Day 19 – Farewell Florence

“We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go,
we take a little of each other everywhere.”
Tim McGraw, American singer, songwriter and actor 1967 -

Yesterday I was up quite early to finish packing and tidying up the apartment before I left.    I did allow enough time to go for a final macchiato and brioche at my favourite pasticerria.  As I was leaving I said goodbye and in halting Italian I said that I was going back to London.  This caused a flurry of ciaos, and what I took to be good wishes as I left promising to return.  What a lucky find that little place was and how friendly all the staff were – the owner spoke not a word of English and two of the staff knew enough to understand what I what I was asking for but I did feel a genuine rapport with these people.

Packed ready to leave

Packed and ready to leave

Then back to the apartment to await the taxi.  At 10.25 the neighbour knocked on the door to tell me the cab was due any time.  We took out my bags (note here what started as one bag morphed into two because of all the Italian leather goods I bought as gifts) and waited on the pavement for the cab.  We had a pleasant conversation and then he left having kissed me on both cheeks, shaken my hand and telling me that if the cab didn’t arrive to come and knock on his door so that he could sort it out.  I marvel at how two people who don’t speak each others language manage to communicate.

It reminded me of one time when we were in Hong Kong staying at a friend’s apartment the air conditioning didn’t work.  My friend’s Amah and my late husband managed to communicate and we were told that the maintenance man  would come that afternoon to fix the problem.  I would think that understanding Chinese is rather more difficult that understanding Italian.

Taxis waiting at The Duomo

All roads do lead to The Duomo.

Anyway back to Florence. The cab duly arrived and the cheerful driver made some comment about ladies not travelling light and humped my suitcases into the back of his cab.

When we arrived at the airport he went off and got me a trolley.  I would never have found one if left to my own devices.

It was quite warm 24 degrees Celsius and the airport was awash with people.  I had to purchase an extra bag because my ticket only allowed for one.  So 70 Euros($NZ116/$US96) later I joined the long queue for bag drop off for Air France.  I am glad that I arrived at the airport early because this took a loooong time.

And my partner says my bag is too large

And my partner says my bag is too large

There are no air-bridges at least for these short hop flights and so we were taken out to the plane in a bus – standing room only.  We then had to climb a flight of stairs.  A really beautiful young French steward took my in flight bag and then asked if I was travelling alone.  When I answered in the affirmative he gave me a seat in the Business Class section.  He had the most beautiful smile and a wonderful accent.  I think I am in love.

So I had s very pleasant flight to London.

On arrival the customs hall was empty and so even though I had nothing to declare we went straight through.  Simple, easy arrival.

London taxis

Next job find a cab.  This was easy as there were many Black London cabs lined up.  I got into one with a garrulous Cockney driver.  Unfortunately, he didn’t know where my sister’s address was and his satnav was no help.  Eventually after driving around for a time, I saw an intersection I recognised and directed him from there.  His satnav was still telling him to turn left when we turned right.  My advice to him was to throw the thing out of the window.

After a reviving coffee accompanied by laughs and catching up what we had each been doing for the past few weeks, we had dinner – fish and chips as only the British can make them.  Great.

Then it was time to visit Marianne’s family who were all at the local hall enjoying a children’s Halloween party.  Noisy, rambunctious, over excited children and their mothers, but what fun these people were all having.  I have never been involved with a group of like-minded but very different people.  Some travellers (read gypsies) live locally and they apparently join in with all the activities.  The party was supposed to finish at 8pm but the mothers decided they wanted to dance and dance they did.  Then some of the fathers arrived and some of the boxers (the party was held in the Pedro Youth Club which supports local youth and promotes and encourages boxing).  Please click on the link – my two nieces are involved in the club, one does all the administration on a volunteer basis and the other is also a volunteer.  It is a worthy cause in a deprived area and James Cook who heads the club is a well-respected person in the area.  The party finished around 10.30pm after all the mothers helped to tidy and vacuum the place ready for another party today, Saturday.

