Florence – The City that celebrates the art of living well

After our binge on culture and trek around the amazing city of Florence we stopped for a glass of Chianti in the sun by the river Arno in a little bar called “Il Borro Tuscan Bistro” that served it’s family’s own produced wine.

A quick refresh and outfit change at the hotel then our “Happy Hour” glass of prosecco and we were off to our Valentine’s evening dinner. We discovered one of the restaurant highlights of our trip was the amazing Sesto on Arno, situated at the top of the Westin Excelsior hotel. The views were breathtakingly amazing as was the delicious food.

We were welcomed with cheeky prosecco cocktails that had adorable fruit birds perched on them. We enjoyed a fabulous bottle of Chianti wine. The 4 course menu with appetisers was delicious especially the desserts that were the highlight. The refresher course pre-dessert consisted of a champagne sorbet and mango coulis that had been sealed in a permeable pouch that made it resemble an egg yolk served with a meringue wafer. Hubby’s dessert was a white chocolate ball filled with strawberry and raspberry ice cream with fresh berries. My dairy-free dessert was an amazingly exotic fruit salad with raspberry sorbet and meringue pieces.

We ate a special set menu for Valentine’s but the restaurant regularly offers dinner tasting menus from 92 euros a head and lunchtime set menu for just 30 euros.

A walk along the Arno River followed by a nightcap cocktail in famous Harry’s bar finished off a wonderfully amazing Valentine’s evening.

Links to restaurants are –




In Florence, even the graffiti is ancient

We began our first proper morning in Italy with a trip to see the “Duomo” or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore giving its full name and for our morning exercise, instead of climbing up the inside of the cathedral’s dome, we ascended up the Giotto’s Campanile tower next to it. This gave us stunning views of the city of Florence and also more importantly of the Duomo itself.

I immediately regretted not bringing water and snacks with us as the ascension was much steeper and narrower than expected. Clearly the narrow staircases were only designed for a bellboy to go up and down not huge numbers of tourists, that somehow had to pass each other on the steps, travelling in both directions. At one point I found myself hugging the stone pillar in the centre of the staircase for over 10 minutes as a stream of larger than life tourists squeezed passed me on their way down; one lady slipping almost taking me down with her. There are no handrails or ropes to grab hold of here so if someone slips…. I don’t recommend this venture to anyone who is claustrophobic or afraid of heights and certainly not if you have high blood pressure or heart issues but the view you get from the top is truly amazing!

Once we descended from the Campanile we visited the Baptistery located opposite and still within the Piazza Del Duomo. The Baptistery is one of the oldest and I believe finest buildings in the city, constructed between 1059 and 1128 in the Florentine Romanesque style. The interior is truly divine and it formed the basis for Renaissance architecture. The east doors of it were actually dubbed by Michelangelo as the Gates of Paradise.

Following a busy morning we stopped for lunch in Trattoria San Lorenzo and it was warm enough for us to sit outside in the sunshine while we ate bruschetta and drink their house Chianti.

After lunch we had a look around the Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore then we wandered to look at Palazzo Strozzi and then the Basilica Santa Croce.

Basilica Santa Croce is the burial place of Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and Galileo and as such it is known as the Temple of the Italian Glories. Primo Chiostro is the main cloister of Santa Croce and houses the Cappella dei Pazzi, built as the chapter house, completed in the 1470s and designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.