Florid Florence has long been catnip for the tourists, its gilded streets and buildings a fecund wellspring of Renaissance glory that have bewitched and astonished visitors for centuries. So much of the city’s great art lines its streets, the Florentine exhibitionist impulse making wandering so elating, like a tour around a large open-air gallery. Nowhere is this more the case than in the city’s sculptures – wherever you choose to walk in Florence, you won’t be alone, the creations of the Renaissance masters looking down on your progress, their virtuosity and expressiveness undimmed by the centuries. The Piazza della Signoria is ground zero for statuary, with, among others, its exact replica of Michelangelo's David, Ammannati’s exquisite Neptune's Fountain, Giambologna’s bronze Cosimo Medicistaring at you from his horse, and the Loggia Dei Lanzi’s violent masterpieces. But the Boboli Gardens makes for a peaceful alternative, with sculptures lining its elegant paths, and the water statues of Lorenzi’s Neptune and Giambologna’s Perseus particularly eye-catching.
So much of what makes Florence an intoxicating city to explore lies behind closed doors – the Uffizi Gallery truly deserves its ‘unmissable’ tag, palazzos confetti-ed all around the city; the unsurpassable Duomo. So here’s a city highlight for free: grab a gelato, head down to the River Arno for sunset and gaze upon the Ponte Vecchio. The medieval construction is famed for the buildings that line it, many of which are nowadays jewellers, all topped by the Vasari Corridor, an aerial passageway that connects the Palazzo Pitti and the Uffizi (and which was used for meetings between Hitler and Mussolini). Glowing a rich evening gold in the evening light, as night settles the bridge’s reflection twinkles in the darkening Arno. After you’ve walked the Ponte Vecchio, take your time looking upon it and you’ll swear you’ve just clapped eyes on the world’s most striking city bridge. And you may be right.
A 16th century Florentine chef is credited with inventing ice cream, so it would be churlish to visit the Italian city without indulging just a little. Our tip: look out for Produzione Propria and gelato fatto en casa – both meanhomemade ice cream, even a large portion of which can still leave you wanting more. Lemon and melon are both perennial favourites, while pistachio and hazelnut are both worth exploring. Indeed, after tasting one flavour, you may wisely decide that the best approach would be to order a few more, just for comparison’s sake. So grab another cone or coppa, then feast before the summer sun melts it. Delicious.