When I was a child in rural Ireland, we never took a holiday, let alone a holiday full of activities organised to keep us stimulated by our brains.

We lived in an abject fear of “culture”. the visit to the museum (dressed as a candy) was our Nemesis: trotting after one of the parents or the other, who would break the dust-stained silence by buzzing over it, as we dragged our fingers over the signs of not touching and counted the long, dreary minutes until we were released. this world of relic worship seemed completely foreign.

So maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing that it took me decades to reach the glorious city of Florence. instead, it was love at first sight as I found myself in a living museum that brought the living past without struggling with its provenance. it is impossible to cross the ponte vecchio or the duomo without taking into account its rich artistic history.

Ponte Vecchio

Ancient art rubs shoulders with hotels, restaurants, shops [read: shopping] and, of course, the year-round hustle and bustle of tourists, students and residents who wander through its medieval streets.

Unlike the United Kingdom, where all roads lead to London, Italy has always been admirably democratic when it comes to celebrating its cities. naples is the bad brother, all-hair, petulant and nervous; milan no-nonsense also wobbles on high heels, a fashionista who pranks; rome is the great old lady, spectacular in her flimsy charm; while turin plays patriarch – looking down from up while sucking fast cars and football heroes.

Florence, on the other hand, is always presented as the composed Countess, and there is no doubt that it is a conservative city with a small “c”. it is also a place of rich and evocative history, where Dante and Machiavelli lived. the Medici presided, Michelangelo prospered, and patronage ensured a glorious renaissance in art and culture, while the ruling families struggled to build the most ostentatious palazzi.

Duomo - A place that remains the same

Those days were all around the elk before, but as our world continues to move at an ever faster pace, I find myself increasingly drawn to places that remain the same. I recently returned to Florence after an absence of nearly 15 years to find that the renovated Hotel savoy unfamiliar. located on the first shopping street via Roma, and decorated with the discreetly distinctive sophistication that has made Olga polizzi a renowned designer, it is an oasis of charming service and luxurious comfort in the bustling heart of the city – its fresh blues and white flowers offering blessed relief from troubled streets.