Once upon a time summer holidays were a time to relax. Perhaps I was an exception. My parents were both in education. Endless six-week vacations rather than dull summers spent at home were normal. Personal postcards and photography, not shared on Instagram or Snapchat, were our creative means of communication.
Today in this country a two-week summer holiday is rare and if taken, we are sure to be tracked down. How do we forget work, social media, followers, filters and shut up shop like families and shopkeepers in Italy? The great scappata for an entire month. Imagine. I will try.
Florence may be a ghost town for the locals but it was crammed with waddling tourists with selfie sticks on the modern grand tour. Hidden cafes were all closed. Will Fisher of Jamb says ‘the most important visits for me are not just the cultural but also the culinary. When I’m in Florence I have to visit my favourite restaurant Trattoria Sostanza that my best friend Naj introduced me to.’ We tried but the blinds were tightly drawn. Chiuso. But the Duomo and Gates of Heaven were open.
Florence is beautiful with the sort of sunshine that kisses every building with gold. One way to get to know the city’s history and art is through its churches. Santa Maria Novella church, the first great basilica in Florence seduced us with its Frescos by masters of Gothic and early Renaissance. These remain pioneering scenes with whispering shades to inspire.
The Uffizi was exhilarating with its labyrinth of corridors and rooms. Art bathed in the colours of heaven - effervescent blues, pinks, yellows, greens and gold found in the work of Fra Angelica, the angelic brother and his Florentine contemporaries.
And yes, we did the bus trip to one of the highest points of the city. We passed villas you can only dream of and visited the Church of San Miniato before reaching the Piazza Michelangelo, where we stood shoulder to shoulder, snapping Florence at sunset.
Our villa for the week was in the hills on balmy, near-deserted Tuscan lanes lined with olive trees and Chianti vines. When not visiting the city we simply swam and lazed around the gardens with the elegant stillness of Florence in the distance.
Summertime and for a week the living was nearly as easy as it used to be.