So another busy day ended. My sister’s “recycled” but shy cat has decided that I am alright and is sitting watching me as I type.

“Women and cats will do as they please,
and men and dogs should relax and
get used to the idea.”
Robert A. Heinlein, American novelist and
science fiction writer.  1907 – 1988

 

Florence Day 18

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver,  American poet
1935 -

Pig

One must stroke the pig’s nose to ensure one will return to Florence

This morning I had no internet access, nor could I send or receive text messages.  I felt totally alone in a foreign environment and thought about how we have all come to rely on technology to make our days run smoothly.  The internet is pretty patchy here and seems to work well for several hours and then like today it will go off.  So patience is called for.  But I am so glad when I am traveling alone that I have access to this technology.

File missing

Now this stay in Florence is being cut short and this is the last day, as tomorrow I shall catch a plane to London and my family there.

Sisters

I have enjoyed finding my way around this most beautiful city, learning a few words of the language and mostly managing to make myself understood.  But I shall miss jumping on the buses to get around.  The public transport system is amazing; I have never waited more than 10 minutes for a bus.  Taxis are a little different.  One cannot just hail a cab here as one does at home.  They have to be picked up at the taxi stands which are few and far between or alternatively ordered by phone.

Bus

So today was a day for packing and tidying up and getting ready to leave.

Courtyard

Courtyard

 Entrance hall

My friendly and kindly next door neighbours have ordered a cab to take me to the aeroporto domani.  I resorted to writing out my request for them.  I knew I could never make myself understood if I tried to say the words.

An interesting interlude followed as Guiliano told me that I wouldn’t need to order the cab until tomorrow.  I want it at 10.30 am so he said to come tomorrow to his house (next door) at 9 am to make the booking.  Then some time later he rang the doorbell and told me he had booked the cab in his name for tomorrow.  So I think, he is going to knock on my door when it gets here.  I do so love these interactions where neither party speaks the others language.  Somehow we manage to communicate.

Florence Day 3 2013 007

I went out for macchiato and brioche as usual.  I told the folk in the pasticceria that I was leaving tomorrow – they seemed to understand as we smiled and wished each other arrivederci.  I did buy an apricot turnover and a brioche to take away with me.  They were to be part of lunch or dinner.Lunch

Lunch today was a scratch meal using up what was left in the apartment.  Quite satisfying but not as good as some of the lunches I have eaten since I arrived here.  Oh well …

“I had surprised myself this year by
jumping in to reshape my life before life
stepped in to reshape it for me.”  Alice Steinbach

 

 

 

 

 

Florence Day 17

“Life is like that I thought, as I turned the corner to my building.
Freedom has its danger as well as its joys.
And the sooner we learn to get up after a fall, the better off will be.”
Alice Steinbach

This is the notice I found stuck on the front door of the apartment building yesterday when I returned.  Have absolutely no idea what it says, but whatever it is happened on 22/23 October.

Notice on apartment building door

Notice on apartment building door

I decided on another day wandering around this city I have come to love.

Carabinere at statiom

Carabiniere at the station. There was a lot of them – what’s going on.  Notice the ever-present Golden Arches

Percy Byshe Shelly placque

The plaque showing Percy Byshe Shelley lived in the building

City market

Original city market opened 1874

Entry to City market

Here’s the entry showing the date

The market was a chef’s dream come true.  Everything imaginable as on sale for the chef.  Fresh meats, fish, vegetables and fruit,  as well as many dried items.

Inside the market

Inside the market

Flower stall inside the market

Flower stall inside the market

Great display of cheeses, salami etc

Great display of cheeses, salami etc

More goodies on display

More goodies on display

And more

And more

Pasta making on site

Pasta making on site

An endless variety of goodies

An endless variety of goodies

Fish

Almost sold out

Very large fish

Very large unknown fish

Display of fruit

Having feasted my eyes on all these goodies and great displays I wandered outside again.  The first thing I saw was this dog in a food shop.  We, well most of us like dogs in New Zealand but they are not allowed in shops of any kind, on public transport or in the centre of town.  Very different to Florence where dogs are everywhere.

