Sunday, 13 July 2014

Florence

I write this sitting on a little terrace overlooking the Arno. Four bridges to my left is the Ponte Vecchio and the reams of tourists passing over it. It's fiercely hot, although not as high as it could be, and there's a thunderstorm expected in a few hours. I'm making the most of the sun whilst I can - and hoping the rain doesn't follow me to Siena.

The last fours days have passed in a riot of architecture, art, colour and a hell of a lot of walking. I bought the Firenze card before I came, which gives access to 72 places over 72 hours. I don't think I've seen all of them, but I've certainly not been idle!

Arriving in Florence, I had a bit of a blip when I got to the hostel I'd booked. The street felt quite lonely and far out of the main city, and I didn't think I'd feel safe going out in the evening. I'd arrived earlier than check in time, so decided to go to the Pitti Palace to prove to myself I was just being silly, and spent an hour or so wandering around, enjoying the splendour. Of course, when I found myself tearful in the main courtyard, I reminded myself that this was a holiday and if I was miserable now, it wouldn't get better, so I returned to the hostel and used their WiFi to find a better place. And only had to pay one night for cancelling.

The Hotel Consigli, right on the Arno, and a ten minute walk from the main centre, is lovely. And it has a very affectionate bulldog. Perfecto!

So, what have I been doing these last few days? I won't give you a blow by blow account - three days of 'and then I went to ...' could get a little boring. But I've found some new favourites to share, like the Palazzo Vecchio, Santa Maria Novella, Palazzo Davanzati and the Bardini Gardens. I've climbed more stairs than I would normally do in a month. Endless stairs, particularly to get to the top of the Cupola in the Duomo ..... all 463 of them. And back down. The view was worth it though. Art hides itself in the oddest corners too - I've stumbled across Ghirlandaio's on random walls, walked into rooms filled with amazingly vibrant Della Robbia's and all sorts of other hidden gems. I've taken far too many pictures, and I suspect that I will come to forget where the picture was taken - but the ceiling was beautiful, or the art needed capturing, or the food needed to be seen to be believed. Memory is good, but cameras are for sharing.

Speaking of views, I got up to Fiesole for a bit, and it was wonderful to see all of Florence laid out below me. The same could be said of San Minato too, which I went to today (Sunday) and then spent a lazy half an hour or so in the rose garden reading, whilst all the church bells chimed out, reminding people it was time for mass. .... except that I appear not to have got there. Sitting on the terrace earlier, I saw that the church I visited was nestled in some trees just below the one with the great marble front. So perhaps I need to walk back up those infernal steps.

There have been disappointments too - the main Cuomo, so beautiful on the outside is an ugly place once you get inside, and seems designed just to shunt tourists from one side to the other, no time to sit down, and barely any place to do so anyway, for the nave is roped off. It did protect me from a thunderstorm - a massive crack of thunder sounding right over my head just as I entered. I suppose I should have taken it for a sign! San Casciano, a small village half an hour away, was not what I expected either. I'd decided I wanted to go there, because it is supposedly where a small part of My House in Umbria was shot - a wonderful film with Maggie Smith. It is a lovely little hillside town, and has excellent views of Chianti country, but I couldn't find the specific bit I was looking for (which was probably right under my nose) and so I left.

I've not mentioned food, and I'm struggling to get into a proper rhythm. I have always been a pasta fan, but here the portions are huge, and I always fancy a second course, and then can't finish it. The night I had bistecca Fiorenta - which was as big as my head - will be forever remembered because I could barely eat half of it.

Note to self - you don't need to have two courses, and you don't need to have pasta just because it's there. Now, if I could just remember that.

Now I've got to walk up those blasted steps again and make my way to San Minato for real this time ......

1 comment:

Sarah Burgess-Parker said...

Thank you Becca, such a joy to follow your travels. One day.......