I came, I saw, I conquered...the beauty of Florence.
If you've never been to Italy, Florence is a must. Filled with architectural, cultural and gastronomical delights, this city is like no other. I've been to Florence twice - in Sept 2015 and again in Sept of 2017 - and on both occasions, it didn't disappoint.
My first trip to Florence was also my first trip to Italy and I was more focused on enjoying all of the culture, art, food and of course, shopping(!) that Florence has to offer. I was a newbie to photography then so I didn't have the same appreciation for it that I have now.
On this most recent trip, photography was key on my mind which meant getting up early to catch sunrise. The photo featured above was taken early in the morning on the Santa Trinita bridge while we waited for the sun to appear. I used my ND filters to lengthen the exposure and allow for the smooth effect of the water and clouds that you see in the shot above. Long exposure photography has become a true love of mine as I get to exercise both sides of my brain (technical and creative) when trying to get the right shot.
Of course, composition and light are also key factors so I always try to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon/evening. Midday light can be harsh and unappealing so I take advantage of the afternoons to relax, stroll through the city and soak in the local culture whenever I'm traveling. As a photographer, the days can get long so a siesta may sometimes be in order before a full afternoon/evening of shooting sunset through to blue hour. In the late summer, it may not be until 10pm or 10:30pm when I finally get to sit down for dinner. Thank goodness Europeans prefer to eat later in the evening!
“You may have the universe if I may have Italy." -Giuseppe Verdi
Where to Shoot
Where are the key places to shoot in Florence? There are a plethora of options to shoot in this beautiful city but in my mind, these three places stand out:
Ponte Vecchio Bridge at sunrise - to get the shot of Ponte Vecchio at sunrise, you need to be on the Ponte Santa Trinita bridge. If you're up early enough, there's hardly anyone to be found and you can get some pretty stunning shots as the sun rises up over the Ponte Vecchio and the city.
Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset - it's a bit of a trek to get to but well worth it. The views from Florence here are breathtaking and if you arrive before sunset, you'll be in for a treat. Make sure to bring a long zoom lens to create that sense of compression when zoomed in.
Early mornings at the Duomo - whether you're climbing to the top or just meandering through the Piazza del Duomo, make sure to get there first thing in the morning. The crowds are sparse and you can capture some nice compositions (without having to wait for tourists to move out of your way) to create interesting shots. If you're climbing the Duomo, be sure to get there early to avoid the long line-ups to purchase your tickets. Also, if you're claustrophobic in any way, this climb is not for you. There are just over 450 steps (463 to be exact) to get to the top and the winding stairwell is narrow and dark. Going early helps avoid getting stuck in the 'traffic jam' that inevitably occurs as the crowds grow throughout the day. Once at the top though, you'll be treated to one of the most spectacular views of Florence! *For more info about the Duomo and Giotto Bell Tower Climb, see my post "The Duomo - Worth the Climb!"
Where to Eat
Aside from photography, one of my other loves is food. Particularly when I'm traveling. My palette has changed over the years and I've come to appreciate food on a whole other level. That doesn't mean I'm always looking for that Michelin-star restaurant - it just means I make an effort to eat at restaurants that serve authentic, fresh and local cuisine. And it never hurts when there's a little creative flair thrown in for good measure. There were three places which stood out on my last trip, and came recommended by locals. I've listed them here in no particular order:
Hostaria Il Desco: Via delle Terme, 23/ r, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy: delicious food and great service - definitely worth a visit for lunch or dinner. Make sure to try the carpaccio with the shaved truffles - so delicious!
Trattoria 4 Leoni: Via dei Vellutini 1 rosso (Piazza della Passera), 50125, Florence, Italy - this spot is off the beaten path but has a very local feel as you have to cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge and take a 10 min stroll to one of the more local neighbourhoods. There are a lot of surrounding bars in the area too so it's a great spot to start and then head out for some drinks at a local bar afterwards. The food at Trattoria 4 Leoni was amazing and for those meat lovers out there, don't be shy about sharing the traditional Florentine steak - so mouth-watering!
Mercato Centrale: This one's a must. Head to the Florence Market and look for the place where you can buy truffles on the top floor. I don't recall the name of the spot but they make/serve classic parmesan pasta with shaved truffles and you can sit along the booth and enjoy your meal with a lovely glass of wine. Make sure to buy the truffle butter to take home - it's great for adding that subtle truffle flavour to any pasta or steak dish! I plan return here time and time again!
Florence is truly one of my favourite places in Italy and I'd recommend spending at least 3 or 4 days here to soak up its beauty.