We rose early and rushed to the local bus stop to catch the bus from Tavernelle to Florence. The four of us ended up just falling head over heels in love with the enchanting scenery we saw through the bus windows…the beautiful scenery of countless vineyards and rolling hills that seemed to have jumped off a postcard and stapled itself on our windows…then to a contrasting neglected building with Italian charm that had the lyrics of The Cures song ‘Friday I’m in love’, lovingly penned on a wall. Good music transverses all borders!
Then we arrived in to the destination – the city of Firenze.
We walked through the charming alleys were we succeeded in discovering the most beautiful structures and monuments with no intention…we ran into ivory figures in the midst of dramatic battles and stances…unknowingly we had run into the famed Piazza della Signoria and barely a breath-span away, the Loggia dei Lanzi.
Caught in the midst of depictions of mythology and proud statute animals guarding the stairs, I could have dared anybody to not be impressed – and I’m pretty sure they would have failed. Florence is a city for those who appreciate history, art and culture…those three epitomise the essence of the city. A replica of David was also in the piazza – it gives you a taste and prepares you for the real one in the Galleria dell’Academia.
We waited in the shade by Cathedral Santa Maria Novella for the free walking tour that had reached our ears through hostel brochures. Now an opinion…It was very well done, but had its cons: it was a bit to crowded. You can get pushed to the end of the group and can barely hear much of what the guide was saying. What you do hear though, will be undoubtedly interesting. For example…What do you think these are?
You are probably right..well, I wasn’t. I don’t know what I thought, but I was wrong. We were told they were the tombs of nobles…In those days, in the extremely religious country, it was a common belief that the closer to a church you were buried…the closer you are to god and thus your chances of going to heaven are increased. And the nobles who had money for this, unsurprisingly paid for this privilege.
Another particularly interesting story…The church, Santa Maria Della Novella was funded by a rich businessman…on the condition that it features his name displayed on the church. His name was connected to his business which consequently flourished. This church, the guide had chuckled, had essentially worked as an advertising board in old Firenze!
We lost the group being charmed by the fresh fruits on display in one of the many stalls in the alley and were not really fussed about catching up. It was time to explore ourselves. Feasting on fresh figs and small peaches as additives to our breakfast of our lovely friends granola bars, we set of to explore on our way to the Uffizi museum.
Now, two warnings – there is a long line…secondly, don’t expect to take pictures. It is forbidden. I saw people with smooth hands who subtly managed to take mementoes on their phones. I tried – a friend was going to take a picture, I walked in the direction of the security guard preparing to ask him a question if he so much looked the way of the phone camera. And then before I could so much as glance at the guard, an echoing ‘click’ muted the hushed chatter in the hall for barely a second. Wincing, I turned around the same time the guard did. Idiotically wanting to distract him I asked him if you can’t take pictures, a fact any idiot with a brain can see advertised in the countless signs. He gave me a undoubtedly practiced dark look , reading my intentions and muttered ‘no,’ before raising his voice and instructing my friend to get out. We all panicked for a minute – especially me. It would be my fault as I was prepared to explain…but fortunately my friend was only sent outside the room, and I subtly joined him under the guards dark stare, feeling guilty for even trying – like a little kid whose teacher had snapped at them. Obviously some people are just not cut out for sneaky pictures. Trust me to not turn the sound off. A mistake… It ended relatively well, but I was still annoyed at myself for the whole scenario. Looks like no more forbidden pictures inside museums for me…I had learnt my lesson. I’ll just have to live off fading memories, or better yet, the pictures my more subtle friends can take.
I can say I would not have minded to see Ezio Auditore running on the rooftops, or that my mind may have wandered on multiple occassions to analysing how I could climb the countless bell towers and buldings with the hand-holds and ledges…I also may have been tempted to shout very loudly ‘ASSASSINO.’ I resisted, but barely. An aim for another day, when I return to my beautiful florence.
After the museum we set out for lunch, being thwarted and charmed by gelato! Onwards we continued and found a cute little restaurant in one of the many alleys. We sat down and scanned the menu. ‘Per mangiare.’ I assured the waiter, when he came, and we ordered what appealed to us. I choose a strange salad consisting of rucola, juicy raisins, sliced pears and percorino cheese. Mouthwatering. A clear winner.
Then as we left, we did some shopping – looking at much needed shoes for one friend whose shoes looked as though they survived every war this century, looking at the leather the city is famed for, looking at suits to bookstores – as we passed by a certain suit/leather shop, a steaming pizza piled with cheese and cherry tomatoes, still warm teased us greatly sitting right by the door of the shop. The owner must have seen our wistful looks, because he tumbled out with one hand on his phone another on around his glass of sangria and cheerfully told us to try it! Suspicious, I smiled and posed a question I had become accustomed to saying and consequently seeking confirmation after traveling on such a tight budget. ‘Gratis?’
‘Gratis’ he laughed nodding.
We each took a piece, scanned the store out of courtesy, and tumbled away, covering our mouths as we spoke rushed ‘grazies’ He laughed and waved us off. How nice these Italians are to us! As we walked off it occurred to us that it was also an essentially brilliant manoeuvre to get people into the store – free pizza by the door! On another note, unsurprisingly it was an amazing pizza – a tiny slice offered for free by a random Italian business defeated many high establishment pizzas I had eaten in Australia or Dubai – not very sup rising. The Italians know how to do it.
We walked out of a bookstore, and I in the middle of examining what I had bought followed my friends shoes, my head bowed. The sun was radiant – that summer warmness that lathers everything with a sharp golden glow. Thundering, almost deafening but clearly atmospheric bells started ringing. As the chatter of people around me increased I finally looked up from the text and I assume my jaw dislocated and my mouth fell – the scene that graced me was only made more impressive by the fact that I had sorely underestimated Firenze and not expected such an awe-striking structure, and the fact that the boisterous bells were thundering all around the piazza accompanied by the sudden flurried flight of a crowd of pigeons, the tip of ones wing grazing my cheek . I was just in pure awe: gazing at the beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. These simple words I write now, really can not breach what I experienced but hopefully they can at least give you an idea.
We returned back to the hostel, and spent the remainder of the night drinking cheap 2 euro wine from the store and just sucking in the atmosphere of the evening while digesting all the beauty and adventure we had had that day. Florence had certainly captured all our traveller hearts.
Till next post, with love, grand statues, magnificent basilicas and delicious pizza,