Florence Day 17 030Owner’s dog in shop doorway

Opera in the piazzaOpera in  the piazza

Carousel in squareCarousel in same piazza

Busy cornerAnother busy corner with an interesting building

LunchLunch at Trattoria San Lorenzo
Tagliatelle AlfredoHouses on the River ArnoI ended up at the Ponte Vecchio again and took this photo
of the houses on the River Arno

GelattoGelato selection – Yes I succumbed and had a small one

Back where it all beganBack to where it started when I first arrived in Florence.
Church of Santa Maria Novella

Coming home I got on the wrong bus and ended up in a different part of town.  A leafy suburb but I had no idea of where I was.  If one (me) gets lost in a city there are always points of reference  – here the dome of the Duomo, the stazione, etc – but in the suburbs there is nothing.  Fortunately I met a woman and her adult son both of whom spoke a little English.  The bus I had taken was a 17 and they told me to get a 17 going in the opposite direction.  To pick the bus up in the centro via not at the side of the road.  So I duly boarded another bus but again I recognised nothing and so seeing a Taxi stand I jumped off the bus and got a cab.

This was a very exciting ride.  A garrulous, highly temperamental, yelling woman driver who I am sure called all other drivers on the road imbeciles and possibly worse.  But she deposited me at the door, even though once again I saw nothing I recognised.  Just another incident  to record on this adventure.

I am getting ready to leave Florence at present and am going back to London to meet with my sister  and plan the next stage of this adventure.

But I shall return to Florence and to make doubly sure I went and stroked the pig’s snout again.

Pig 1

And thanks to Nancy at Spirit Lights the Way  for the following Mark Twain quote
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry,
and narrow-mindedness.”

The internet is a trifle temperamental, rather like my taxi driver yesterday and it comes and goes as it pleases which is why this post is late.

Florence day 16

“As I set out each day, I felt like a young child again. One who hadn’t yet learned the rules of manmade time; the rules of clocks and calendars, of weekdays and weekends.
― Alice Steinbach, Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

A couple of years after my husband died I decided that rather than wait for the world to come to me, I would go to the world,  At that time I read Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach and it has remained one of my favourites ever since.

So to today.  I started out not knowing what I wanted to do.  Would I go into the city and wander around, would I see if I could get into the Bargello that had been closed on each of my earlier visits or would I find that particular restaurant where I had risotto the other day for lunch and have not forgotten it.  The restaurant won out.

I had the card with the address on it so it should have been an easy place to find.  But not all streets are named here in Florence and not only that, but they change name half way along for no apparent reason.  So I wandered around for a while before I found the restaurant.

World Cycle Championship logo

Because the World Road Cycling Championships have just been held in and around Florence the place is awash with tourist things depicting the race; hats, sweat shirts, tee shirts, bags etc.  The street vendors are selling little battery operated bicycles with pedalling cyclists whizzing around the footpaths.  I asked on vendor “Quanto?” to which he replied “Venti” (20 Euros).  I began to walk away and he said “Quindici” (15)  I shook my head and asked what was the best price for two and ended up purchasing two for 15 Euros.  He smiled as he took the money so I guess he made a profit on the deal.

Another view of the Duomo

Another view of the Duomo

I noticed that each day the crowds seem to diminish.  No long, long queues to get into the dome or the campanile today.  The restaurants aren’t nearly as busy as they were last week.

Doors to Baptistry

In an earlier post I described this as a screen in fact these are the doors to the Baptistry.  There are three sets of these doors., two sets of which were designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti after winning the competition to decide which artist would do the design.  Brunelleschi, the designer of the dome, was among those who made submissions and lost out. The doors illustrate Old Testament scenes and the door frames contain busts of 24 of the leading Renaissance artists, including one of Ghiberti himself.

