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Glorious Italian days - Florence January 2023

Posted by Suzanne Turrisi on 15 May 2023

North to Florence

After weeks in Sicily with three final nights in Palermo (I love this city), a short, late morning flight to Rome and a three hour drive up the Italian peninsula (passing names I haven’t seen for ages) I was to savour the unbeatable northern Italian charm of Florence for five nights.

The duomo of Florence

Duomo, belltower, dome, baptistery

Michelangelo's David, the Accademia Gallery


Along the Arno -winter blue skies and golden light

Street scene

To stay in Florence again

My last visit (one of a few) some years ago was during a hot summer. I had a lovely hotel room (too close to the hotel’s busy kitchen though) and there were just too many people about. I decided to leave this lovely Renaissance city after the first night.

This time staying on the third floor of a 16th century quiet and handsome looking Florentine palazzo on Piazza Santo Spirito (in the Oltrarno quarter) in the small hidden hotel, Hotel Palazzo Guadagni, in the quieter days of winter, made my stay.

Nights at Hotel Palazzo Guadagni in Oltrarno- it is charming.

I loved every moment at Hotel Palazzo Guadagni…. the ‘grown-up’ bar on the gracious loggia where blankets were slung over rattan chairs, with heaters close by, and the low tables waited upon. The wines, aperitivi and snacks were delicious and the view over Florence to low terracotta tiled rooftops, steeples and Santo Spirito below told me… I was in Florence. 

And I loved stealing glances at interesting looking  guests dressed in smart clothes for a northern European winter. 

Breakfast - simple and delicious was worth lingering over. Eat in the long corridor sitting area or in the main breakfast room. Or venture outside to the loggia. 

My spacious comfortable room with domed ceilings was off one of the sitting rooms, and it looked in the direction of Pitti Palace (that huge old home of Cosimo I de Medici and his wife Eleanor of Toledo) and now home to so much fabulous art over numerous galleries. It felt good to be so close.

And I enjoyed the sound of  chatting voices rising from a small terrace of the building next door.

The loggia at Hotel Palazzo Guadagni

Corridor sitting room Hotel Palazzo Guadagni

Looking from the loggia Hotel Palazzo Guadagni over the piazza Santo Spirito

Sitting room off my room

Wandering Florence -gardens, palaces, piazzas, churches, heavenly fragrances, art galleries and food

I loved walking through Florence. Wandering narrow side streets, to restaurants, art galleries and churches, through piazzas, and over bridges.

Pitti Palace - art and gardens

Walking the formal paths of the Boboli Gardens, down wooden avenues and groves and past fountains and statues was beautiful, so quiet. The gardens are the big backyard of the fortified Pitti Palace. It is only my second time at the Pitti. I need to see more. 

My decades old memories of Raphael's gorgeous 'Madonna della Sedia' were never lost.

The power of the almost royal Medici, Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti 

Palazzo Pitti rear view from garden

Strolling the wooded pathways Palazzo Pitti- Boboli Gardens

Formality at Palazzo Pitti -Boboli Gardens

Raphael's Madonna della Sedia - my memory of 25 years was well treated 

Titian's Portrait of Ippoliti de Medici- beautiful fabrics

Antonio van Dyck, Portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio -the fabric 

van Dyck's exquisite lace detail

Fra Filippo Lippi's "Madonna con Gesu Bambino"

Beautiful face -  detail from Lippi's 'Madonna and Gesu Bambino'

Piazza Santo Spirito, Ponte Vecchio, a local market & restaurants 

Browsing the daily market in Santo Spirito -cheese, wines, fruit, flowering plants, and antique treasures piled high and some cheap clothes on racks. Strolling across the medieval Ponte Vecchio, the side streets of Oltrarno and lingering in splendid piazzas, churches, and art galleries. Finding recommended restaurants.

Eating delicious food…local trattorias that did not disappoint (Trattoria La Casalinga and Trattoria Cammillo) and one evening dining at the double starred Sant’Elisabetta – a great tip from an Australian Italophile staying in Florence.

Looking to the Ponte Vecchio

Market, Piazza  Santo Spirito

Trattoria Casalinga around the corner from Hotel Palazzo Guadagni

Old wares Santo Spirito market

Trattoria Cammillo Oltrarno (see notes below)

Church of Santo Spirito

Gold jewels galore on the Ponte Vecchio

And all the gleaming gold displayed unashamedly along the Ponte Vecchio is impressive. Unmissable, each time I crossed the 14th century Ponte Vecchio on my way to other spots.

Basilica of Santa Croce -the Pantheon of Florence

Piazza Santa Croce where the splendid Basilica of Santa Croce sits. It is Florence’s pantheon- that scared burial ground where the tombs and monuments of Italian greats including -Michelangelo, Alighieri, Marconi, Galileo, Rossini, and the famous poet Alfieri line the side naves. 

