Things To Do, Places To Visit, Renaissance Art And Travel Tips For Florence, Italy

Dry your eyes and stash the kleenex at the back of the cupboard, I have returned! I didn’t bring you any presents, no. Is that all our friendship is to you? Well, I did kind of bring presents, this amazingly beautiful and helpful blog post. Next time I shall share with you the morbid delights of the anatomy museum but, for now, Florence’s (mostly) light side.

As our walking tour guide said, Florence is like a living history museum with buildings from the medieval period, the Renaissance and much more. This is true, but to me it also feels like the scene in a fantasy novel or film where the hero is taken through an alleyway in a city and emerges in a fantastical market. All pictures taken by Bill Purnell.

Aqua Flor is a perfumery operating the same way since the Renaissance. Not only is the inside beautiful but the back opens onto a large room with statues, paintings and columns. Plus there’s a poison cabinet, what more could you ask? DSC_0271

The Uffizi Gallery is in the Piazza Della Signoria surrounded by public statues. The inside is a mix of statues and paintings and, when you’re in Florence, always look at the ceilings – you don’t want to miss the frescoes which are almost everywhere. Make sure you reserve a specific time slot, it’s a very popular place and you won’t want to spend hours queuing.

Inside the Uffizi
Inside the Uffizi

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

The Piazza Della Signoria
The Piazza Della Signoria

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The Boboli Gardens is another place worth a visit. Again you can reserve which means you don’t have to queue. Unlike us, who reserved AND queued. Oh dear! The Boboli Gardens

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For any book lovers who can’t speak Italian, ie. me, there’s the Paperback Exchange. As well as a big range of new books including comics and graphic novels, students bring books back after lessons, so head for a room at the back and you’ll get them for around 5 euros. Hooray!

Me with my haul
Me with my haul

In the Piazza Della Repubblica is one of the prettiest carousels I’ve ever seen. Of course I went on it a few times and no, I didn’t care that I was the only grown up.carousel in piazza della repubblica

Our hotel, the Bernini Palace (beautiful, recommended definitely), was in Piazza di San Firenze and every morning I would step out in front of the building where Leonardo De Vinci began the Mona Lisa. where Leonardo De Vinci began the Mona LisaArt is everywhere, from street art like Clet Abraham’s hacked road signs to statues or painting on almost every corner. Florence art and statues

A beautiful Florentine street

Warnings: Along with the joy, however, are a few important things to remember. The street sellers by the Cathedral are not licensed to sell. As they’re desperate people from war torn countries it’s tolerated but if you’re caught buying from them you’ll be fined. It’s often knock-off goods and if you want a nice leather wallet it’s best to get it from a shop.

Also, Gelatarias (gelato ice cream shops) with high mountains of the stuff aren’t as good as those with tubs. Basically, if you see very tall mounds of gelato, avoid it and go for something with flatter piles.

Bene! We are almost at an end, but before you whisk yourself off into the night have a peek at a very short video of beautiful things I saw on my travels. In it are the Piazza Della Signoria, Aqua Flor, Santa Maria Novella Pharmacia (another stunning perfumery, this time started by Monks) and the carousel among others. Farewell!

An Occult, Macabre Delight – Talliston House and Gardens

All pictures courtesy of the website.

Last weekend my friends and I decided to go look at a house. “Why?” You ask, “there’s houses everywhere. Look, I can see one now.” Well, yes, but this one “there’s one with a red door, and a green door, and…” Shush! As I was saying, this one is really special.

The 1929 Occult Study
The 1929 Occult Study

Talliston House and Gardens in Dunmow, Essex, has been a project of the owner, John Trevillion, for 25 years. It started as a regular ex council house and has become an art piece where every room exists in a different era, from a New Orleans voodoo kitchen to a late Victorian front room.

1960s Cambodia in the attic
1960s Cambodia in the attic

My favourites, however, were upstairs: a study from 1929 New York filled with occult books and props, a ‘haunted bedroom’ and 1960s Cambodia in the attic.

