Discover the magic of Florence through its art, gardens, gastronomy, and sun-kissed beauty

The Italian city casts such a powerful spell!

Harper's Bazaar India

"You know all those posters and memes on social media with life quotes on them? Carpe diem, life is too short, seize the day, live in the moment... These aren’t just some cheesy words strung together. I believe they are very, very true. More so over the past couple of years, which have been extremely distressful for all of us across the globe. 

The idea of travelling to anywhere further than one’s backyard or roof was truly luxurious. But, as they say, miracles occur everyday. One such miracle resulted in me moving to one of the most beautiful cities in the world in April 2021, to pursue my dream of studying fashion... I am talking about Florence, the birth place of Renaissance.

And so, it is only fair that I take you, dear reader, along with me to some of my favourite locations in this historically-rich city.

We will start at the stone bridge of Ponte Vecchio, on the Arno River. This bridge dates back to almost 996AD. It was swept away by a massive flood in 1117 AD, but was rebuilt in the mid-1300s. The bridge offers a magnificent view of the Arno River, with medieval structures all around. If you stand on this bridge and look to either side, you will see lines of jewellery shops with wooden shutters and store fronts...almost as if they have come alive from the dusty pages of history books. 

Sometimes, I like to walk up and down the bridge, window-shopping, staring at the exquisite pieces in the window displays. You will be stunned at the marvellous variety of designs and artistry that each of them offers. Once my heart is full with all the window-shopping, I just stand there, looking onto the Arno while the sun sets. Everything turns golden. Everything becomes magical. It’s nothing short of a fantasy, really. You can also return at night and enjoy some live music on this iconic bridge. People break off into dance routines all around, holding each other in their arms, embracing and expressing their love for each other...Take a moment to take in this real-life movie.

If you enjoy art and culture like me, walk down the bridge to your left and visit the grand Uffizi Museum which houses some of the most iconic art pieces of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.

I also recommend you visit some of the theatres and performing art centers located in Florence. One such centre is the Fondazione Zeffirelli Foundation. Located in the San Firenze area, it is housed in a magnificent medieval property that can be easy to miss as it’s slightly hidden, unlike the other icons of Florence. However, stroll around a bit, and it appears to you out of the blue, ready to engulf you in its charisma. One can’t help but stop for a moment and appreciate the massive pillars, sky-high doors, and statues that adorn the cornices. This building houses the archives of Franco Zeffirelli, the late, iconic Italian director and producer of operas, films, and television content. Here you can witness some of the best Italian theatre costumes and drama sets that will transport you to the world of vintage opera. Once you are done marvelling at the experience, step out, and get yourself a glass of Chianti and a delicious plate of spaghetti carbonara from one of the numerous trattorias across the street.

We have been going in the streets up until now. Next, let me take you to one of the most beautiful gardens of Florence: Giardino dell’Orticultura, which dates back to the 19th century. The crown jewel of this garden is the glass and steel greenhouse that looks like a banquet hall straight out of a Disney movie. In autumn, you will see the leaves turning golden and in spring, it is awash with flowers. My friends and I love to have picnics here. Or sometimes, when we are feeling lazy, we go to nearby sandwich shops for delicious porchetta paninos, grab a glass of our favourite drinks, and sprawl on the grass. You will find some of the cutest dogs of Florence being taken out for a stroll here or, occasionally, a grandma selling home-baked confectionery at one corner. Just soak in the sun, stare at the blue sky, and let all of your worries disappear at the heart of nature, surrounded by medieval history.

Of course, how can one forget a shopping spree in Florence? I’d urge you to visit one of the most beautiful antique shops here, the Bottega di Corte. This store is straight out of a Victorian fantasy novel. The moment you enter, you are transported to a different world. From grand chandeliers to vintage furniture you will find everything here. Some of the pieces even date back to the 18th century! Take a moment to walk around the store and admire all the intricate items on display. Tea sets, candle stands, art deco table tops, antique brooches, and showpieces...the artefacts here are nothing less than extraordinary. The best part is the jazz and blues that play in the background, which add even more to the experience.

Now, I will take you to my favourite part of the city: Piazzale Michelangelo. You can either reach here by a taxi or bus, but if you can, I strongly recommend that you hike it. Perched on an elevated point, and situated on the south bank of the Arno, the square offers breathtaking views of the entire city. The best time to visit is during sunset, when you will see the entire city washed in sepia tones (no need to apply any filter if you take a photograph!). Grab a Negroni or a beer from the kiosks around, sip on the steps, and just take in the grandeur. While you are hiking up here, you will spot waterfalls that will remind you of Narnia. And if you are travelling with a special someone, here is the perfect spot to propose with a ring or your love. Trust me, this will be your own fairy tale moment.

Lastly, I must take you to Villa Favard located on the banks of the Arno River. This is also a Victorian era property that is extraordinary in its beauty and imposing in presence. Once the abode of Italian nobility, the property now houses Polimoda, one of the top 10 fashion schools in the world, which also happens to be where I am pursuing my second masters. Once inside, along with some very stylish students, you will see beautiful, intricate, and delicate artistry on the walls around you, on the frescoed ceilings, as well as in the classrooms that host gigantic chandeliers in white and gold. Standing there, you can’t help but be amazed at the beauty that Florence’s architecture has to offer.

All this while, you may have been wondering why I have been posing in saris...Well, the truth is that on arriving here, I realised that even though there are a significant number of Indians in Florence, not a single person wears a sari—even on Indian occasions. The sari, to me, is more than just a piece of fabric. It is rich in heritage and culturet, which I am extremely proud of. So I took it upon myself to represent this beauty that I couldn’t bear to ignore. My advice? The next time you travel, travel wearing a sari and see how amazing you feel...and how amazing the six-yards make others feel, when they see you in one.”

This piece originally appeared in the November-December 2021 print edition of Harper's Bazaar India