I think that it would be easy enough to visit a city that you have been to before, and to visit it in the exact same ways as before – go to the same restaurants, visit the same sites, and walk the same streets. It’s often all too easy to want to do the sames things in the same ways; because at least for me, that is what feels comforting and easy.
For example when we go to Florence, I show up with a mental list of all of our favorite restaurants to go to, I already know that I will want to go to the same coffee shop every morning for a cappuccino, I know that I will buy gelée candies from the same store that we first visited on our honeymoon about 10 years ago. . .and the list goes on and on.
And so we do. We do all of the things that we love so much and have grown comfortable with over the years, because that is part of what makes Florence so special to us. But at the same time, I know that there is value in new. Although new can sometimes feel hard or disappointing, it can also bring great rewards and memorable experiences. And so finding the balance in all of this is definitely something that we both try to work on.
Among all of the new things that I did during my first week in Florence (and yes, I surprisingly did several new things), one was the standout winner. And in the most literal sense, it gave me a whole new perspective on the city.
Instead of following the Arno River as I normally do for my runs in Florence, I decided to follow the winding roads up to Piazzale Michelangelo. Although I have walked up there several times, I took a different path and I really found myself enjoying the new.
From the tree-lined road that I took, Florence took on a more magical existence – the early evening sunlight made everything look just a little bit more fuzzy – a little bit more like a watercolor or an impressionist painting, and much less like real life.
And so with this surprisingly invigorating and eye-opening experience, I am reminded once again that even though sometimes new doesn’t work out. . .when it does, it is so wonderful that it allows you to escape and forget about anything before that moment.
When you prepare to visit Florence, you will find yourself with an overwhelming amount of options and locations for where you will sleep. During our first few visits, we always made a point to stay on the side of the Arno River with all of the main tourist attractions. But over the years, as tourism in the city has boomed, we’ve found ourselves craving a more “authentic” Florence experience, and something that is just a little bit quieter. And so we’ve moved ourselves across the Arno River, to the Oltrarno neighborhood – just minutes away from all of the main tourist destinations, but what feels like worlds apart.
For my stay this year, I found a great little apartment through Airbnb that was literally just steps beyond the Ponte Vecchio. It was modern, clean, perfectly quiet, minutes from the local grocery store, and just a hop, skip, and a jump away from all of the action. It had everything that I could have needed or wanted for a comfortable stay; and at a fraction of the cost compared to most hotels in Florence, it was a complete home run.