We decided to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary in Florence, a city that made a bad first impression many years ago but that we've since learnt to love.
Our first visit to Florence was way back in the last century. We came in by coach for a day trip. The city was crowded, choked by traffic, plagued by scooter-riding purse snatchers and seemed to us to have an atmosphere of suppressed violence.
We came back about eight years ago when the first phase of the pedestrianisation of the city was underway and found the place transformed. The absence of traffic restored the sense of a medieval city. Now the pedestrian areas are what makes the old town of Florence vital.
We started our celebration visit at thePalazzo Vecchio, in the always vibrant Piazza della Signoria. I love the brutal beauty of the old palace. It speaks of unrepentant power that still reaches for art. I think the statue of David looks great there So what if it's a replica? When you see them in the golden evening light they are compelling.
We spent the next day south of the Arno at the Pitti Palace. a huge castle, originally outside the main town, that the Borgia's acquired and developed and which later became Napoleon's base in Florence.
The palace has sprawling, beautifully landscaped gardens, that offer views across all of Florence and which contain art by just about everyone you've ever heard of, crammed on to the walls of staterooms and anterooms and impress-the-hell-out-of-visiting-dignitaries hallways that give a more realistic context than the Uffizi manages. There's also a combined exhibition of modern costumes and modern art the is incredibly opulent and sensual.
We stayed south of the river for the evening. This is where most of the non-tourist population of Florence lives. The restaurants are more informal, the food is better and the people are relaxed.
We had an excellent couple of days, reminding ourselves of how much pleasure we have always taken in discovering the beauty of old places.