All roads lead to The Duomo

The octagonal building on the right of the picture is the Baptistry.  The doors now used to enter the church are shown below.

Entrance to Baptistry

Entrance to the Baptistry is restricted to those going into Mass

Scooters are everywhere lined up in long, long rows when not being ridden.  And it’s of interest to note that unlike in New Zealand, neither scooter riders or cyclists seem to wear helmets.  Helmets are compulsory in New Zealand.

A chosen form of transport

A chosen form of transport

Another form of transport

Another form of transport

Eventually, I found the restaurant in Via Dei Neri and ordered the risotto again.

Lunch

Risotto asperegi e gamberi – asparagus and shrimp

Sometimes it is a mistake to return to a restaurant and order the same food but this time it was equally as good as the first.

Another statue

Another statue

More door decoration

More door decoration

Fewer people today

Fewer people today

Considerate parking

Considerate parking

Rows of vendors selling leather goods

Rows of vendors selling leather goods

nother view of the Duomo

All roads lead to The Duomo

So another day in this city came to an end.  I must say that all this walking is strengthening my thigh and leg muscles.  The first couple of days here I was very aware how much I was walking.  But now I just take it in stride.

“What adds up to a life is nothing more than the accumulation of small daily moments.”
Alice Steinbach

Florence Days 14 and 15

“it is a serious thing just to be alive
on this fresh morning in this broken world.”
Mary Oliver American poet 1935 -

Day 14

Today was the day for Sienna (note the Italians spell this place Siena).  The train duly arrived and left on time.  Quite a change from the last abortive effort of going to Sienna.

On the train I met a delightful American couple from Stockton, California.  Talking with them made what could have been an uninteresting train ride through uninteresting countryside, interesting.  They were both retired, he a statistician and she a school teacher.  It’s great to talk and share with people  you meet while on vacation.  They had been the victims of a pick pocket on the railway station at Rome and so he had lost his wallet and his phone..We joked that now she had him in her power; she had the money and the access to the rest of the world.  At the end of the journey we went our separate ways having exchanged names addresses and phone numbers in case we ever found ourselves near to each others homes in the future.  Stranger things have happened in  my life.View from the stationThe train from Firenze arrives at the station in Siena on a level well down the hillside and to get to the exit we had to climb about ten sets of escalators and travelators.  I thought we would never get there.

Then my guide book had told me which buses I could get into the centre of the town but not which direction.  So I approached a woman getting out of her car.  “Scusi Senora.  Parla Inglesa?” to which she replied “Yes I do”.  So she pointed me to the nearest bus stop and told me which bus to get on.

At the bus stop I met a couple from Sydney, Australia ho were at the end of an 8 week holiday.  The bus duly arrived and we got on it and were taken to the centre.  After a few more scusis to different people I found my way to the square.

The Square

Il Campi 1

Il Campo, the square, spreads out in front of the Gothic Town Hall with a fountain at its tip. As it was Sunday the crowds were everywhere, talking in a variety of languages, laughing, eating and having fun.  A group of young people were playing a game the rules of which seemed to be known only to them, shrieking and laughing and really enjoying themselves.  All around Il Campo are restaurants with outside seating, souvenir shops and also specialty shops.

Diners around the square

Panforte shop

One of the delicacies particular to Siena is Panforte* and I discovered a little shop selling this sweet among other Tuscan delights.  I asked for a piccolo piece and the kind lady sliced me off a sliver and refused payment;  I walked out with my foil wrapped sweet which I ate as I wandered the streets of this quaint town.  Of course, I went back and bought this larger piece.

Panforte

I decided that I didn’t want to visit any museums and so just strolled around people watching and enjoying myself.

