Luisaviaroma Firenze4Ever diary: Day 1
Wander through Florence with ELLE writer Florence Song as she attends Luisaviaroma's fashion and shopping festival in the Tuscan capital
My first 24 hours in Florence were a whirlwind of highs and lows. I arrived at 10 in the morning after 15 hours of flying, and a 2-hour stopover at Charles de Gaulle in Paris. I was tired and my back was pulsing with pain from sitting upright for 13 hours straight (as luck would have it, I got stuck with a seat that would not recline, and a full flight). I should probably note that this was my first experience of flying long-haul, so I now have a phobia of it.
After some minor confusion at the airport, I finally located the cab that was arranged for me and we set off towards the centre of Florence. My cab driver did not speak a word of English, nor I any Italian (save for the basics on your average Italian menu), so I had to trust that he would get me to my hotel based purely on hand signals and gesturing at the address I had scribbled in my notebook. One thought prevailed throughout the cab ride: Italian drivers are just like Penang drivers! Apparently it's the norm for Italian cars to have dents on them, and if you know what our northern neighbours are like on the road, you'd be clutching your seatbelt as tightly as I was.
Luckily for me, the cab eventually pulled up outside my hotel. All I wanted to do by that point was to check into my room and draw myself a nice warm bath before getting horizontal on my bed to catch up on lost sleep. To my dismay, I was told that my room would not be ready for another four hours. Wanting to make the best out of a bad situation, I found myself out on the streets of Florence, after changing into some fresh clothes.
Even though I had a list of famous landmarks bookmarked to visit, I decided to wing it and just go wherever my feet would take me to orientate myself with the area. Barely 20 feet into my walk I found myself at a square, where a huge group of tourists was huddled around a granite column with a bronze sculpture at the top of it. I knew then that I must have stumbled upon a famous landmark, and I was right! I was on the Piazza Santa Trinita – a triangular square named after the 11th-century Santa Trinita church on its northwest end – while the tall column in the middle of the square was the ancient Roman Column of Justice.
The Piazza Santa Trinita with Column of Justice in the middle and the Palazzo Spini-Ferrini ahead (Photo: ELLE Malaysia)
Taking a turn into another alley by the Palazzo Spini-Ferroni – now the headquarters, flagship store and museum of Salvatore Ferragamo – I made my way further down south, passing by a kooky looking, hole-in-the-wall panini shop, an interesting hotel with huge spoons decorating its exterior, gelaterias with an abundance of colourful gelato on display and several pizzerias with mouth-watering paninis and pizzas on their counters, before arriving at a street lined with tiny goldsmith shops and curiously bustling with tourists. It wasn't until I arrived at the centre of the street and came across two small terraces on either side offering up a scenic view of a river that I realised that I was actually on a bridge. And not just any bridge, mind you, I was on the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge)! One of the top three must-visit spots on my list and an iconic symbol of the city built over the Arno River.
View from the Ponte Vecchio terrace (Photo: ELLE Malaysia)
Several (dozen) #selfies later, I continued my stroll past street artists peddling their artwork until I found myself staring at an enormous Renaissance building. It was none other than the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace). Pardon me for the exaggeration, but the grand view of the palace almost took my breath away (spoiler alert: this happens multiple times throughout my trip). Without wasting any time, I bought a ticket (Ticket B) that allowed me access to the Museo degli Argenti (The Medici Treasury), which houses a vast collection of the Medici household's treasures, the Porcelain Museum (self-explanatory), the Costume Gallery showcasing iconic fashions of the past 300 years and most importantly, the breathtaking Boboli Gardens. If you had to visit just one famous landmark in Florence, I would recommend the Boboli Gardens. The beautiful terraces, the fountain of Neptune and the panoramic views from the top coupled with the experience of life at court make this the best 10 Euro I spent in Florence, hands down. Just come prepared to walk and sweat. A lot.
At the Luisaviaroma store (Photo: ELLE Malaysia)
Before I knew it, three hours had passed by getting lost in the vast gardens, and it was time for me to return to my hotel to check in and get ready for my first Firenze4Ever 11th Edition – Over the Rainbow dinner. After managing a quick shower and no naps in between (the horror!), I hurried over to the Luisaviaroma store for the welcoming address. Walking through the entrance of the store was like crossing the realm between reality and a cotton-candy dream. The store had been transformed into the ultimate rainbow wonderland. Plastic pools were filled with ALL the My Little Pony figurines you could ever dream of, huge pony plushies lined the shelves, spectacular candy-coloured dresses adorned the mannequins and huge cloud cut-outs decorated the store. Despite not being the girliest of girls or the biggest My Little Pony fan, I had to exercise immense restraint to stop from kidnapping all the ponies for myself.
Isaac Likes, Alfonso Mateo and Jacey Duprie (Photo: ELLE Malaysia)
Before a pony (or two) could disappear forever into the depths of my bag, I was greeted by the Luisaviaroma team, who somehow seemed to recognise me even though I had not met any of them before. I later found out that they had every guest memorised through our passport photos. Very impressive! I had time to enjoy a glass of sparkling water and some aperitivos (the Italian equivalent of hors d’oeuvres) before I was introduced to Andrea Panconesi, the CEO of Luisaviaroma. After that, it was plenty of fashion blogger-spotting. I squealed in delight when little boy wonder, Alonso Mateo, came prancing around working it for the camera. I marvelled when Eleonara Carisi showed up in her theme-worthy technicoloured Valentino dress. It felt so surreal seeing these faces in real life after featuring them in my own magazine pages and knowing them through their Instagram posts.
Table-setting at the courtyard (Photo: ELLE Malaysia)
Finally, dinner was served. It took just as long as the banquet table, but no one was really complaining due to the breathtaking location and beautiful set-up. By the time I reached my second course, the jet-lag was already kicking in. Hard. It was 10.30pm in Florence and almost 5 in the morning back home. The struggle to stay awake was too real. Dinner felt like a daze and I could barely hold a proper conversation any longer. Dessert was finally served after what felt like eternity in my jet-lagged state. After wolfing down my delicious gelato and berry compote, I excused myself and retired to my hotel room after an exhausting but thoroughly exciting first day.