A travel and style blog

Favourite Things To Do In Florence

Panoramic views of Florence from Piazza Michelangelo

A good friend of mine told me that Florence was his favourite place in the world. Not surprisingly then, I had big expectations on my first visit there this summer. If you like fairy tale pretty places, steeped in history, with stylish shops and restaurants lining the streets, then yeah I suppose Florence is ok. 

In a city that has so much to see I've picked out three of my favourite things to do.

#1 Get your fashion fill with Karl Lagerfeld's Visions of Fashion at the Pitti Palace...

Karl Lagefeld Visions of Fashion Exhibition, Florence

"Today, photography is part of my life. I can't see life without the vision of photography. I look at the world and at fashion with the eye of a camera." Karl Lagerfeld

We'd originally planned to see Michelangelo's David at the Accedamia Museum, but, on arrival decided against two hours queueing in the heat. We sacked off the snaking queue in favour of exploring the city further by foot, which is when we found Karl Lagerfeld's exhibition.

After only a small wait for tickets we were in and wandering amongst 200 elegant images "celebrating Karl's diverse and elegant approach to photography." 

I left plotting ways in which I could ever afford anything Chanel, and how I could become the muse of an 83 year old silver fox and legend.

If you fancy seeing images that flutter from the ceiling, mirroring the movement of models on the catwalk, then you'll have to be quick as the exhibition ends on the 23rd October 2016. Budding photo gazers grab your camera and go go go! 

#2 Eat and fall in love with La Menagere...  

La Menagere Restaurant, Florence

La Menagere is one of the most atmospheric, interesting and absolutely wonderful restaurants I've ever had the pleasure of eating in. So stylish is this restaurant that you run the risk of going home and stripping your walls back to the bare plasterwork, with the belief it might just look as amazing as La Menagere. 

We dined by candlelight and played discreet 'name that tune' as the pianist performed. With guacamole ice cream to start, yes you read that correctly, the menu matched the décor in the standing out stakes. Restaurant by night and bistro by day I can't recommend it enough. Where else can you feast, then pick up fresh flowers and nick nacks for your home?

Stylish yet comfortable, this place is an absolute gem and nestles into the back streets of fairytale Florence perfectly. 

Be wary of tourist traps. We had a disappointing meal in a restaurant next to The Duomo which earned top marks for location, but zero marks for cracked plastic chairs, flat Prosecco (which I sent back mistaking it for white wine, which they served again as "no no Prosecco") and mediocre food. 

#3 Watch the sunset from Piazza Michelangelo and never want to leave...

If you take the walk up to the Piazza Michelangelo you can work off some of those Pasta related carbohydrates and enjoy panoramic views of the City. Get your camera at the ready and join in with the happy snappers, all trying to catch that perfect shot as the sun sets on beautiful Florence. 

There's a couple of restaurants and vans selling refreshments so you can wander up there early and claim the best spot, although there's plenty of room for everyone. 

Have you ever felt that watching the sun set is bitter sweet? Calming on the one hand and good for your soul, yet on the other there's a fleeting sense of sadness that comes with knowing another day has come to an end. Oh well, there's always the stars. 

Thanks so much for reading, it really does mean a lot. Let me know if you've any must see recommendations for Florence!! x x 

Getting Perspective & Making A Scene On A Beach

At 4am on the forth night of our Italian getaway, the Doctor said I could leave the hospital. As I walked out into the warm night air with Oliver by my side, I took a deep breath, exclaimed, "we're free!!" and gave him a squeeze that bit tighter than usual.

It felt wonderful to walk again, even if it was an entire lap of the hospital perimeter looking for our rented Fiat 500 (no prizes will be awarded for spotting any Brit in Italy clichés). 

We had just taken part, unwittingly, in an unplanned excursion to Chiavari hospital after causing a scene on the beach that gave Weekend At Bernie's a run for its money. 

Let me take you back to the start. 

We'd spent the last two days sightseeing in Milan, exploring and eating our body weight in Gelato (when in Rome Milan). The next leg of our journey was a drive to the picturesque coastal town of Chiavari. Picked at random as our base for the next three nights because of it's location, we were blown away by how pretty it was, and more than ready for some seaside relaxing. 

We kicked back on our sun loungers with nothing more planned for the day than getting lost in a good book and taking the odd dip in the sea. 
As I got stuck into Spectacles A Memoir by Sue Perkins, which on a side note is laugh out loud funny, I felt all my stresses start to fade away. It's so much easier to concentrate on a book when you're lounging by the sea, with nowhere else you need to be. 

After a couple of hours we sauntered to a beach cafe for a bite to eat while I secretly judged exactly how pale I am in comparison to every olive skinned beauty that happened to pass by. Pretty pale in case you're wondering. 

I consoled myself with the thought that, pale I may be, but poorly accessorised I am not. I was beach ready in a Tommy Hilfiger bikini, Ray-Ban Clubmasters and a red bandanna tied in my hair (think more Amy Winehouse and less Hulk Hogan). 

Accessorised and relatively content I asked Oliver about the book he'd been reading. As I listened to him talk, out of the blue, I started to feel 'funny' and not in a way that you'd laugh about. 

Me: "I feel funny"... then nothing. 

In the seconds that followed, while I, slumped in my chair, was in the midst of the complete oblivion that comes with a black out, Oliver jumped into action. 

In what I'm hoping was a shocked attempt to bring me round and not the sudden release of frustration pent up over the three years that we'd been together, he threw a bottle of water in my face and slapped me twice. He's adamant only gentle slaps, although of course I have only his word for this.

If I've ever been grateful that there wasn't a wet fish to hand, this was that time. 