Pizza for lunch

Pizza for lunch and

Lunch finished!

Lunch finished!

Another late lunch found me having a huge pizza at one of the outdoor cafes ringing the square –Quatro Stagioni (Four Seaons) Pomodoro formaggio, jambon cuit, champignons, artichaut e olives (or cheese, ham, tomatoes mushrooms, artichokes and olives).  I am really no great lover of pizza but when in Rome etc.  It was enormous and I managed to eat only half.  My grandsons would have been sorely tried with a pizza this size.

Harvest Festival

I saw a display of locally grown vegetables and fruits – I think it was a group of local growers.  This display attracted a lot of interest.

Museo Civico

Museo Civico

Apparently this building is considered one of the most beautiful in Tuscany.

Then it was time to head back to the station but on the way I passed the Post Office.

Post Offce Siena

This time at the bus stop I encountered a man with his wife and her friend and husband.   The man was German and they all live in Canada but he and his wife have a house in the hills locally.  As they spend a considerable amount of time here he was able to tell me which bus to get to the station , having first shown me how to purchase the bus ticket from the machine. He then kept us entertained with his laughter and story telling not only until the bus came but also all te way to the station.

I arrived back with plenty of time to catch the train back to Florence.  And what a surprise when my American friends came into the carriage.  So we spent the return journey learning more about each others lives.

And at last, the train pulled into the station in Florence, we said our goodbyes again and went off they to their hotel in Florence and me to the apartment.  Another long (10 hours) day and so once I arrived home I had a shower, a banana and a cup of tea and after a short Skype call to New Zealand I called it a day and took myself off to bed..

Notes:
*Panforte is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, and resembles fruitcake It may date back to 13th century in Siena.

2. According to my guide book and my friend in New Zealand Siena is famous for its horse race.  This takes place twice a year and lasts just 90 seconds,  This race around the square has been held since the 13th century.  Originally it took the form of a bareback race the length of the city but from the 17th century it has been run around the square.

Day 15

Rain on leaves

I awoke this morning to the sound of heavy rain and thunder and lightning, so it made the decision of what to do today very simple.  I would stay inside.  This is one of the benefits of being in an apartment rather than a hotel.  One can lounge around all day if one wants.

The downside of the bad weather was that the internet, never the most reliable here in Florence, was down for a part of the day.  So the Skype call was not very successful and writing my blog had to be put off in favour of reading.  Oh dear – how sad is that.

Lunch today was made of things already in the apartment, served and eaten on the coffee table as I was reading.

French brie, cracker, banana and apple,

French Brie, cracker, banana and apple

The rain did let up in the middle of the afternoon and I thought I should take myself out for a breath of fresh air and a wander around the neighbourhood.

Local Pet Supermarket

I just had to go to take some photos -I’ve never seen such a large pet shop

Pets accessories

This is about one-third of the wall with toys for pets

Florence Day 15 008

A large cage with bright colourful birds

Sexy shop

Wasn’t game to go and see what they sold in this shop

Dinner - salad, eggs, and smoked salmon

Dinner – salad, eggs, and smoked salmon

And I just love the Brie made in France.  It is so much better than the Brie made in NZ.  I have been eating it all day, with crackers for breakfast, with fruit for lunch and with coffee after dinner.

Brie Made in France

And as Marcel Proust said:
“My destination is no longer a place,
rather a new way of seeing.”

I am most definitely discovering a new way of seeing – beautiful objects, buildings and art, and lovely interesting people.

 

Florence Days 12 and 13

Day 12

“Every journey of a thousand miles
must start with a single step.”
Lao Tse

The plan today was to go to Sienna.  I left the apartment in plenty of time to get the train.  But what do we say about the best laid plans?

I cleverly (I thought) managed to purchase the tickets from the self-service machine with some rather unnecessary assistance from a young woman who then asked me for money as she had helped me.  Obviously, she was broke so I gave her some change.