A Victorian front room
A Victorian front room

They’ve still not quite finished but there’s lots of things upcoming. They hold murder mystery nights, people can stay over on special occasions, plus there’s viewings, poetry and music nights (you can watch the videos on their youtube channel) and an event in October with actors occupying the rooms. Honestly, we thought it was wonderful. Visit if you can, and finally here’s a video showing how it was made (note: they had help completing it so don’t worry, they’re almost done):

Photography: Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities

Before going to see the fantastic live show of Welcome to Night Vale my friends and I popped into Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities. Gaze upon the marvels within and, if you like, head down to 11 Mare Street, London, nearest tube Bethnal Green, to have a look for yourself. All pictures taken by Bill Purnell.Viktor-Wynd-curiosities-1 Viktor-Wynd-curiosities-2 Viktor-Wynd-curiosities-3 Viktor-Wynd-curiosities-4 Viktor-Wynd-curiosities-5 Viktor-Wynd-curiosities-6 Viktor-Wynd-curiosities-7 Viktor-Wynd-curiosities-8 Viktor-Wynd-curiosities-9

Two spooky plays: Ghost Stories and Woman in Black

Seeing as Ghost Stories (written by author and invisible League of Gentlemen member Jeremy Dyson and actor and mentalist Andy Nyman) is returning early next year (2014) to the West End I thought I’d write a belated post on how much I think you should see both of these plays.

Ghost Stories: OK I’ll keep it fairly brief because anything approaching a review will spoil them for you. I saw Ghost Stories a few years ago and had a panic attack in the toilets afterwards. To be fair, I have quite a bad anxiety disorder, plus I believe horror is a two way street.

Anyone going in knowing they won’t be frightened is going to be disappointed with it. Whenever I watch horror I do all I can to let myself to be scared, which is why I get so cross if the film/play/book doesn’t do it’s part. I hope I’m explaining myself properly. Basically I went in and allowed them take me into their creepy minds, and freaked out in the loos after. It was great. Here’s the trailer for Ghost Stories and follow the link here to get theatre information:

Woman in Black: So popular it’s had a continuous run for years at the Fortune Theatre, the play is completely faithful to the book in a very inventive way. I love a good Victorian/Edwardian spooky story and there were some good unexpected comedy moments. Follow the link here to get tickets and here’s the trailer:

The Chelmsford Fling festival

Where can you make things out of clay, or sew your own toy, watch a two person short play and a monologue about the Marquis De Sade before toddling off to the Cabaret tent to watch burlesque? The Chelmsford Fling in Essex, that’s where! Have a look online here. And the best part? No children!

In the cabaret tent Desmond O Connor (who’s popped up as MC for Bizarre Magazine’s Ball more than once) serenaded us with increasingly rude songs on the ukelele and Ginger Blush engaged the crowds in burlesque bingo (like normal bingo but with corsets), all punctuated with lovely ladies dancing about and removing items of clothing. Oh, and one man, he was quite nice too.

Elsewhere in the Make Do And Mend tent you could create your own toy, or watch two professional actors in a short play in the Storytime tent. If that’s not enough you can make things out of clay or your own hat if you don’t mind looking really stupid, or watch experimental films whilst drinking refreshing smoothies in the Psychedelic Film tent. Oh yeah, and somewhere there was some live music playing.

Obviously it’s already happened this year, but make sure you get to the next if you can and buy advance tickets as the price goes up considerably on the door. Now here are some pictures to highlight the experience:

It's me on a bench!
It’s me on a bench!

A play in a tent
A play in a tent
Make Do And Mend!
Make Do And Mend!
The view from the screen in the Psychedelic Movie tent
The view from the screen in the Psychedelic Movie tent
The tent in action
The tent in action
Member of local burlesque troupe Hell's Belles
Member of local burlesque troupe Hell’s Belles

A lovely lady who had apparently been on Britain's Got Talent
A lovely lady who had apparently been on Britain’s Got Talent
A man on stilts - I liked him, he reminded me of a Neverwhere character
A man on stilts – I liked him, he reminded me of a Neverwhere character