Florence, Italy – Part 1

Florence is the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region. It is well known for its rich history of many master pieces of Renaissance art and architecture. It stands as the 8th largest city in Italy, famous for its Cathedral of Santa Maria being the third largest church in the world. After the St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome and St Paul’s in London.


Florence, like many other members of the European Union, has the Euro as their official currency. The Euro is stronger than the South African Rand as their 1 Euro amounts to 15 South African Rands. To demonstrate the price difference in comparison, one can get an ice-cream in Florence for 1.50 Euro and an entire pizza for 5.00 Euro which in South African Rand would cost you almost to 102.00 Rand all together.


My Experience in Florence:

Amongst the architecture and sculptures, Florence is also very well known for its genuine leather manufacturing. Almost four hours away from Rome, I arrived in Florence to delightful weather – it was sunny. The infrastructure though, was very modern as I entered the city. Florence had normal vehicles and roads made me suddenly begin to feel nostalgia from missing home. All the similarities I was looking at and even to realize that their gas station was a familiar brand, BP garage.

Upon my check-in I received a call from a good friend of mine that I had met years ago whilst travelling in Milan, he was on his way over to meet me. We hadn’t seen each other since 2016 so I had shared with him that I would be travelling to Europe during this time. I was excited to see him again. The plan was for us to go sightseeing and later have dinner, it was already around 15h00. My friend’s name is Mario and he is Italian. Looking out the window from my hotel room everything still just seems so familiar about Florence in comparison to home. Almost alike. The buildings were modern their roads were wide and I just couldn’t see what it could have in store for me. At Mario’s arrival though I happened to be informed that I was booked 40 minutes outside of the city centre, which was slightly further from everything I had travelled to Florence to see. So without wasting time Mario and myself got into the car and drove to Piazza Della Repubblica. Suddenly as we entered the town, the streets became narrower and the buildings began to look really vintage, the rooftops began to change to orange and almost no one in these towns spoke English. It was beautiful. It was like travelling back in time. Piazza Della Repubblica is believed that in this present day, settlers were the origins of the Julius Caesars Colonies from 59BC, a city that had towered gates, a forum, various temples, communal baths and the city itself penetrated through by the river called Arno. The first place Mario took me was one of Firenze’s Leather Manufacturers on Leon street. They are well known for their originality in the world of leather crafting. They hold a record of 40years in the industry. I loved their work and enjoyed their showrooms filled with exquisite leather handbags for women and men captivatingly displayed. I could smell that authentic animal skin throughout the store, I absolutely loved it and their price ranges were very reasonable. From their leather jackets, belts to pursues. The store had it all crafted from scratch and tagged with a ‘proudly Italian’ label.

Leonardo Leather Manufacturer was right at the centre of the city and by this time myself and Mario were already on foot. We had made the decision to park the car a great 10min distance out of the city centre so we could walk. In the city center, everyone was on foot, the only mobilities that can squeeze through the small narrow streets were motorbikes, bicycles and small smart cars. To get around peacefully one had to be in their most comfortable sneakers. In Europe, sneakers are the name of the game. Trust me. And just a walkable distance off, we proceeded to see the famous Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze, which is the principal Franciscan Church in Florence famous for its Giotto Frescoes and Monumental tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo. As we admired the gorgeous church being one of the largest churches in the world located right on the Piazza di Santa Croce we proceeded to take pictures of each other at the church. The Piazza is surrounded by electric restaurants with table settings onto sidewalks lighting up the entire Piazza with divine Italian cuisine aromas. As we couldn’t resist any longer we made our way to one restaurant called the Osteria Battipalla. If there’s anything I appreciate about Italian restaurants, it is the authenticity they have towards their culture. Their menus are 90 percent Italian and I find it intriguing because as a tourist my aim when I travel is to experience every detail of that specific country and its nationalities settling there. Mainly their everyday lifestyle, food and culture. I appreciate authenticity. To this day, Italian chefs prepare dishes like their forefathers did back then, it’s dictated by their original taste, smell and passion for food. Nothing is done according to the book. If anything, you can definitely trust Italians in the kitchen and in Florence with leather too.

Other places you can see in Florence:

  • Palazzo Vecchio

Statue of David

Writer: Phumie Simelane