Arriving in Florence
Ok, so once I figured out which train to get on, everything went smoothly. Departed the train at Santa Maria Novella in Florence and walked 15 minutes to Hotel Casci. Decent room, nice bathroom, overall, very good value and comfortable.
The Duomo, oh my Lord, the Duomo. Much grander, ornate, miraculous than I could have ever imagined. Impossible to photograph due to immensity. Walked and walked an walked today. First meandered toward Ponte Vecchio with gelato in hand from Festival Gelato. Apparently the line is usually around the block and there was no line, so I basically HAD to take advantage of the situation. Right? I almost spilled my gelato as I entered Piazza Della Signoria which homes the Palazzo Vecchio as well as the Uffizi Gallery. Oh my heavens! The scene was remarkable. Blue blue sky against tremendous red brick and gargantuan sculptures (honoring the Florentine greats like Michelangelo, Dante, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Lorenzo Medici. It is like everyone has a similar response: Frenetic admiration hangs in the air like an electrical current. Many people literally are squealing! This is where many of Florence’s execution, riots, and celebrations took place through out history which is easy to imagine. Though I’d much rather enjoy a espresso or a gelato here than a public decapitation!
I then headed over the Ponte Vecchio (thankful that it is no longer filled with jeweleres instead of with butchers who used to dump their excess into the Arno) and soon arrived at the grand Pitti Palace. I’ve heard this before, but I was astounded at the sheer volume of master paintings packed gallery style – floor to ceiling – in every room (and those ceiling are TALL and those rooms are numerous (maybe I entered 30 huge rooms…I wasn’t counting). Anyway, it was elaborate. Most intriguing were the ceilings and narratives they told that were tailored to those in power, coupling biblical stories with the home owners and Greek mythological characters had the faces of the family members, elevating them to anyone who entered the palace.
I then hiked, and I mean hoofed it, up to Piazzale Michelangelo way way up on a hill in Otrarno overlooking the city. Along the way, a seemingly nice Italian man asked me to meet him for dinner but, alas, I am a married woman and declined. It was worth the climb but I started feeling weak and had to get a banana smoothie and a bus ticket for the trip back to central Florence. I met an ex-pat from California on the bus who write a book, The Piazzas of Florence. She and her six year old came to Florence to research for the book for four months which turned into 10 years and they are still here!
I departed the bus at Santa Maria Novella and was lucky enough to visit the famous Perfumary and then the outstanding Paizza. The light was dropping and made the black and white geometrically designed Church really glow. Then by the Palazzo Strozzi and through Piazza Della Republica which had a fancy feel – perhaps it was the upscale shops like Gucci, Hermes, etc. There was a carousel in the middle which was a striking contrast to the towering archway that marks the entry to the square. I later learned that this square was the original Roman Forum!
Next, I needed up in Piazza San Lorenzo looking at the facade of San Lorenzo church. This one is astonishing in that the entire interior is full of work by artist such as Donatello and designs by Brunelleschi but the front, which Michelangelo spent years designing, was never applied to the under brick and concrete surface. The pope pulled funds – I’ll try to find out more about the reasons. By now, famished beyond reason, I ended up at a small snack place near the Duomo and my hotel and had a simple ham and mozzarella sandwich and fruit which was perfect and cheap.