There are so many words that you can use to describe a city like Florence. The only problem is asking yourself, where to start.
It’s been done before sure by people far more eloquent than me, written in books, plays and Instagram captions. Our small Renaissance enclave is known and loved by so many and its always very interesting to get their take on a place we call home.
For me Florence has always been a place of contemplation. Of intense joy and equally as intense aggravation. Centuries of stories are cloaked within the beige stone of its ancient palazzi but what interests me more is what is happening today. What of this evolution of Florence and its people? What keeps them here and keeps beckoning others to arrive? It’s easy to be nostalgic about the good old days but all we have is here, and now. That’s what calls me to this city, being part of the tomorrow. I have been wanting to include this compilation for some time but instead of only including historic citations from the past, I wanted to include the words from people who live here now as well.
Enjoy this love letter (or pissed off lover’s note) from a wide range of figures throughout history, writers and people who live, breathe and adore Florence today.
“For me, Florence is a patient yet austere teacher. She is sometimes responsible for dealing the most brutal of tests to your earnest of aspirations, knocking you down ruthlessly to remind you of humility until you’ve registered it but is there to comfort you in your most human of moments, whether that’s a glimpse of the Duomo from a tiny adorned street, a sunset you thought could only exist in watercolor masterpieces and the melodic chatter of Florentine amongst a mind boggling meal”
Coral Sisk, freelance writer, owner of Curious Appetite Blog & Curated Food Tours, 2019.
“Per me Firenze è casa. Nonostante sia nata e cresciuta qui, Firenze sa sorprendermi, farmi innamorare, stupirmi e ogni tanto pure arrabbiare. Essendo una città turistica non è sempre semplice vivere la vita e gli impegni di tutti i giorni convivendo con l’euforia dei tanti turisti. Però basta passeggiare tra le sue vie la mattina all’alba o nel cuore della notte per sentirla propria, per sentirsi fortunati a vivere una città di una bellezza che ti toglie il fiato, che sa regalarti ispirazione e bellezza. Firenze è quella città che mi manca sempre quando sono lontana.”
Laura Masi, @Ruberry on Instagram and Florentine Travel Blogger
“And when I thought of Florence, it was like a miracle city embalmed and like a corolla, because it was called the city of lilies and its cathedral, St. Mary of the Flowers.”
Marcel Proust, author, Swann’s Way.
“She is a jewel box of a city — packed with treasures, each more beautiful than the last. She is strong and proud. To be able to walk the same streets that some of the world’s most incredible artists and thinkers once walked never ceases to amaze me. But the thing that makes Florence incredible is that it doesn’t rest on its past greatness, it continues to inspire new thinkers and artists. It is a hub for dreamers and doers, for creatives and connoisseurs.”
Tracy Russo, Political Consultant and Photographer, 2019.
“Florence is growing up. Not that the city has ever been young and insecure in modern times, if anything the Tuscan capital was too self-assured and reliant on its Renaissance roots over a decade when I first set foot here. There’s a fervency of contemporary culture that’s astonishing for a place with a population of less than half a million, something that recently led to Florence being rated as top for its creativity and cultural vibrancy by the European Commission. Florence is growing up, and there are growing pains as graffiti, drug crimes and vandalism are on the rise, issues that the city administration strives to address through vigilance with more police on the streets, improved lighting and CCTV cameras. The balance remains positive nonetheless, and I still remain Florence’s devoted servant.”
Helen Farrell, Editor of The Florentine, 2019.
“Florence est pour moi la ville à laquelle je peux tout pardonner. Bien sûr, la ville est magnifique, possède une renommée mondiale, et a réussi à se transformer de manière positive tout en essayant d’accueillir du mieux qu’elle le peut les hordes de touristes qui viennent l’admirer. Mais cela ne me suffirait pas s’il n’y avait que cet aspect-là. En effet, cette ville est dotée d’une énergie qui exacerbe les sentiments : un jour elle peut nous rendre dingue; un autre, on réalise à quel point on est chanceux d’y habiter et l’on est fier d’en parler dès qu’on s’en éloigne. J’y vis depuis plus de 10 ans maintenant et je ne me lasse toujours pas de son charme qui séduit, agace et fascine tout à la fois. Je crois que c’est pour cela que je m’y sens à l’aise, car finalement est incarne une ville tout simplement humaine.”
