I must admit I didn’t really know quite what to expect when I returned to Florence recently following a break of about two and a half years due to the global pandemic. I remember seeing images on Instagram of a deserted city devoid of tourists and reading about restaurants that had closed at the height of the pandemic. Some Florentines apparently were actually even lamenting the absence of tourists from the city centre.
Florence is an art historian’s dream so I knew that all would be perfect in that respect but would I still feel the buzz from everything else that Florence has to offer?
Well, we did still encounter the usual chaotic ‘ora di punta’ (rush hour) traffic whilst driving into the city (not that this is fun but it did at least give us a sense that normality of sorts had returned).
As always we entered the city from its southern side and on seeing the Porta Romana I really had to pinch myself that we were back. Naturally I just had to take a photo with my book outside the Hotel Annalena and outside several other monuments linked with Annalena Malatesta (after all this was my very first visit back to Florence since my book had been published!)
The city was comfortably full of people and with the exception of hearing some American students who were probably studying in the city, we only heard Italian voices. Fortunately, our favourite restaurants and cafes were still thriving and some new eating places and shops had also opened up. It was still a delight to window shop along the Via Tornabuoni with its smart designer shops and lust after those luxury items that one dreams about.
What better welcome back to Florence than a 'blockbuster' exhibition. The Donatello exhibition at the Palazzo Strozzi and Bargello museum didn’t disappoint and if anything will draw back the crowds then this is it. I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel being back in the presence of crowds at a major exhibition however, with timed admittance, verification of green passes and ample space to view the art works I felt quite at ease.
Of course the beauty and magnificence of Florence still exists in all of its glory: beautiful views, seeing the sunset from the Ponte Santa Trinita , climbing up to the church of San Miniato al Monte………...
Donatello La Speranza (Hope), gilded bronze, 1427-1429, baptismal font, Siena baptistery