At this time I had not had my macchiato and brioche so I purchased Coffee Americano (filtered coffee) and a brioche from the station bar.  The station was so crowded that a woman bumped into me and I ended up with the coffee spilled on me.  Oh woe is me!

Then the board showed that the train was delayed for 5 minutes.  Then it showed it would depart from Platform 4.  Well with a host of others I duly trudged along to Platform 4, validated my ticket and waited, and waited and waited and finally a train pulled into the Platform.  But no doors opened and after about 7 or 8 minutes the train pulled away without having taken on any passengers. We then heard that there would be further delays and after another 15 minutes we saw that the train was cancelled.  After speaking to a Scottish man who had some understanding of Italian he told me that the train drivers were on strike.  Unfortunately for him he was booked into a hotel in Sienna that day and had only two days there.  I wonder if he got there eventually.

So I thought blow this and took myself out of the stazione whereupon I espied the sightseeing bus.  So I jumped on again –note here if you show your ticket from an earlier ride you get a 10% discount – and off I went.

Ufizi Gallery

Via Wikipedia

One of the stops is quite close to the Uffizi Gallery and as I hadn’t yet made it to this Museum to end all Museums, I got off there. To my surprise and delight there were no queues and so I went in and spent the next few hours taking in some of the wonders of the artworks and the sculptures for some many centuries ago, housed in this wonderful museum.  Unfortunately one cannot of course use cameras around the exhibits but here is the link to Wikipedia so you can see some of them.  And there were windows at the end of the long gallery that gave different views along the Arno.

Buildings along the bank of the Arno from Uffizi

Taken through the old window glass at the Uffizi Gallery

Buildings from the Uffizi 2

Another view of Ponte Veccchio from Uffizi

Oh and there was a solitary rower on the turgid water of the River Arno but I couldn’t get him in a photo.

Risotto with asparagus and shimps

Quite the best food have eaten here

By this time I was getting hungry so I looked around for someplace for a very late lunch.  I discovered a little place called Tavernetta Della Signoria where I had the most delicious risotto ever – risotto e asparagi e gambei – risotto with asparagus and shrimp.  Lovely, lovely.

More statues

After this I decided to jump on the sightseeing bus to get back to the stazione but on the way I saw some things to share with you.

A popular mode of transport for touristsouri

Building with rooftop addition

Then just as this bus was pulling up to stop, the one going to Fiesole arrived.  So I went back up to that lovely little village nestled in the hills above Florence.  Unfortunately, the ticket office for the amphitheatre and the other museums was closed.  The attractions close at 6 pm and apparently, the ticket office closes at 4.30.  So I missed out on those.

Fiesole

State on the sqare

Statue on the square but without any indication of what it represents

Grand house in Fiesole

Obviously this was once a grand house now divided into apartments

Fiesole square

Rush hour in Fiesole

Rush hour in Fiesole

Red wine and brioche

A glass of hose red. and brioche n the early evening

I wandered around the square as I had an hour to wait for the bus to take me back to Florence.  I found a little restaurant/bar and had a glass of not too rough red house wine and a brioche while I sat and contemplated how lucky I was to be here at this time in my life.    It was 5.30 pm so rush hour everywhere but not in Fiesole.  Three cars were the most I counted at any one time going through or around the square.

All too soon the bus arrived and it was time to go back to the hustle of the city.  It was 7 pm when the bus arrived at the station and so it was going to be another fairly late night.  I waited for my usual bus, and waited and waited without any bus appearing so I decided as it was getting late and dark, I would take a taxi from the station forecourt. That was a good idea.  Usually there are rows of white cabs waiting at the station but not tonight.  I stood in line for about 40 minutes before it as my turn to get a cab.  Everybody was quite cheerful about the wait although nobody seemed to know what the hold up was.