Nicolas Pradier, Biomedical Engineer, Husband Extraordinaire
“Rejoice, Florence, seeing you are so great that over sea and land you flap your wings, and your name is widely known in Hell!”
“Florence is beautiful, but I resent when it gets painted as being perfect, because really, how boring. Lately, I have been feeling that what keeps me in Florence is depth. Depth of its history, sure, but also the kind of depth its lifestyle, size, daily frustrations, and strange-but-wonderful population all facilitate: depth of feeling—whatever the feeling may be; depth of relationships; depth of time people are inclined to make for each other; depth of knowledge that people have in their given area of expertise, or the depth of information and commentary they’re willing to share even if they are HARDLY an expert; depth of the Spritz glasses that cost 6ish euro instead of 14. And the depth of your capacity for resilience when you get tested by this city, which you often will. Plus, breadth: breadth of people you can meet and types of interactions you can have; breadth of life experience and learning opportunities offered in what is really a small place, all things considered; and breadth of possibilities, even when not readily apparent. I have trouble with surface level anything, and while Florence and its people certainly know a thing or two about external beauty and superficial sheen, if that were the only way to extract meaning and inspiration from this place, I’d have gotten my fill long ago. Yesterday I was reminded of Florence and the begrudgingly celebratory attitude I often have toward it when I heard Joni Mitchell sing “let’s have another round for the bright red devil who keeps me in this tourist town.”
Mary Grey, Freelance Writer & Journalist, 2019.
“Everything about Florence seems to be colored with a mild violet, like diluted wine.”
Henry James, writer (1869)
“La mia città somiglia ad una anziana signora che profuma di rose e violetta. Passeggia lungo le vie che costeggiano il fiume avvolta nel suo elegante cappotto: sguardo fiero, nobile portamento, appare austera ma chi la conosce sa bene che è di animo semplice e genuino. Firenze porta i suoi anni con disinvoltura perché quando il sole le spende in fronte sorride sguaiata come fosse ancora una bambina.”
Irene Berni, @Valdirose B&B owner, Author, 2019.
“I do not believe Florence’s mission is in the past. Being a center of the Renaissance five hundred years ago is of little use, unless we truly respond to it. If I had one wish for Florence, it would be for the Florentines to come to terms with what they have. Many have not gone to the Uffizi since a field trip in grade school. Many have never stopped for a coffee in the shade of the palazzo Vecchio. These are not ‘tourist spots’. The city’s museums and piazzas are living entities and its loveliest places should be the center of ‘real life’ for everyone. The Florentines will only become ‘true locals’ when they see their city, not as a product or a brand, but as a living entity whose art continues to inspire, decay and seek new dignity.”
Linda Falcone, Director of Advancing Women Artists Foundation, Author, 2019
“Like every love affair, Florence and I tumble into each other and we feel one another deeply, then I am infuriated by all the ways it could be wondrous and isn’t, then I am hit by a light, a scorcio, a discovery, a look up to see something magical under an eave and I surrender again. May the wonderment be eternal!”
Betty Soldi, Illustrator, purveyor of dreams, designer and creator, 2019.
“Among the four old bridges that span the river, the Ponte Vecchio, that bridge which is covered with the shops of Jewellers and Goldsmiths, is a most enchanting feature in the scene. The space of one house, in the centre, being left open, the view beyond, is shown as in a frame; and that precious glimpse of sky, and water, and rich buildings, shining so quietly among the huddled roofs and gables on the bridge, is exquisite”.
Charles Dickens, Writer, Pictures from Italy, 1846.
“The core of the city of Florence has remained unchanged for centuries. You might take a stroll to the grocery store today and walk exactly in the footsteps of someone like Donatello or Michelangelo in the Renaissance.
For some, that fact is just an amusing thought, quickly forgotten. For others this simple walk becomes a pilgrimage, and you question, what is this magic I feel?
