October is certainly not a traditional time of year to visit Italy. This is the country that I usually associate with long, hot summer days spent swimming in the warm oceans. But it turns out that autumn is a truly special time to visit Venice when the charm is still in abundance but the packed, sweltering hot summers are a distant memory and the bitter cold winters have not yet come into play.
The romantic side of the city shone with swirls of mystical fog that introduced each morning and made me feel as if I was waking up on a film set. As we started our adventures in the early morning, misty Venice with its palazzos and gondolas slowly emerged from the thick fog until the late morning brought a clear day and the city stood proud in all its beauty.
We took our trip to coincide with the last few weeks of the Venice Biennale. As one of the best cultural events in Europe, we mingled with art aficionados and collectors from far and wide, as well as those who are simply curious about exploring art in a new way.
Venice provides a majestic setting for this event because the display is simply so vast. The whole city becomes your very own art platform and we spent our time wandering from one palazzo to another and admiring different art exhibitions and installations. The fact that the city itself is a piece of art was the icing on a very delicious cake.
The main hub of the Biennale stood in the Arsenale district among the atmospheric former shipyards and armories that sit together in this corner of the city. While mostof the exhibitors displayed their collections in Arsenale, there were many others dotted around the city. After all, they do say that in Venice it feels like every step expands into eternity and on every corner falls something genius and beautiful.
I felt so privileged to see a major piece of work by Damien Hurst named “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable”. As the first major exhibition in Italy dedicated to Hurst since his 2004 retrospective, he made quite a comeback. It was mindblowing! The sheer scale of the exhibition was enormous and the topic he explored so ambitious and complex. It’s certainly worth seeing while it is all in one place because all of the pieces have already been sold to museums and private collectors.
After our time in Venice, it was time to move onto the next step in our cultural journey – Florence. This was my very first visit and we took a short two-hour train journey to arrive right into the centre of it all.
One of my closest friends was exhibiting at the Florence Biennale so we went along to support her and to see the city, too. The weather was very pleasant - warm but not too much - so it was lovely to walk around, take photos and admire the art without bumping into lots of other tourists.
We also indulged another favourite travel pastime - sampling the local delicacies. Florence is one of the most foodie places in Tuscany and famous for its steak Florentine, chicken liver pate, wild boar pasta, wild rabbit and wonderful wine. It's a place where you can really
spoil yourself with a combination of amazing art and fantastic food to make you feel satiated. I felt like I was living the dream!
The Cultural Heart
The world-famous Uffizi Gallery was a gem. It was well worth getting a guide because the collection is so big. The guide will show you the most incredible masterpieces, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Botticelli.
She explained how the art links back to the Medici family and how there are so many connections between the art and the history of the city. Watching the Medici: Masters of Florence TV series also helps to connect a few points.
We also spent some time at Florence's other main art centre - the Accademia Gallery. It is home to major art pieces by Italian artists and a wonderful place to visit for art lovers and newbies alike. Just like Venice, the city of Florence is like a piece of art in of itself. The Ponte Vecchio stood out to me as an incredible and truly fascinating place to visit. Make sure it's on your list!