My cab driver was a chatty little guy who had worked in London for a year and so was fairly fluent in English.  He explained that the bus drivers had gone out in sympathy with the train drivers.  So I eventually arrived back at the apartment at 8.30 pm so you will understand why there was no blog written yesterday.

Day 13

After yesterday’s full on day I decided to have a quiet day around the apartment.  I eventually went out around 1.30pm to have some brunch.  I thought I might find a little bar/restaurant to have a glass of wine with some food locally.  However, as I was passing the bus stop a bus came along so I then changed plans and decided to go into town for lunch.

usy corner

Courtyard of Palazzo Niccolini al Duomo

Courtyard of Palazzo Niccolini al Duomo

Saturday and the place was full of people.  I’m really glad I went to the Uffizi yesterday.  I am sure there would have been long queues today.

Ministrone soup at Little David Restaurant

Minestrone soup at Little David Restaurant

I  wandered around and found yet another little restaurant, this one called Little David.  Here I had minestrone soup, Italian style.  Not unlike my vegetable soup so beloved of my son David, but with the addition of lashings of Parmesan.  I must try that when I get home again.

Then I decided to go back to the apartment but I managed to lose myself and walked round in circles passing Little David twice.  I had to resort to asking a dashing young policeman the way.  I have no idea what he said but he had the most beautiful smile.  So I wandered on, bought a gelato and the young woman in the shop showed me with hand movements how to get to the station.  I was almost there.0

 

 

 

Gellato

So I arrived at the station in time for the bus home.  I got off at a stop near the supermercado to by some fruit for dinner then called in to the patisserie for an apricot brioche and a plan brioche to have with the fruit.  On the way I passed the local flower shop.  What a lovely display.

Local flower shop

And so ended the thirteenth day in this fabulous city.

Florence Days 10 and 11

“Oh to be in Florence now that October’s here”
With apologies to Robert Browning
(Home Thoughts From Abroad)

Michelangelo

I have had without any doubt, the most magical day here in Florence.  It started as usual, call from NZ, tepid shower followed by macchiato and brioche at my favourite local pasticerria, I had no real plans for the day so I jumped on a bus and went into town.  I walked through the station and checked out trains to Sienna.  They leave at ten minutes past the hour every hour.  So then I checked out how to buy a ticket from the automatic machines and so I am all set for when I decide to go there.

Then ambling out of the station I saw a big red double-decker City Sightseeing bus.  For just 20 Euros you can have a day sightseeing, jumping on and off as many times as you like.  This seemed like a good idea and so I bought a ticket and hopped on.  There is a constant commentary about the tour giving you advice on which stops to get off to see particular attractions.

Piazza Michelangelo

I stayed on until we reached Piazzale Michelangelo.  I was totally amazed/blown away/awe-struck at the sight that confronted me.  Spread out before me was Florence and from this high vantage point it all looked like Lilliput but clearly defined, and with the Tuscan countryside spreading out behind it like a theatrical backdrop.

Il DuomoDistant viewPonte Vechio from Piazza MichelangeloFlorence3

Of course I took scads of photos to bore everyone with when I eventually get home; but oh, it was a truly wondrous sight.

Lunch

Lunch today was taken at a table overlooking the Duomo and all of Florence.  I ordered a Pizza e funghi (mushroom pizza) e acqua frizzante (sparkling water).  And as I sat in the sunshine looking at that view I experienced one of those rare moments of pure joy, knowing I was exactly where I was meant to be at that particular moment in time. My pizza and water tasted like manna from heaven  because of that.

Lunch

Signora enjoying wine and nibbles in the sunshine

Sitting there in the sunshine soaking up the sights of this most magical city and the sounds of the many different tongues, it wouldn’t be too fanciful to say that I was drunk with life without ever having had a glass of wine.

