“Oh to be in Florence now that October’s here”
With apologies to Robert Browning
(Home Thoughts From Abroad)
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Villa Bardini Gardens
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
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.
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.
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 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
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.
I left the restaurant t0 make my way to the stazzione when I saw this
Such 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.”