Florence, the visible part of it anyway, is all stone – and in high summer it’s a griddle.
To cross a piazza at midday in July is to feel the soles of your shoes begin to melt and the top of your head to frazzle.
Sunshine at work: The fabled orange rooftops of Florence look even more glorious in summer
But for those who live like the locals, it’s a pleasure garden.
I’m here in a June heatwave, and we are enjoying summer the way the Tuscans have for centuries – quietly in gardens and cloisters by day, and nosily in piazzas by night.
Florence is cupped by hills. We take a taxi up to San Miniato al Monte, with its black-and-white Romanesque facade, and take most of a day to walk back into town.
We buy glasses full of an icy slush of fresh strawberries, and set off down a flight of steps up which pilgrims have been climbing for centuries.
Cypresses shade it, roses and jasmine spill over it. It leads all the way down to a fortified gate house in the medieval city walls.
A short walk past painted palaces, and we are off-road again, in the recently re-opened Bardini Garden, which is pitched at a 45 per cent gradient.
This hillside has been a garden for more than 700 years.
At the uphill end there is a cafe in a pillared pavilion, where we eat mozzarella and pink grapefruit ices, and a canal presided over by a baby Chinese dragon in bronze.
A garden city: Florence is a city where you can while away the day in green spaces like the Villa Gamberaia
A vertiginous baroque stone staircase plummets straight down, but the way to go is zig-zag, along paths lined with cloudlike hydrangeas, wisteria and statues of shepherdesses.
A lane leads directly on to the larger, grander Boboli Gardens. There we collapse for a siesta on the grass of one of the secret spaces, aromatically hedged with bay and rosemary, where the courtiers of the Grand Duke of Tuscany came for privacy, to giggle, conspire and make love.
By the time we emerge, the swallows have begun their evening display, swooping over the brown water of the Arno, the tour buses have chugged away and the city’s residents are out on the bridges to flirt and watch the sunset.
Back to the Hotel l’Orologio, from whose glazed top-floor loggia we can contemplate the green and white marble facade of Santa Maria Novella, and where our comfortable large room overlooks a tiny cobbled piazza with tubs of vermilion geraniums.
We cross the river again, to eat dinner in the Piazza Santo Spirito at Borgo Antico. Dogs and their owners, parade beneath the trees. Children in frilly dresses shriek and jump on each other. Waiters weave between tight packed outdoor tables bearing platters of roasted vegetables and vast bistecca.
We have established a pattern. For the next three days we are like dogs, slouching from shade to shade. We go up to Settignano, on a hillside a short taxi-ride south of the city centre, and spend a morning under the pines in the garden of the Villa Gamberaia, which is supremely beautiful.
We loiter in the cloisters of Santa Maria Novella, contemplating the frescoes showing St Dominic trying (in vain) to dissuade crowds of richly robed lords and ladies from pernicious, earthly delights.
A river runs through it: Even in high summer, Florence can have its peaceful moments
We discover that, though Florentine renaissance palaces turn blank faces to the street, inside they have secret courtyards full of orange trees, great ropes of wisteria and cool colonnades.
We eat lunch indoors – as the Italians do.
It’s blissful to contemplate the glaring light outside from a terracotta-paved trattoria.
Afternoons are for church-visiting, or for sleeping.
Then the sun goes down, and like a canary whose cage has been uncovered, Florence is once again chirping, revving its scooters and growing raucous over Aperol spritz.
We make it to the Uffizi, and I look with new attention at the loggias and tree-shaded gardens in which the painted Virgins receive the annunciating angel.
Italians, renaissance or modern, know how to enjoy their country.
Travel Facts: Plan your own foray to Florence
Holidays (020 7593 2283, www.kirkerholidays.com) offers three nights’
BB at Hotel L’Orologio from £757 pp based on two sharing. Price
includes return flights to Pisa, transfers, entrance tickets to either
the Uffizi, Bargello museum or the Accademia gallery.