Tag Archives: Fiesole

San Lorenzo Church and Crypts…kinda creepy!

For any of you who are worried that I am wondering around getting lost (hi mom), let me clarify, I had a map and was following one of the tourist office’s walks around Fiesole. I just took the wrong tour and missed a closer look at the swanky Villa San Michele. Despite the climbs, heat and misstep, I highly recommend Fiesole.

Next up was San Lorenzo Basilica which was stunning on the inside despite the incomplete facade. The ticket also included entry to the tombs under the church which was full of surprises. First, there was the tomb of Cosimo Medici which was an enormous square shaped marble crypt build into the central column of the church, literally and metaphorically placing Cosimo in a position to hold up the church. Then, a few feet away was the tomb of Donatello. In a separate room, still underground, was a display of relics. Despite reading about relics in art history, I was still taken aback when I realized what I was seeing in the temp controlled glass cases. I thought the oval shaped, silver encrusted frames, with little circular windows were displaying some type of family tree. But upon closer inspection, I realized there were little objects in each window…little pieces of bone, hair, teeth…corporal souvenirs for people to worship for hundreds and hundreds of years! And that they do. The Forentines speak of the Medici, a family that died out many generations ago, with reverence and gratitude.

The whole experience makes me consider the intrinsic value of objects, whether it be art, literature, architecture, or relics. (Bear with me, spending is much time alone makes me rather introspective.) The line between animate and inanimate blurs as I come to better understand the power of objects for humanity throughout history. I am reminded of the Tom Robbins novel Still Life with a Woodpecker which will certainly change the reader’s view of the objects in our lives.

Studying the art commissioned by the Medici family, one will notice the frequent image of oranges which were a sign of power and life. As I ascended from the crypts, I arrived in a small beautiful courtyard and immediately noticed an enormous orange tree in the center heavy and fragrant with big bright oranges. Reminders of the Medici are very much alive!image

I then headed to the post office which has so many names, it was hard to find. A kind waiter laughed as he helped me with directions. I was standing right in front of it! Thankfully, I’d read about the Italian post office procedures, or I would have never made it out of there with my tasks completed. It is like a major appointment to go to the PO for business. I needed to mail letters to Paige and Phoebe and needed to exchange American money to Euros which required lots of patience and more Italian than I’ve previously attempted.

imageBy now it was after 7:00 and I was again famished. Thanks to Cathy and Jim Wilkins, I was able to get off the tourist dining circuit and walk to a residential area for dinner. On my way to dinner, I passed a few impressive street artists as well as a store that made me think of my sweet grandmother, Nana. imageimageI was the first to arrive at 7:30 and they even let me in a few minutes early. Still a bit anxious about dining alone, this place could not have been more accommodating and comfortable. The chef trained in NY for 8 years at some hot Italian restaurant and returned home to open Garga with his mother. I got to meet him and the restaurants encourages diners to draw on the table cloths. There were some statues around to serve as models so between the food and the drawing and the welcoming staff, it was pretty heavenly. I’ve never had a saladimage that I ate slowly to postpone the end. And the focaccia bread made me moan like those people who moan when they eat which I’ve found irritating. It was a struggle to be quiet and the perfect way to end a long, adventurous day.


Surprise, a free day in Florence!

Here at the little family run hotel Casci, which is tucked between a Medici museum and the Leonardo Da Vinci museum and is two blocks from the Accademia and the Duomo, a hostess greets you in the morning and seats you with other people for breakfast – perfect for the solo traveler and something I would not dare do myself. Yesterday, I sat with a woman from New Zealand who is on a solo cross country cycling trip after the death of her husband. Very nice though I could hodlay unday stond her (she might not have understood my drawl, either). Then, I sat with two high school girls from our neighbor, Texas, who are on a European trip with their grandparents.

Also worth mentioning, the steps, oh I’ve climbed what must be thousands of steps. The way the towns are built involves many levels and of course, the buildings, with the super tall ceilings – climbing two levels of steps is like climbing 5 or 6 floors at home. And you do it constantly all day long. Thanks, Drew Payne, for helping me prepare!

Today I have a free day because a tour I booked of surrounding towns was cancelled. I’m half disappointed, half relieved. I’ll write more later after the day unfolds!

LATER: Today was a great day though it did have a few snafus. I’ll get the worst one over with and it’s not really THAT bad. I fell down! Yes, all the way down! See the little step just under the arch furthest to the right? imageWell, I was walking and gawking and didn’t see that step and went down to my hands and knees! Three guys at the bus stop across the street were watching. Luckily, the fall hurt my ego more than anything and it didn’t damage my camera. Yesterday it was the rookie gelato mistake, today it was falling down! I blame the fall on another wayward manuvuere: I got a little lost in the STEEP hills of Fiesole and accidentally walked TO ANOTHER TOWN. So I was stumbling a bit by the time I misstepped and fell. And all this was after the intentional hill climbing to the tip top of Fiesole to see the enchanting Chiesa e Convento Di San Francesco.

There was something about this church that made me want to stay longer and inspect all the treasures and traditions. For starters, I felt like I climbed halfway to heaven by the time I got up there. I don’t know if you can tell in this photo, but this is a heavy incline. imageOnce inside, I spotted this little room and peeked in with a Nana style “yoo hoo” in case I was entering some private quarters. It felt a bit invasive as I noticed this closet door open revealing the priest robes! It was such an intimate space and gave me the feeling you get when you accidentally walk into the men’s room (surely I’m not the only one who has done that, right?). After cooling off in the church, I set out for another hike which passed a cemetary that looked uber efficient with their use of space. imageThere were men carving headstone and plaques right out front! Then, surprise! Hundreds of steps which took me around the archeological area dating back to the Romans, and even the Etruscans. Pictured below is an example of some remains – an Etruscan wall. That is one old wall.


By this time, you guessed it, I pushed a little too hard without food and had to find a meal, and I don’t mean a cup of fruit. At the Aurora Restaurant, I had the best spaghetti I’ve ever had. I mean, it just about brought tears to my eyes. I just didn’t know food could be his good. Fueled up, I intended on hiking to Villa San Michele, which I’d seen on the bus ride to Fiesole. But I took a wrong turn and my relief at going downward instead of upward was short-lived. If the decline is severe, your legs have to keep you from tumbling down and after just a few minutes, I was shaking with each step. A small docile man joined me halfway down, he was leaving work, and told me I was headed toward San Domenico, not Villa San Michele. He suggested I should head back up and visit the Medici Villa and Gardens instead but I was physically incapable so I drifted behind him at half his speed. He was waiting at the bus stop when I arrived and was kind enough to come ask me if I was ok after seeing me take the fall. If it hadn’t been for my upper body strength, I would have collapsed on the bus, as there were no seats available. I just clung tight to a bar and let my body dangle. By the time we arrived at San Marco, I was better and already planning my next move…the San Lorenzo Church and Crypt. And if the word “crypt” gives you the creeps, read on!