10 December 2016

 
All the sights of Florence are just a stroll away
A Florentine fling
James Coney leaves the kids behind for a quick Italian escape just for grown-ups
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most parents know, you love your children that bit more if you can spend some time without them. Our boys are aged three and one. We've given up going anywhere quiet or anywhere with expensive breakables and sharp edges. So a weekend in Florence was what we – and by we, I mostly mean Mrs C – needed as a break from domesticity. The Tuscan city brims with artworks, museums, churches and markets – all packed into less than a square mile. You can see an awful lot in a short time.

Our trip took in the main gallery, the Uffizi, some churches, a lot of shopping and Italian food at its best. The Uffizi can be overwhelming. You could lose a day wandering from room to room staring at the paintings by Da Vinci, Caravaggio, the Roman statues and delicate frescos. But for me, the Ponte Vecchio bridge is the star. Even the Nazis appreciated its wonder.
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The famous Ponte Vecchio
'Look, isn't that the building where the detective was murdered by Lecter in the film Hannibal?' I exclaimed as we stumbled into the Piazza della Signoria and spied the red-brick tower of the Palazzo Vecchio. It was also the site of the Bonfire Of The Vanities, where thousands of books and paintings were destroyed in the 15th-century purge, when they were declared sinful. Best of all, we were able to gaze at the bridge from the Hotel Lungarno, owned by the famous shoe-making Ferragamo family, and our base for the weekend.

As we toured the streets we feasted on deep-fried arancini (rice balls) and calzone (folded pizza) bought from market stalls. One lunchtime we stumbled across Da Nerbone, a food booth which has been in the central market for 150 years. Traders queue for the simple hearty dishes. Florence is where retail meets the Renaissance, modern Italian fashion rubbing shoulders with its classic design past. Thankfully, as we gawped through the windows of Prada, Gucci and Armani, Mrs C's sense of practicality triumphed. 'I couldn't wear those at a soft play centre,' she said. So we headed off to buy a Ponte Vecchio snow-shaker for the boys.

Original article published in Feb 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.
When they retreated north at the end of the war, they destroyed each of Florence's other routes across the river but left this one untouched. Built in the 14th century, it is lined with three-storey shops which jut over the edges. We crossed it over and over again en route from one ancient relic to another.
Enjoy an aperitif in a Florentine piazza
"Florence is where retail meets the Renaissance, modern Italian fashion rubbing shoulders with its classic design past."
 
 
 
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