Desoto County News

McNary: Experiencing the Magnificence of Florence, Italy: A Journey of Discovery and Splendor

By Loretta McNary

Imagine having the trip of a lifetime to indulge your desire to travel and immerse yourself in the enchanting streets of Florence, Italy, where every moment is a masterpiece waiting to be discovered. Imagine strolling through cobblestone alleys, the sun caressing your cheeks, while the aroma of freshly baked bread fills the air, painting a vivid picture of this mesmerizing city. 

Ah, Florence – the city that captured my heart and left an indelible mark on my soul. Let me take you on a whirlwind journey through the cobblestone streets, the ancient towers, and the breathtaking bridges that define this enchanting destination.

It all began on a Friday afternoon, as I bid farewell to Memphis and embarked on a journey that would take me halfway across the world. After a brief layover in Atlanta, I found myself soaring through the skies towards Rome, anticipation coursing through my veins as I imagined the journey.

Loretta McNary

And then, finally, we arrived in Florence – the jewel of Tuscany, bathed in the golden light of the Italian sun. As I stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac, I knew that this was the beginning of an unforgettable adventure.

For six glorious days, I had the privilege of delving into the rich tapestry of history and culture that Florence has to offer. From iconic landmarks like the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio to the hidden gems found in the labyrinthine streets, every corner unveiled a new treasure, waiting to be explored.

Florence isn’t just about sightseeing – it’s a sensory journey that captivates the soul. Imagine dining like royalty at exquisite restaurants, savoring every mouthful of authentic Italian cuisine, each bite a symphony of flavors that dances on your palate. 

Day number One: We walked the immaculate streets of Florence taking in the sights within blocks of the beautiful Westin Excelsor Hotel. But wait, it gets even better. As we strolled along the banks of the Arno River, we were greeted by Florence’s iconic bridges spanning the waters below. There’s the famous Ponte Vecchio, with its charming shops and bustling atmosphere, and the graceful arches of the Ponte Santa Trinita, offering picture-perfect views of the city’s skyline. We walked the Red Carpet that led us to the Welcome to Florence Reception & Dinner.

And who could forget about the Ferris wheel? Rising high above the city streets, it offers a bird’s-eye view of Florence’s beauty, spinning slowly against the backdrop of historic landmarks and ancient architecture. It’s not just an amusement park themed ride – it’s a symbol of joy and celebration, a testament to the enduring spirit of this vibrant city.

However, amidst all the beauty and grandeur, there’s also a reminder of Florence’s resilience in the face of adversity. As we admired the exquisite buildings that line the streets, we noticed the faint lines etched into their facades – remnants of past floods that have left their mark on this historic city. It’s a sobering reminder of the power of nature and the strength of the human spirit.

Day number two: We hired a tour guide to take us on a 90 minute tour via a golf cart-like vehicle. Sammy was one of the most knowledgeable tour guides through Florene’s historic streets. We even stumbled upon the building where it is believed that Leonardo da Vinci drew inspiration for the iconic Mona Lisa. Imagine standing in awe, gazing up at the very walls that witnessed the birth of one of the world’s most celebrated masterpieces. We also visited the Basilica of Santa Croce where Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Machiavelli are buried.

On day number three, we experienced an unforgettable tour to breathtaking Siena and San Gimignano, where the verdant Tuscan countryside stretches as far as the eye can see, leaving you speechless with its natural beauty. Although we had to climb a steep hill or two to see the shops and restaurants, it was worth every winded step. We were able to see the entire City of San Gimignano from the top of the hill. To say the view was absolutely breathtaking is an understatement!

But amidst all the splendor, it’s the memories that linger most vividly. The laughter that echoes through the narrow streets, the tears of joy shed in moments of pure bliss, and the profound sense of gratitude that fills your heart with every passing moment.

One iconic building stands out amidst the grandeur – the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, a testament to the city’s rich history and architectural prowess. Just standing near this incredible cathedral filled me with a profound sense of peace and hope, as I gazed upon its majestic facade adorned with intricate marble and elegant statues.

Even the rain adds to the charm of Florence, transforming the city into a glistening wonderland. I’ll never forget the day I ventured out in the rain, each step a tour of discovery as I explored the immaculate streets, each one inviting me to uncover its hidden treasures.

Our journey was also enriched by cultural experiences, from lavish receptions and dinners to immersive tours led by knowledgeable guides. We delved into Florence’s storied past, learning about the towering hills, iconic bridges, and the influential families that shaped the city’s destiny.

Visiting the Palace Pitti, now a sprawling museum offering breathtaking views of the city, was a highlight of our adventure. As we stood before the final resting place of the Medici family, buried beneath the marble floors, we felt a profound sense of awe at their enduring legacy.

On our fourth day, we indulged in a five-course dinner at the Borghese Palace, followed by an evening of dancing that filled the grand halls with laughter and joy. 

On day number five, we explored the luxurious boutiques lining Via de’ Tornabuoni, a shopper’s paradise where every storefront tells a story of elegance and sophistication. (My favorite stores all within walking distance are: Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Burberry, Saint Laurent, Max Mara, DIOR, Versace and Georgia Armani.) After shopping we enjoyed the most delicious pizza and peach tea at a quaint pizzeria a few blocks from Via de’Tornabuoni.

As we bid farewell to Florence, our hearts were heavy with the weight of cherished memories and the promise of new adventures to come. But amidst the bittersweet farewell, there was a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to experience the magic of this extraordinary city.

So here’s to more adventures, my friend – to the sights, the sounds, and the sensations that ignite our spirits and fill our souls with wonder and gratitude. Who knows where the next adventure will take us, but one thing’s for sure – it’s going to be one heck of a ride. 

Loretta McNary is our Lifestyles contributor. Catch “The Loretta McNary Show” on her channels, including broadcast TV, YouTube, Facebook, her website, and elsewhere.