Florence is a city seeped in history, from its cobblestoned roads to its magnificent bridges and elegant facades. Each piece of the Tuscan capital fits together to tell the story of a town frozen in time. This cradle of renaissance culture feels today much like I imagine it felt half a millennia ago, as though the high walls surrounding the city has kept out the passage of the ages, as the thorns had for Sleeping Beauty during her century-long nap. Florence has much to teach and showcase, yet it still has a way of making you feel like, even now, it houses ancient secrets and mysteries waiting to be discovered.

Surrounding the walls of the medieval town are beautiful green vistas that allow you to see what inspired some of the famous landscapes by the great Italian artists, but inside Florence is in actual fact quite tiny, considering the amount of paintings, frescoes, sculptures, churches, palaces, monuments and history it contains. Here and there street artists create teasing hints of modernity in a city otherwise much preserved. You could walk the entirety of the old city in the course of the afternoon, but you would need much longer to see all it has to offer.

For the most famous selection of Renaissance art, head to the Uffizi Gallery, which boasts works by the likes of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and my personal favourite artist behind The Birth of Venus and Primavera, Botticelli. Close by the Uffizi, is the famous Palazzo Vecchio, a square flanked by an imposing castle and Michelangelo’s renowned David sculpture (now a copy, as the original was moved to the Galleria Academia). From there, stroll through the enchanting Boboli Gardens or head across the Arno river to the Palazzo Strozzi, which sometimes hosts more contemporary exhibitions. I experienced an Ai Wei Wei offering which saw the palace’s antique facade decked in bright life rafts as part of a politically motivated installation piece by the Chinese artist.

Florence is also a major player in the fashion world. However, even the city’s glamorous mode is rooted in heritage, with marketplace set-ups reminiscent of a bygone era. Ponte Vecchio, the iconic bridge, is packed with hand-made jewellery vendors and makers, whilst the scent of leather wafts from the San Lorenzo market. Even contemporary luxury players, such as Gucci and Ferragamo, house museums in the medieval city that celebrate their Florentine roots.

This idyllic town dedicated to the past seduces you into feeling as though you could live inside its fairytale: strolling along the Arno, sipping Chianti wine, gorging on pasta and caprese salads drenched in olive oil against the backdrop of the Brunelleschi’s iconic Duomo. Florence is in itself a romantic masterpiece where you can live la dolce vita – a life as sweet as Italian gelato.

Words: Yolanda Senekal

Layout & Photographs: Yolanda Senekal