The Valediction Guide to Florence

I don’t know how anyone every makes a Florence guidebook; there’s just too much to see. Between all the art, architecture, food, culture, history, and food it’s unfathomable that anyone even attempts whittle the list of must-sees to a few dozen.

I was in Florence for four weeks in 2006 and still didn’t see everything. In A Valediction, Toby and July were barely there a week and definitely didn’t even get to some of the aforementioned greatest hits (though they did get sufficient gelato).  Want to know the layout of everywhere they went, or where Toby’s idea of Florence’s best gelato is? Here are some of the Valediction Florence landmarks.

The Duomo/ Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore – In a city where the closest thing to a skyscraper is a gothic bell tower completed in 1359, the Duomo is the centerpiece of the Florence skyline. It’s also a central fixture in A Valediction – most notably for Toby and his memory of Jenny. His most treasured moment of his ex-wife is when she went en pointe and danced in front of the Duomo; even after their split, he keeps a photo of that moment hidden between the pages of his dictionary. Then he brings his 20-years-younger girlfriend to that same spot. Awkward much?

Ponte Vecchio – 20 years prior to strolling across the Ponte Vecchio with July, Toby contemplated buying Jenny’s engagement ring at one of the (very expensive) jewelry shops lining the famous bridge.

Piazza Santa Croce – This is where Toby and July eat a pizza in a piazza. On one side of the piazza is the Basilica di Santa Croce, the resting place of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo, and Rossini. There’s a German Christmas market there every year, but it would have ended by the time Toby and July arrive.

Westin Excelsior Florence - Toby and July meet Massimo and Astrid here on Christmas evening before dinner at Ashoka. I’ve never been inside; it looks lovely, though!

Hotel ArieleHotel Ariele is Toby’s go-to hotel, and it’s where he stays with July in A Valediction. Before our film program, my very good friend Rachel and I stayed here. I must not be very creative when it comes to places Toby and July go, because with the exception of Gianni’s gelateria, which I made up, I went to them all.

Piazza San Marco – The imagined locale of Gianni’s gelateria. I don’t know why my brain put it here; I didn’t remember the name of the piazza until just now, and Rachel and I strolled by once or twice. But my brain still remembered how to get there, and according to Google Maps, it’s a 2.1km (1.3 mile) walk back to Hotel Ariele, a trip of about 25 minutes.

Gelateria Santa Trinita – I couldn’t find the name of this gelateria until I wrote this blog; for years, all I remembered was its location one bridge west of the Ponte Vecchio on the south side of the Arno. If Google Maps is correct and it’s still the same gelateria that it was when I was there in 2006, I’m pretty sure that Gelateria Santa Trinita is the Toby-professed best gelato in Florence (let’s be honest: I thought it was the best gelato in Florence. But I only had four weeks to eat).

Ashoka – Toby and July have Christmas dinner at Indian restaurant Ashoka with Astrid and Massimo. In reality, my friend Rachel and I dined here very frequently – I even filmed one of my short films there. Yes, we were surrounded by exquisite Italian cuisine, but let’s face it: sometimes you just need curry, something Massimo understands.

Piazza Della Repubblica – There are a lot of retail shops around this very popular square; Rachel and I went into a book store around here (I think), though I can’t find it on the map. Anyhow, in the Valediction version of Florence, the book store in which Massimo works is in the vicinity.

The list doesn’t encompass all my personal favorite places – most notably the Boboli Gardens and Piazzale Michelangelo – but I decided for this post only to share the locales that appear in A Valediction. If you’ve been to Florence, share your favorite places! Did I miss a spot from the book? Wondering where something is? Let me know and I’ll find it on the map for you.

Photo by flickr user Aires Almeida