Florence for the Facebook generation: Art and ice cream on a mum-and-daughter trip - June 2011

One sensed that at this late stage in the season, the Florentines had reached a similar point of exasperation - and responses to my questions, from asking the way, to trying to discover the price of an item in a shop, to a request to move table in a restaurant, were met in ways varying from mechanical to uninterested to downright hostile.

But who could blame them? If I had the good fortune to live in Florence, I know I would resent hugely the influx of tourists invading the city. I arrived for a three-day break with my 17-year-old daughter, Savannah, on her first trip to Florence. I remember my own first visit, at a similar age, on a school trip from my Belgian convent.

My abiding memory, I am ashamed to say now, is how overwhelmed I was by the relentless culture, and how exhausted I was with pounding from one museum to yet another church. An exhaustion that turned to boredom, which swiftly led to resentment. The highlight was the smouldering teenage boys on their little motorbikes, but that is part of another article!

It was with great interest, therefore, that I read about a treasure hunt called in the Footsteps Of Michelangelo, organised by the Hotel Savoy, which is part of the Rocco Forte Collection. A treasure hunt, what is more, aimed particularly at teenagers.

That's why we arrived in August to stay at the Hotel Savoy, which is designed in Olga Polizzi's true minimalist style. The staff were genuinely friendly, helpful and observant and, thank goodness, there was extremely efficient air-conditioning. The treasure hunt started right in front of the hotel in the Piazza della Repubblica.

We were met by our delightfully eccentric and enthusiastic guide, Sylvia Bonacine. After five minutes in her ebullient and educative company, I wanted to kidnap her for the rest of our stay. Her stories were effortless and enchanting - Savannah was captivated without even realising it. She was handed the first clue, a map, and off we went. Or rather, we didn't.

Orienteering is not a family skill. So after several false starts, Sylvia pointed us in the direction of the Bargello, which houses the National Museum and is one of Florence's oldest buildings, dating from 1255. Florence was a city state in the Middle Ages and based itself on a Greek democracy, holding elections every six months. The elected few left their families and lived together in the Bargello like monks for a year. This one-year term was designed to ensure rulers did not become too powerful. They were also barred from contact with the population in case they were bribed or corrupted, and were seen only on public occasions.

We had an interesting discussion about how this system would work well, and indeed be extremely beneficial, in our current political climate!

The rooms on the ground floor focus on four masterpieces by Michelangelo, and the first thing Savannah had to do was identify the character portrayed with a curious, staggering pose. The cup raised to the lips gave a clue, and most teenagers have heard of - and indeed imitated - Bacchus.

Before we left the Bargello, Sylvia took us to see two statues of David by Donatello, one bronze, the other marble. the bronze David is extraordinary - the first nude of the renaissance, dressed provocatively like a drag queen, naked except for his hat, boots and sword, lithe and full of swagger. A pleasure to behold, and a totally different interpretation to the Michelangelo masterpiece we saw in the Galleria dell'Accademia, a suitable climax to the treasure hunt.
On the way we had a welcome pitstop in Via Ricasoli at the Gelateria Carabe for the best Sicilian Granita, a delicious fruit-and-ice sorbet - a necessary cooling-down period after pounding the streets in the 40C heat.

The treasure hunt was a three-hour immersion course on Michelangelo, delivered brilliantly by Sylvia, and ideal for a teenager with a limited attention span - short, sharp and interesting anecdotes, and never staying too long in one place. A sort of cultural Twitter, perfect for the Facebook generation.
We discovered that the Florence Dance Festival was to be held that night in the Bargello, so we returned to the courtyard, sickle moon overhead, and waited to be entertained. And waited. We waited until the interval, and left. The programme was entitled From Here To Eternity. Interminable it most certainly was: after we had viewed the fifth individual performance of someone writhing around the stage floor, while another character sat perched on a stool wearing improbable angel's wings declaiming endlessly, we decided enough was enough.

Yet on the way back to our hotel we came upon some wonderful street theatre, and watched spellbound for an hour. One man, a musical instrument, and a stream of 'volunteers' dragged protesting from the crowd: brilliant mime, farce and impeccable comedic timing. He was incredibly funny, slick and utterly professional. It was a perfect lift to the evening.

The next morning we went to the Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore, which dominates the Florence skyline. We queued and climbed all the way to the top, through the Cathedral roof walkways. It is well worth the effort. There are spectacular views of the frescoes inside the dome and breathtaking views across Florence to the hills behind.

In the square in front of the Duomo we came across Dorotea Muller, a fascinating and talented 'artist who works in the street' rather than 'street artist' - her own distinction. She did a compelling likeness of Savannah, so compelling that people were queuing to have their own done. A huge crowd gathered, and most stayed for the full three hours it took to complete the portrait.

Savannah said the time passed quickly because Dorotea herself was fascinating, having led a bohemian and interesting life. With a cigarette hanging from her lips, dishevelled hair and forthright opinions, she was every inch the mad artist, a very intriguing character.

I dragged Savannah away to go to the Uffizi, the concierge at the hotel having booked us a slot to avoid the lengthy queue. There were just a few paintings I wanted Savannah to see: wandering aimlessly through the galleries is the quickest way for teenagers to lose interest.

We started with Botticelli's Birth Of Venus, full of light, ease and grace. Then on to Giotto's Madonna And Child and Filippo Lippi's Madonna And Child With Two Angels. Again, two hours was more than enough for a first visit, and I am sure that when Savannah returns to Florence, she will want to see more.
She certainly will return, if only to see the teenage-boy-on-motorbike side of Florence she was unable to on this trip because of the constraining presence of her mother! And not in August.

Travel Facts

Kirker Holidays (020 7593 2283, www.kirkerholidays.com) offers a three-night stay at the five-star deluxe Savoy (www.hotelsavoy.it) in Florence from £819.
The price includes return flights from London and private transfers, with breakfast, guide notes on restaurants and sightseeing, a ticket to the Uffizi and the services of the Kirker Concierge.