The cafes are packed with people enjoying hot cappuccinos and fresh croissants as they discuss the day ahead. The people of Florence are always relaxed, in no rush to go anywhere. Initially this pace may seem frustrating. How is it possible to get to work, to class, to dinner, to the library on time if everyone is moving at such glacial pace? If time is money, than time spent enjoying the city, and even the most trivial of walks, is time well spent.
A typical visit to Florence would most likely not include a trip to the small collection of powder boxes, yet there is something unique and special about being able to see Museo della Cipria on Via Tornabuoni. Once you walk through the black drapery, lights automatically come on to highlight the small collection. What is most surprising about the boxes is how similar some of them are to current packaging. They all suggest the idea of feminine beauty, which communicated to the consumer by the use of floral patterns and girly colors. Another interesting aspect about the museum is the brands that are still relevant today, such as Guerlain, Lanvin, and Bojouris.
These niche visits, however, are not meant to replace visits to the more typical tourist attractions. Amongst these visits, the irony behind the Pitti Palace is what strikes as the most interesting. Originally constructed by Luca Pitti to demonstrate a new source of wealth and power beyond the Medici family, the merchant’s death prompted the Medici family to purchase the property as a larger home. Over the years, the Palazzo was used as a base for Napoleon, and for a brief period served as a royal palace for the newly united Italy. Yet throughout all of these changes in ownership, the palace is still beautiful. Each hall is decorated with rich red, blue, and gold colors on the walls, with handsome frescoes adorning the high ceilings. In many of the rooms, small yet increasingly intricate mosaic tables serve as focal points, with a view of the Boboli Gardens in the background. History is hard to escape here, as you picture the lavish balls that many American travelers attended during their visits.
After a day of exploring the city has commenced, one is drawn to the comfort of the Biblioteca delle Oblate. Situated in a building from 1287, the library sits in the Duomo’s shadow on Via San Egidio. In the past, the building served as convent but was restored and converted into a public library by the Comune di Firenze in 2007. Each level of the library adds to the ambiance. Stone sculptures grace the small courtyard in the inner square, where students gather to chat leisurely as a break from their studies. While climbing through the stone stairways, you notice how different the library is when compared to those in America. There the libraries are modern, with little natural lighting and a much more formal layout. Here, however, the environment seems casual, and the air feels less stressful and less rushed than at home. Once you walk up the stairway, you see a beautiful view of the Duomo’s cupola, and an entrance to a modern café. This is the perfect place to end the day, with a warm cup of hot chocolate and a classic book. Tucked away in the cafe corner, it’s hard not to think that this is a perfect taste of Florence.