Travel Diary: Zena Khan's Artistic Escape To Florence, Italy
Nearing the end of what was a tremendously busy year, Zena Khan and her 3 closest girlfriends in Kuala Lumpur set off for Italy in September 2018: a well-loved destination for this globe-trotting jewellery designer-cum-art curator.
Having already visited and enjoyed the delights of Rome and Milan, Florence was the ideal choice for an all-girls getaway before Zena’s work would take her to London.
The Galleria At Night
“I had never been to Florence before: it’s an amazing city, the birthplace of the Renaissance,” shares Zena.
While the only available tickets to the Galleria were at that night itself, the group was not about to miss their chance to see the 5-metre-tall statue of Michelangelo’s David and other treasured relics of Florentine rich history.
“Having read about David is one thing, but walking down this long gallery and seeing the actual statue at the end of the hall, it was one of the most transformative moments of my life.” she shares.
Despite being gloriously late for their reservation at Buca Lapi thereafter, the group received a warm welcome into the restaurant, enjoying a hearty Italian dinner and dessert.
Waiting nearly 45 minutes for an Uber after dinner, Zena warns that it’s best to arrange for transport with your hotel itself as hailing a taxi can be a challenge at night.
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In San Lorenzo, the Mercato Centrale food market is a veritable paradise for fresh Tuscan cuisine.
On the ground floor are stores selling ingredients like fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, while the first floor is a food hall, where Zena and her companions sampled what she reveals to be the most delectable freshly-made black truffle pasta to date.
“Tuscany is well known for their truffles, and so I would definitely recommend a visit to Il Tartufo which offers visitors the chance to taste white and black truffles in a variety of dishes.” Zena says.
“I also bought a delicious pat of truffle butter to bring home for my sister and truffle salts as gifts.”
Le Gallerie Degli Uffizi
Braving the long queues at the Uffizi, Zena spend her second day just getting lost among the gallery’s formidable collection of famous artworks by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli and others.
Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” was one artwork in particular that impacted Zena. An iconic image not only in history but also in popular culture today, the real-life details and colours in the painting made for an exceptional viewing experience, clearly demonstrated by the crowds that gathered around it throughout the day.
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By evening, the ladies enjoyed a spectacular sunset view overlooking the Arno River at La Terrazza Continentale, surrounded by fragrant Jasmine flowers lining the balcony. Dinner followed at the Savoy Hotel’s IRENE restaurant.
Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella
“Another great place we went to this historic perfumery off Piazza Santa Maria Novella – the name of the perfumery and of a beautiful church,” says Zena.
“The perfumery sells perfumes that the Queen of Spain wore in the 1500s. I bought a lovely Tabacco perfume that smells fabulous.”
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The Town Hall Of Florence
On their second night in the city, the group made their way to the Palazzo Vecchio, the Town Hall of Florence that overlooks the Piazza della Signoria square.
This is the spot in which the famous replica of the David stands, majestically overlooking a gallery of statues in Logia dei Lanzi.
“Adjacent to the Uffizi, Logia dei Lanzi is just lovely - a corridor lined by archways with a plethora of statues.” Zena says.
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Highly recommended by a friend, Zena visited the Osteria Santo Spirito restaurant for a taste of establishment’s famous three-cheese truffle gnocchi. A quick Google search revealed the restaurant’s opening hours at 12pm.
But the 30-minute wait that ensued was well spent milling about the treasure trove of antique and art shops around the Piazza Santo Spirito neighbourhood, where Zena purchased hand-painted Venetian notebooks.
Catching up and winding down
“Florence is such a calm and easy city – the ideal place to go if you want to reconnect with friends.”
Booking two adjoining rooms at Riva Lofts Florence felt like one big suite to Zena and her 3 friends, who enjoyed the hotel’s close proximity to the train station despite it being located slightly outside the city.
Naturally, the pool side was the next best spot to unwind, relax and talk at the end of a long day of sight-seeing.
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