A private view: explore the quieter side of Florence

Away from the bustle of the crowds is a far gentler version of Tuscany’s great art and food city. All you need is a bike

It’s midnight, and I am lost in Florence. I’m on a bike without lights (almost no one has lights on their bikes in central Florence, just as no one has a helmet) and whichever turn I take to get me to the River Arno seems to get me back to the Duomo. But what a sight it is, its magnificent light and dark marble rising majestically out of the night. I have a bag of locally made chocolate in my basket and suddenly I realise that being lost in the Renaissance city in the middle of the night, with a supply of cioccolato con nocciole, makes me perhaps the luckiest person alive.

Florence is a glorious city and I am blessed to be spending a lot of time in it right now, working on a project about female Renaissance artists (yes! they were here all the time, painting alongside da Vinci and Michelangelo, Botticelli and Caravaggio; it’s just taken us a few hundred years to clock their existence). Sometimes I rent a room in the centre, but this week I am based 4km from the Duomo (hence the bike), in an architect-designed collection of rooms and flats on the Oltrarno (translation: “the other side of the Arno”). It’s called Riva Lofts, and cycling back to it 15 minutes later along the river path, when I eventually get my bearings, feels like being transported to the Umbrian countryside.

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