Road to the Forte

After a time I tore myself away from this place that will from now on be my favourite place in Florence and got on the bus.  But this was not the tourist bus but a regular one.  I got off at the stop for Forte Belvedere.  There was a sign to walk to the Forte so I set off.  This led me down a narrow street lined on each side with large houses protected behind high gates.  The road was hardly wide enough for a car to pass me without hitting me.  So I walked and walked in the hot sunshine but nobody told me that the Forte was closed while they dismantled an exhibition.  “L’Anima e la Materia/Soul and Matter” is the largest exhibition ever organised in Italy for the Chinese artist Zhang Huan. The exhibition closed on the 13 October.  So I walked on and found the Bardini Mansion and Gardens.

Florence Day 10 064

Villa Bardini Gardens

Villa Bardini Gardens

View from the terrace Villa Bardini

View from the terrace Villa Bardini

There as an exhibition “The Renaissance from Florence to Paris and back” described as “Treasures of the Jacuemart-Andre Museum return home.  The treasures were housed in three rooms of this palatial  villa and included works by Botticelli, Donatello, Mantegna and Paolo Uccello.  How lucky was I to be here in Florence at this time.  The exhibition closes at the end of the year.

Monopoly Italian style

Monopoly Italian style

When I peeped into another room I saw this game of Monopoly all set up and ready to go.

From there I wandered into the Barboli Gardens but I must say that after the splendours of the Bardini, the gardens left me feeling rather flat.  And then the battery ran out in the camera.  I had forgotten to recharge it the night before.  So no more pictures today.

I left the Gardens and hopped onto yet another bus.  I must say that I am getting very confident about bus travel here in Florence.  When I got off the bus I saw that the sightseeing bus was pulling to a stop and as I hadn’t gone all the way around I thought I would jump on it.   And this was a bonus.  I hadn’t realised that there were three different routes the buses took and I was on the one that went through Florence and up to the little hillside village of Fiesole.

Fiesle ampitheatre

via Wikipedia

This charming little village overlooking Florence predates Florence by some eight centuries; it was an Etruscan city well before the Romans colonised the city. In the 19th century it was a favourite haunt of many Upper Class English people including the poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

We stopped only for 15 minutes so no time to inspect the Roman Ampitheatre or the Cathedral which we are told, has its own dome.  Really will try to get back there again before I leave.

And so once again being deposited at the station, I found my weary way back to the apartment at the end of a lovely day – one that will stay with me for many years I am sure.

And apologies, I was so tired after being out for 8 hours that I typed half this blog, fell asleep and had to finish it today.

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Day 11

After all the excitement of yesterday I decided to have a quiet day today.

My day started with a long Skype conversation – don’t you just love Skype and then I had my usual tepid shower.

I gave up battling with the darned washing machine.  I don’t know how that woman made it work but I can’t, so the washing was done by hand and is drying on a drying stand.

I can’t resist going into the centre of town and so I did so and wandered around the streets that are becoming so familiar to me now.  I did some people watching and listening to.  How fascinating when one really can’t understand what is being said, but often from the inflections and the hand movements one can make a pretty good guess.

Not so many people queuing to get into the Dome

Not so many people queuing to get into the Dome of the Duomo

Something that I became aware of early in my stay was the attention paid to window displays and the interior of some shops

Beautifully dressed window

inside shop

Shop interior

By this time it was around 3 pm so lunch was called for.  I found a little restaurant in one of the streets leading from the Piazza Duomo called Buca Niccolini.  Here I ordered Gnocchi ai quartro formaggi (gnocchi with four cheeses)  The gnocchi which my hostess assured me was “Fatta en cassa” or homemade, was fabulous.

Gnocchi ith four cheeses

I left the restaurant t0 make my way to the stazzione when I saw this

Bride and groomSuch a beautiful young couple with their whole lives in front of them.  I wished them “Una vita felice e auguri” a happy life and best wishes even though it was not said out loud.

So that rounded off another day in this wonderful city.

“In the end, only three things matter:
how much you loved,
how gently you lived,
and how gracefully you let go
of things not meant for you.”
-Buddha