Giotto's famous frescoes in the Bardi Chapel  were under the wraps of restoration. And the striking art of Bronzino, in the Medici Chapels just off from the church, is wonderful. As is the art and history in the old refectory.

I went to Santa Croce twice and still need to return. 

Santa Croce

Splendid Santa Croce

Monument to Rossini

Bronzino's "Christ's Descent into Limbo" 

Monument Dante Alighieri

Detail from Bronzino's "Christ's descent into Limbo"

Church of Santa Maria Novella -and in search of alluring fragrances

And the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in the piazza of the same name, I wandered in the silence. I only had a short visit. (The website covers a time!).

And the quote of the great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s on a plaque on the façade of a hotel next to the church of Santa Maria...caught my eye. 

Tra le fiorentine dimore ebbe questa nella piazza che fu detta - La mecca degli Stranieri” – of all the squares this one is the Mecca for strangers. I like these words.

Yes, I wanted to find the Santa Maria Novella ancient pharmacy

Santa Maria Novella’s centuries old perfume shop (Officina Profumo -Farmaceutica di Santa Maria (1612), selling the divine fragrances and soaps of this ancient monastery, is around the back in a side street. I found it (after failed attempts) thanks to directions from that Australian Italophile.

Officina Profumo -Farmaceutica di Santa Maria is another world- gracious, historic, godly fragrances and attentive good service. And the tiny museum through a side door is worthwhile- some great photos and history. 

I bought a fragrance, Caprifolgio -honeysuckle. It is divine.The Santa Maria Novella website says …the base notes of Caprifoglio include oakmoss. Wearing it, I get a deep earthy, alluring scent and some floral notes.


Church of  Santa Maria Novella

Painting Santa Maria Novella church

Interior Church of Santa Maria Novella

Cloisters Santa Maria Novella

The Perfumery Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella Perfumery

Soaps Santa Maria Novella Perfumery

Santa Maria Novella perfumes

Perfumery Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria Novella perfumery

Caprifoglio Santa Maria Novella -alluring

The Uffizi, and Michelangelo's David

The Uffizi…only my second time in this glorious (yet worthy of exhaustion) gallery. The art astounds and the people love it. I feel like a curious student wanting to learn more, in need of a patient oldworld professor after being in places like this. And the bookshop was full of so many great titles.

Michelangelo’s David filled me with awe again. It is perfection…incomparable beauty. Honestly how did he do this?! Giorgio Vasari the Italian 'Renaissance Master' said…” the statue so far surpasses both in beauty and technique ancient and modern statuary that one needn’t bother seeing other works in sculpture’. (Words from information on the wall near the David.).

Uffizi -a few pieces

Detail from Bernardino Luini's "Salome receiving the head of St John the Baptist" -Formerly attributed to Leonardo - "most Leonardesque character by soft complexion". Very beautiful.


Classic Florence outside the Uffizi - cinematic ease

Known as Bronzino's (Angolo di Cosimo) Eleanora of Toledo with her son.

Detail from Gentile da Fabriano's "Adoration of the Magi"

The Duke of Urbino by Piero della Francesca

Detail from Gentile da Fabriano's Adoration of the Magi"

Botticelli's Primavera -detail .


Michelangelo's 'David'- Accademia Gallery


Florentine food- deliciously good. 

Florentine food -hearty, warm and delicious. The best pasta, sardines with plain white bread and real butter, filled fried zucchini flowers, very crunchy biscottini served with a sacred sweet wine (vinsanto) for dipping at Trattoria Cammillo.

I ate there twice in 5 days (it’s in the Oltrarno quarter not far from Ponte Vecchio) -it was worth it! So good.

The warm ambience in a few whitewashed small rooms and the friendly experienced older waiters make Cammillo a place not to be missed. I wanted to linger for hours. It was recommended to me by the young Australian Italophile who got the heads up from a well-known Italy foodie, Elizabeth Minchilli. Elizabeth Minchilli does food tours, writings and really loves Italy.

Pasta so delicious at the charming Trattoria Cammillo. Only minutes from Hotel Palazzo Guadagni, near by the Ponte Vecchio

on Borgo S.Jacopo, 57/r Florence

Trattoria Cammillo -anchovies, fresh bread and butter. Plus some reading on the Medicis (yet to be read!)

Trattoria Cammillo - stuffed zucchini flowers.

Interior shot of the lovely Cammillo

Brodo (was with tortellini I think) warming and delicious at Trattoria Casalinga near piazza Santo Spirito

This was so delicious - very hard biscottini with vin santo -wine of a saint -sweet and perfect for  biscotti dipping


To return -is always a good idea. 

I plan on returning to Florence…staying again at Hotel Palazzo Guadagni, on the other side of the Arno, for a much longer winter stay. Hopefully it is not too long away. I love returning.


Cordiali Saluti


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