By: Gia Dubey
“Buongiorno Bella! Dove vuoi andare?” He asked the girl who wore high heels, a fur jacket, seemingly baffled. I don’t speak Italian, she said, with a gleaming smile and sparkling eyes. “Scusa mi signora, where do you want to go?” He continued in his strong Italian accent. Via Minima is where I had to go and that’s all I knew of Firenze (Florence) and of course, I had almost seen all Tuscan Movies before packing my bags.
“You are beautiful,” he said. I was here, in Italy, where everyone appreciated beauty. I could feel the sun on my face and the beginning of a wonderful journey. As he drove me around, the city looked like a beautiful movie. I sat there waiting to see the magnificent David, Duomo and fantasizing about gelato. On the way, we crossed Arno and I could already imagine myself sitting by the river with a glass of wine.
The very next moment, we stopped in front of a beautiful Italian villa (the place I booked to stay in for the year). A young lady opened the door and gave me a warm hug, I could already feel the connection. She was Natasha. Natasha introduced me to the four guys who I was supposed to share the Villa with. They were typical Italians ““ didn’t speak english, damn! Well, that is just the beginning of my love story with the city.
It was my first night in Firenze and New Year’s Eve already. I was invited by Natasha for an aperitivo and of course I wouldn’t have refused. We decided to walk to the city center and on our way we picked up some dessert and a glass of prosecco. I could see fountains in the piazza, adults relishing gelato, guys in vespas and people screaming auguri to each other (which meant have a good time’).
Italians are very social people. So don’t get offended if you see strangers trying to talk to you or showering compliments. That night, we ended up going to some crazy underground pubs.
One of which was Tabasco located in the heart of Florence minutes from the Piazza Signoria which is one of the most famous clubs in all of Italy. It is renowned for its controversial opening. It is the first bar in Italy to open its doors to the gay community. We danced the night away to the beats of famous Italian DJs. The most bohemian area is the Oltrarno to the south of the river. Otherwise, nightlife is concentrated around Piazza della Signoria.
The next morning I was a little hungover but no, I couldn’t wait another day to see the city. I started my day with strong Italian espresso, took my map and started walking. Well, if you are a big fashion fanatic like me, you should definitely visit Via Tornabuoni. It’s the main street where you would find Armani, Gucci, Versace, Coveri, Ferragamo and others.
The next stop, The Galleria Dell Accademia, battling the snake queue to see Michelangelo’s David statue.
As I walked on, I expected a long process of looking at different statues and works of art before even getting near this masterpiece. But as I entered, there he was! It was bigger than I had expected. It was fascinating to see it for real. Beware when entering the Accademia, you are not allowed to take any photographs with David or of David. The minute your camera comes out, a gang of old ladies come over to yell at you and make you to put it away. Well, I am not good with rules. I did manage getting some beautiful pictures of him from my cellphone on a quiet.
It was afternoon. I went to the roof terrace that overlooked Brunelleschi’s iconic Duomo in the distance. I had my first perfect Tuscan meal with a great view. After relaxing for a bit, I strolled through Piazza della Signoria and treated myself with some vino and spent the entire afternoon at the museum admiring everything from Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus to famous works of Michelangelo, Giotto, da Vinci, and Raphael.
My plan was to reach Piazelle Michelangelo to see the sunset. It is one of my favourite places in the world. The square is famous for its panoramic view of the city. It was breathtaking ““ the Duomo rising from the city and the hills in the background.
After my perfect evening, I headed to the Piazza near my house, invited a few friends over to Volume the Bar with an Artisan’s Soul. Owned by a very cool man named Neri, there was just something about the place that drew me in immediately. As I entered the place, one word to my mind is cool. I don’t mean a bunch of youngsters but the artsy ambience. The live concert was a perfect for this awesome day.
As the day was coming to a closure, I decided to take a walk with my friends by the Arno with some vino. I spent most of the night wandering aimlessly around the small cobbled stone streets in the serene atmosphere.
This was just the first night. I had many more crazy nights in Firenze which made me want to stay in the city forever.
Tips if you plan to live in Florence:
- Learn Italian, they don’t like speaking English
- Keep your bicycle in your room or they will take it away
- Do make it a point to go to Gusta Piazza in Santo Spirito
- Visit Central Park, 4Leoni, Space, Voulme, Rex, Sei Divino
- Sign up for Couch Surfing (you get to meet many locals)
- And lastly enjoy the wine!