up with one last gelato at Vivoli  ice cream parlour (when we walked past it earlier in the day the queue was right down the street, but by 10pm it was virtually empty) – if you ever get a chance to sample its delights the coconut ice cream comes highly recommended.
As we strolled back past the hugely impressive Pizza del Duomo I took one last look around at the city I first fell in love with as a six year old, and it felt as magical in that moment as it felt all those years ago.

Touristic endeavours

Yesterday we had a day of tourist endeavours, visiting the famous Medici family’s palace and a Dominican monastery in the morning and the church of Santa Croce in the afternoon. 
I’ve always been particularly fascinated by the story of a monk called Savonorola, who lived in Florence in the time of the Medici family and who urged the citizens of Florence to cast off their frippery and trappings of wealth in favour of a more humble lifestyle. He ruled for four years before eventually being burned at the stake for being a heretic, which I suppose goes to show how quickly a person’s fortunes can turn for the worse!
After completing our cultural pursuits for the day we took a stroll around the leather market and made a few purchases before heading back to the apartment. In the evening we went back to my favourite restaurant, Il Borgo Antico, in Piazza San Spirito before catching the end of a stunning performance of a huge brass band in the main square over a bottle of chilled Pinot Grigio.
I can’t believe our time in Florence is nearly at an end, when it feels as though it’s only just begun. But one thing is for sure: This time I won’t be leaving it another eight years until I return.

Lazy days

I can’t believe it’s Thursday already-it’s true what they say about time passing quickly when you’re having fun. Holidays are such an important opportunity to unwind and recuperate from the stressors of “real” life. They give the body and mind a much needed break and a chance to more fully live in and appreciate the present moment. 

Holidays are also often a time when we throw caution to the wind and overindulge ourselves, and nowhere is that easier to do than Italy, where there’s gelato, wine and pizza at virtually every turn.
Yesterday we had a lazy morning before visiting one of my favourite places in Florence-the covered market. Under its vast roof lie a multitude of delicious foodstuffs. But what I love even more than the food are the cheerful vendors. It always helps to bring my Italian flooding back when I attempt to engage in pigeon Italian conversation with them, selecting cured meats and cheeses. 
After buying ingredients for dinner we walked over the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge to Santo Spirito square, where my favourite restaurant in all of Florence is located-Il Borgo Antico. After dreaming of their legendary white pizza for 8 years I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint, and afterwards we took a traditional Italian gelato to accompany a post-lunch laze in the stunning Boboli Gardens in the grounds of the Pitti Palace.
In the evening we prepared a four course feast and dined on the roof of our gorgeous apartment, which is so centrally located the Duomo is virtually within touching distance. There’s something magical about being located so high up above this bustling city, being able to look out across the tops of the buildings and have a bird’s eye view. Being back here after so many years is more than just a pleasure-it’s a thrill.