I’VE finally matured to the point where I know my own mind.
Admittedly some people are surprised it has taken so long especially as there wasn’t a lot for me to be acquainted with.
I want to go out for a meal in a nice restaurant rather than to a nightclub where I can’t hear myself think let alone hold a conversion with the person accompanying me . I am happy to spend more money on clothes which are stylish but well made as opposed to this week’s must have one-wash-wonder.
I live in a house which I look forward to going back to each night, in a town where I am proud to be a part of the community. I drive a car which doesn’t compromise on style and performance and certainly doesn’t come with a bumper sticker.
Has all the joy gone out of my life? Have I become boring and middle-aged. No not a bit of it - I finally know my own mind. I know I enjoy stylish clothes, good entertainment with good friends. I know I enjoy living in a good-sized house with a garden and not a shoebox because it is convenient to the city and I know I enjoy travelling in comfort and style.
And so it is with the holidays I choose. Year on year I return to Tuscany as I never tire of its beauty, its charm and its ability to conjure up another reason to return.
I have often been accused of showing a lack of imagination when choosing my holiday destinations. Tuscany, or Chiantishire as it is nicknamed, is the destination of choice for hundreds of thousands of British and Irish tourists each year.
But there has to be a reason why so many people come back to this region year on year, why for so many Tuscany and specifically its capital city of Florence, is the place to spend a true classic holiday.
So what makes a classic? I of course Googled it and this is the criteria I found.
The definition of a classic can be a hotly debated topic. Depending on what you read, or the experience of the person you question on the topic, you may receive a wide range of answers.
A classic usually expresses some artistic quality, a classic stands the test of time, a classic has a certain universal appeal, and finally a classic makes connections.
I have been travelling to Florence for a number of years now and I can say with some confidence it is a classic destination.
The birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence has an abundance of art. Whether it is the Uffizi Gallery with its many rooms filled with works by masters such as Michelangelo, Raffaello and Botticelli or the Academia which is home to the famous Statue of David.
You don’t have to go to the galleries to see great works of art either, the architecture of the city makes it one of the most beautiful places in Europe. And if it is architecture you are after then the duomo (dome) at the Cathedral Santa Maria Del Fiore is absolutely awe-inspiring. The building towers above the other buildings and dominates the Florence skyline - a sight best viewed from across the River Arno at the Piazza Michelangelo.
Florence has certainly stood the test of time from its rise to prominence under the Medici family who turned it into a world power to surviving the retreat of the German army during World War Two when most of the city’s bridges were blown up - all except the Ponte Vecchio which Hitler deemed too beautiful to destroy.
The city welcomes millions of visitors each year from every corner of the world giving it real universal appeal. The tourists come for the well-documented history, art, fashion and food and there is one place which has this all under one roof and is a must visit place during your stay in Florence. The Pharmacia Santa Maria Novella was founded in 1612 by the Dominican Friars who used the monastic gardens to grow herbs for the medicines and balms used by the monks.
Word of the medicines grew and eventually the pharmacia was opened to the public leading it to becoming world famous - today the same ingredients and methods are used in the products letting visitors buy a little piece of history. Even if you don’t want to buy something a visit to the frescoed building is well worth it.
Another artisan producer using the best of Tuscany’s traditional methods to produce something truly unique is Lorenzo Villoresi. From his perfumery which offers sensational panoramic views across the Arno to the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio Lorenzo produces scents for men and women and the home. Retracing the routes of the Tuscan merchants of the Renaissance, the perfumes of Lorenzo Villoresi represent a universe where the materials, fragrances and colours of Tuscany and harmonise with the spices, essences and influences of the Orient. To shop online for Lorenzo Villoresi products log onto www.lorenzovilloresi.it
And finally you can’t fail to find a connection with Florence. If you love fashion you will will love the designer shops along Via Tournabouni, if you love art you will love the galleries and the Duomo, if you love food and drink you will love the may restaurants serving authentic Tuscan cuisine and wine. The best I found during my time there was a small restaurant close to Piazza Santa Maria Novella called Gobbi 13 - it serves the best wild boar ragu I have tasted and the welcome you will receive is second to none. Another great sign of its local standing is the fact that it is mainly full of Italians.
Remember I said I like my house because it is homely, inviting and offers everything from size to style that I need to feel relaxed? Well these qualities are all extremly important to me when choosing a hotel. I mean why base yourself in such an amazing city only to cloud the experience with poor facilities. Florence is a unique city therefore it is only right to stay in a unique hotel.
JK Place, situated centrally in the charming Piazza Santa Maria Novella, has re-written the rules for boutique hotels.
The owners and staff work extremely hard in creating a home-from-home environment. The experience begins as you arrive to find there is no huge neon hotel sign and you must ring the bell - much like arriving at a friend’s house.
Gone is the check-in process - instead guests are offered a drink as staff quietly take their particulars in the library and not the usual reception area.
The attention to detail in JK Place is second to none. The staff are very friendly and will happily recommend and book trips, restaurants and galleries for you. They really do have an ability to make you feel as if you are staying in a friend’s house and not a busy city centre boutique hotel. Being an Italian hotel it is no surprise that the decor is incredibly stylish but again like with most things in JK Place the attention to detail is key - each room is individually styled using the best products available.
A stay at JK Place is a treat but also a perfect base for touring Florence. If you are planning a two centre trip to Tuscany, staying in the city and then moving to a countryside villa then a visit to Merrion Charles’ website is advised.
Each of the villas in Merrion’s portfolio is known personally by her and is a home with its own particular style and charm. Some properties are extremely luxurious and palatial whilst others are more modest yet romantic - each has been chosen for its own special appeal and qualities.
Merrion has a fabulous relationship with all of her villa owners and visits each one regularly. All of the villas chosen by Merrion are in delightful and stunning locations and each has a story of its own. Merrion has a knack of carefully fitting her clients to villas so that no one is ever disappointed - her service is impartial and professional through and through.
For more details about JK Place and other villas and hotels throughout Tuscany and indeed across the rest of Italy visit merrioncharles.com.