In the bizarre moments that followed everything was very strange. For a fleeting moment I had completely forgotten that I had ever been sat in the beach cafe. In the seconds after 'nothing' before I returned to the beach, my thoughts raced and I was totally and utterly swept along with them, as though they were playing out in front of me. I had been in my thoughts, sitting their helplessly while they raced and I was swept along with them, momentarily oblivious that I was supposed to be somewhere else.

My racing thoughts were based on the last conversation that Oliver and I had been having, which was about the book he'd been telling me about. I never knew the title but it was about doping amongst cyclists. It was the first time I've ever randomly blacked out and the first time my thoughts have ever raced about cycling. 

I'm forever thankful he hadn't been reading a Steven King thriller. 

Meanwhile as my faculties returned, my thoughts changed from doping scandals to wondering why Oliver was knelt down on the floor in front of me. I also wondered why three Italian women had gathered round and perhaps most importantly why my bandanna had come off?

To cut a long story short (which is something my Mum often says after telling you the entire story) an ambulance was called and we spent the next 14 hours in Chiavari A&E. I had tests to rule out anything sinister, died inside a little as I bared my bare white breasts to a tanned Italian doctor while Oliver was in the room, a drip to rehydrate and the rare opportunity to finish Sue Perkins Memoir while hooked up to a heart monitor. 

Tests showed a high count of white blood cells indicating that I had an infection or virus of some sort. This, combined with the heat, had most likely caused me to conk out, which is not a medical term. 

It was, it seems, just one of those things. 

As the 14 hours ticked by I laid on the trolley and watched the comings and goings in the Italian hospital that we'd found ourselves in so suddenly. 

Apart from the moments when we couldn't look at each other for fear of bursting into laughter when a few people in the ward suffered from wind that could've been mistaken for a ship docking, I was so happy to have Oliver by my side. 

He snook me comforting contraband chocolate chip cookies when the doctor had said no food. He repeatedly told me everything would be ok and calmed me down during each and every panic attack of the day. There had been a few, I'm a delicate soul.

He made me laugh when I was wheeled from waiting room to doctors room and back again when really I'd felt like crying. 

He'd carried my drip for me when I needed the loo and had been afraid to carry it myself for fear of passing out again. I told you I was a delicate soul. And even though we both knew that I'd ruined a part of our holiday, he never let any disappointment show. 

So lovely a soul is he, that as the sun began to set on what was supposed to be a holiday, he found himself roped into helping the women in the beds either side of me. He passed them drinks and put their drinks away again, closed curtains and opened curtains again. He told them he couldn't speak Italian but they chatted to him anyway. 

When 4am finally rolled round, and the room had finally stopped spinning, I was able to stand up. My tap dancing days weren't as earlier feared, over. 

I mimed to the elderly Italian lady sat dutifully by her daughter's bedside to the left of me that we were going home. She'd been sat there lovingly and patiently for hours. Bravely pottering about tending to her daughter whenever needed.

I'd desperately wanted to chat to her, comfort her a little or just pass a bit of time. As the lights dimmed on the ward patients in the beds slept if they could, but those sat at their sides could only sit there and wait. How frightful and lonely a time it must be, sat there, endlessly waiting, just in case that person that means the world to you needs you.

My Italian was as little as her English so we never got much further than smiles and mimes, although my apology was hopefully clear when she failed to lock the toilet door and I trotted straight in. 

Although we failed to chat, when I dressed to leave she understood. We were going home. She smiled a heart warming smile that showed genuine happiness for us. She beamed and shared that moment of relief and happiness with us, even though she was faced with what must be any parents worst nightmare, to be sat at their child's hospital bedside.  

You can tell the ones who are in there for the long haul. They know the drill and take it all in their stride, or seem to on the outside anyway. 

I thought about that lady and her daughter for a while afterwards. How brave and together she was. How lovely she was. Even though we hadn't spoken I could just tell.

Our trip to the beach had been the most bizarre experience. It had been frightening to be so far from home and not sure what was happening at times. I'd been prodded, poked and slapped, twice, but gently.

In the days before collapsing in Chiavari I'd been quietly obsessing over my holiday outfits. Fretting about the dress that made my hips look like they could birth a rugby team. Bothered that you could see wobble at the top of my legs when I wore hot pants and horrified at some of the photos that were taken. 

Me: "Deeelete it"

I'd still been cringing over a chance encounter with a huge fashion blogger who I never did hear from after she said she'd look up my blog. I'd taken her silence as confirmation my blog wasn't good enough. 

I decided Italy would be a break from blogging and social media. A chance to spend quality time with Oliver and forget all about the on-line world. 

As I'd laid in hospital with bed pans to my left and right, amongst frail injured bodies, I'd felt entirely lucky to be able to stand up and walk out when our time came (which was 4am, did I mention that?) and entirely silly for all the fretting I'd been doing.

We waved goodbye to the lady to my left and quietly walked out. We walked away from those whose fates would have them stay a little longer. Those like the chap who couldn't lay still for much longer than ten minutes before having to quietly plod to the toilet, for the umpteenth time, drip in tow, while nobody waited at his bedside.

If I'd needed perspective, at 4am on the fourth night of our Italian adventure I finally had it and I'd never loved Oliver more. We'd seen Milan, we'd seen Chiavari's A&E department and we'd seen each other. 
In the grand scheme of things a Tommy Hilfiger bikini is neither here nor there. Well it was actually in the hospital provided placky bag. 

May the following act as reminder if you find yourself caught up in comparing yourself to people on-line... things often aren't as rosy as they seem!

Thanks so much for reading this lengthy and soppy post it really does mean a lot xx 
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