Thursday, 14 May 2015

Italy - Florence Part One, A Walk Through the City

Welcome to Florence, Italy, capital of the Tuscan region, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and home to masterpieces of art and architecture.  From the Piazzale Michelangelo, a small park overlooking the city, Florence at sunset looks like a masterpiece all by itself with majestic mountains rising in the background and the River Arno flowing through the middle.  

I think this is the best photo Eric has ever taken.  Stunning, isn't it!  

I am struggling this week to get the post on Florence done because, believe it or not, I am finding myself busy right now and these blog posts take time (busy is not a word that has been in my vocabulary much since moving to England).  And next week I will be even busier as we will be entertaining our first house guests from the States, so I've decided to share Florence with you in bits and pieces over the next few days - slowly, just the way a good glass of Italian wine should be enjoyed.    

Lest you think that Eric really couldn't have taken that unbelievable picture at the top, I have proof.  I was there, with my camera phone.  Notice the halo around Eric's head.  I think someone was looking out for him that evening.  Is that why his photo is so brilliant? 

It was raining the afternoon we arrived in Florence.  A taxi whisked us from the train station and through the narrow streets of the city, depositing us on the doorstep of the apartment we had rented for the next three nights.  We stood outside for 30, maybe 40 minutes, huddled together under a couple of umbrellas as the rain went from a mild steady stream to a heavy downpour.  We were waiting for a man named Riccardo, the bearer of the key that would let us into the dry, warm apartment.  He showed up with apologies for being late, but this is Italy and we weren't surprised or upset.  We were however very soggy and our luggage was downright soaked.  As we unpacked inside the small apartment, clothing from inside our suitcases was hung from every possible fixture to dry.  Not a great welcome to Florence, but soon the beauty of this city would penetrate the cold and the rain as it slowly revealed itself to us.

The nice thing about spring showers is that it also brings flowers.

And in Florence those vibrant flowers can show up in some unexpected places, bringing loads of color just where it's needed.

And in some places around the city, colorful flowers aren't required because the architecture is enough all by itself.

Florence is a large city, but as you walk the narrow streets it's hard to tell.  

There is an intimacy about the streets, each one feeling as if it's in its own little world.  But then you turn the corner and through the little sliver of an opening at the end of the block ahead, you spy the great Duomo of Florence, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower, and it reminds you that this is indeed a large city, a great city.  

Narrow streets mean narrow cars.  Some are so tiny they look as if you need to wind them up before getting inside to go.  You may be hesitant to take this itty-bitty three wheeled toy of a car onto a major highway, but here in Florence it makes perfect sense.

Pay close attention if ever you are walking the streets of Florence because there is beauty and whimsy in the smallest of features here, like this ring I assume was used to tether horses back in the day. 

And the doors - the beautiful carved wooden doors with their larger than life knockers.

But some of what you see in Florence is not so whimsical.  In fact, it's rather dark and gruesome when you look closely.  

No matter the content, the statues we found throughout Florence were absolutely striking.

And there are statues everywhere in Florence, without a doubt the most famous of which is Michalengelo's David.  I will share the original with you in the next couple of days, but until then, this is one of two copies of David than can be found in Florence, and just one example of the plethora of impressive statues this city has to share.     

If you wander the streets of Florence long enough, eventually they will spit you out onto the banks of the River Arno and if you are lucky, it will be within sight of the Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge.  

Walking across this bridge is like a scene from an old Renaissance movie.  You feel as if you've been transported back in time some 500, 600, or maybe 700 years when butchers occupied the shops that still line the sides.  Today those small shops are filled with merchants selling jewelry, art and souvenirs, but the bridge still retains a very medieval feel about it. 

There is much more of Florence to share with you, so check back tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.  But for now, I leave you back in the Piazzale Michelangelo, where Eric took the amazing photo at the top of the sun setting over Florence to the west.  And when we looked to the east that beautiful evening... 

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