Cypress trees, cobblestone avenues, and some of the world’s most highly coveted architectural treasures — just a brief list of what can be found in Florence, Italy.  

No matter the time of year, this city impresses time and time again. I went to Florence to develop photography for a boutique hotel, but my time there proved to be much more emotional than I ever could have imagined.

It is without question that life moves slower in Italy, which is why it such a lovely country to visit. From the peeling ocher walls and rickety wooden shutters to the old man quietly strolling down an alleyway with his hands behind his back, Florence connected me to a simpler, quieter life previously unknown to me in New York City. The people, food, and appreciation for life is vibrant and inspiring, while the love and respect for tradition is apparent and widespread.

To visit Florence is to step into a world that has been seemingly frozen in time, one filled with leather shoes, horse-drawn carriages, and fine-tailored clothing. Stone bridges connect life from one side of the Arno to the other, linking locals and tourists alike. Whether it be the Palazzo Vecchio or the famed Duomo, this city is bound to its historical significance. To roam the same streets where Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, and Ghiberti once walked is truly surreal, to say the least.

Seeing Florence like a native meant waking up earlier than the locals. Early enough that the sun hadn’t yet risen  and a stray cat was the only sign of life for countless avenues.

Watching the sun come over the buildings along the Arno was as peaceful as it was exhilarating. The soft morning glow of the Tuscan sun meant that the sky was cast in hues of ultramarine and merigold, making life seem like a painting. The dance between warm and cool colors along with the brisk winter air and warm rays of sun left my body and mind speechless.

Waking up before the sun, when the Florentine streets were deserted and the only sound was that of my own footsteps was worth it to enjoy views like this, alone, with no else but the ancient city around me.

With each visit to Italy, I’ve returned home inspired, always thinking of the landscape, people, food, and memories made in this incredible country.