Does it come from the curious worn-out gray stone, or the way the light cuts through a narrow street?
Or the calm rythm of green shutters of windows on those sun kissed walls? Nah.
It must be the beauty of the Arno, and it’s graceful bridges that dance into the mist.
No… it must be a symphony of those rooftops that vibrate in unison with Brunelleschi’s Dome!
That’s Florence. It touches your very soul, stirs your senses, brings forth your creativity, and before your know it, you are on a threshold of your own personal Renaissance.
It smacks you awake, and your life is changed forever.”
Paola Vojnovic, Art Historian, 2019.
“Firenze l’è piccina
e vista da i’ Piazzale
la pare una bambina
vestita a carnevale…
Firenze l’è piccina
e l’è anche casa mia…
ce l’ho sempre davanti
anche quando vado via…
Florence is small
and seen from the Piazzale
it seems a child
dress up for a parade.
Firenze is small
and is also my hometown
I have it on my mind
even when I travel the world.”
Italian actor Leonardo Pieraccioni, Song, Suggested by Valentina Dainelli of Too Much Tuscany.
“Firenze è una città rocciosa. Non si può dire di averla amata davvero se non si è saputo scoprire il suo lato sarcastico e pungente, ruvido e scostante; se non si è provata l’ebbrezza di saper rispondere a tono alla battuta sempre pronta del panettiere, del macellaio o del cameriere. Chi se ne va dicendo che Firenze è bella ma i fiorentini son difficili ha lasciato una storia d’amore prima che sbocciasse davvero!”
Irene Chellini, traveller, anthropologist, tour guide, 2019.
“More than any other piazza in Italy, the Piazza della Signoria evokes the antique world, not only in the colossal deified statues, the David, the Neptune…, the hideous Hercules and Cacus, but in the sober Loggia dei Lanzi, with its three lovely full arches and its series statuary groups in bronze and marble. Some are antique Greek and Roman; some are Renaissance; some belong to the Mannerist epoch; one to the nineteenth century. Yet there is no disharmony among them.”
Mary McCarthy, writer, The Stones of Florence, 1959.
The Italian way of life cannot be considered a success except by temporary visitors. It solves no problems. It makes them worse.
“The somber stone walls of Le Murate, a former prison built in the 15th century, belie its current incarnation as a welcoming hub of contemporary culture.”
“It’s freezing up here. What did you use to keep warm?”
“Indignation,” said Michelangelo. “Best fuel I know. Never burns out.”
“Under the shadow of a stately Pile,The dome of Florence, pensive and alone, Nor giving heed to aught that passed the while, I stood, and gazed upon a marble stone, The laurelled Dante’s favourite seat. A throne”
William Wordsworth, Writer, Memorials of a Tour in Italy, 1837
“To see the sun sink down, drowned on his pink and purple and golden floods, and overwhelm Florence with tides of color that make all the sharp lines dim and faint and turn the solid city to a city of dreams, is a sight to stir the coldest nature.”
Mark Twain, Writer, The Innocents Abroad, 1869
What I remember most about that time was feeling completely blessed to wake up every morning in Florence. Every day just walking across the river to my etching school, in a converted horse stable, was a revelation. It rained a lot that autumn — practically every day — but even the wet, cold days couldn’t dampen how much I was falling in love with the city. Actually, that cold, dreary weather I think made Florence even more romantic — being rugged up in hats and scarves is something I still prefer to sweltering in unrelenting heat.
Emiko Davies, Cookbook Author, Blogger, Friend.
“On August 19, 1418, a competition was announced in Florence, where the city’s magnificent new cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, had been under construction for more than a century”
Trust me, it’s worth the walk. I regularly drag my humans up to the “highest” hill-too basilica in the city, the 1,000-year-plus San Miniato al Monte overlooking #yourflorence that was once the home of a hermit martyr Sr. Minias. Legend has it that the decapitated body of Minias picked up its head and flew over the River Arno to this hillside hermitage. As you do!
Ginger the Beagle, Beagle in Florence, 2019.