Florence – Culture and stuff.

I had some much needed time off work recently and not having been away for a while, feeling desperately in need of it and feeling somewhat inspired, booked myself a week in Florence as part of an 11 day stretch away from work. I decided to go on my own and just see what happened relying on the fact that hostels are generally sociable places, frequented by similar spirits in search of similar experiences.

So, having had a few days to relax off work and prepare myself, formulate some idea of an itinerary and get to the airport, off I went. The nearest major airport to Florence is Pisa and so, arriving at somewhere in the region of 10:30am in Pisa I hopped on a train straight to Florence and was very pleased to find my hostel was just around the corner from the station and well placed for a quick walk to the historic centre of town.

My first stop, inevitably was to Piazza del Duomo, which boasts Florence crown jewel; Brunelleschi’s towering Dome as well as the Basilica and Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower), not to mention the Baptistry doors and the Baptistry itself. So, I turned the corner and found myself faced with this view:

First view of the Duomo.

Which I think you will agree is not bad as they go. What continued to stagger me about the Basilica and Duomo is that regardless of time of day, weather, or light conditions it continues to impress, both in scale and detail. It really is extraordinary and not hard to see why most of the centre of Florence is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

So, despite my somewhat zombified condition, I found myself a cafe and fortified myself with a brioche cioccolata and spremuta arancia (chocolate croissant and fresh orange juice, if, like me, you don’t really speak Italian) I began my exploration.

I began with the Basilica, not least because it is free to enter and gives you a different perspective on the inside of the Dome before you go and ascend the Dome itself. I would urge you definitely to both visit the Basilica and climb the Dome, but then to choose between the Campanile and the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio for your choice of viewing point for the Dome itself.

My day continued by climbing the Campanile, an extensive exploration of the city centre, locating the likes of the Uffizi, the Accademia, the Ponte Vecchio and Via Tornabuoni as well as many others and an unexpected, but pleasant surprise, in the discovery that the following evening would be Vogue’s Fashion Night Out in Florence.

More to come on that, but for now I will leave you with one of my abiding memories from the whole week:

Ponte Vecchio at Sunset.






Wong Kei, Wardour Street

For some time my family and various friends have been raving about a little Chinese restaurant (although I use the word restaurant loosely; it’s more of a canteen) called Wong Kei. Buried in the heart of Chinatown/Soho area on Wardour Street it is undoubtedly the genuine article.


Thanks to China Town London for the photo.

The food is served no-frills style on plastic plates with reusable plastic chop sticks and spoons and with no thought for presentation, but is very authentic and delicious. It is also dirt cheap (I paid £4.40 for a large plate of Singapore noodles) and that more than compensates for any qualms one might have.

The service, or lack thereof has to be seen to be believed. It is, however, done in a strangely endearing way, such that it further enhances the experience. Don’t expect much though!

All in all if you are looking for cheap, tasty
food in a genuine setting and feel the urge for Chinese food, this is your place. Centrally located just off Shaftesbury Avenue I highly recommend a visit.

41-43 Wardour Street,

0207 437 8408