“Florence (Italian: Firenze), Italy, is famous for its history…It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area…A centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of the time, Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called the Athens of the Middle Ages. A turbulent political history includes periods of rule by the powerful Medici family, and numerous religious and republican revolutions. From 1865 to 1870 the city was also the capital of the recently established Kingdom of Italy.” ~ Wikipedia
Florence is also know as one of the worst cities to drive in with cameras monitoring traffic and tickets being issued for any infractions by an unwary newcomer — know for a paper trail which even follows one back to their home country. Hence our plans were to stay at the lovely Villa Miralunga Bed and Breakfast high on the hill on the outskirts of the city and use the local bus system to travel into and around it. This worked well as the bus stopped almost directly in front of the B&B. As a note, the Villa Miralunga was a lovely place and the people who own it were more then kind — recommended.
The evening of our arrival at Villa Miralunga, was spent having a delightful meal and wine at a sidewalk restaurant in a village a few miles further up the mountain road the Villa is on.
The next morning we caught the bus into Florence and made our way to the Florence Cathedral (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore) the main church of Florence.
It’s truly a spectacular structure who’s construction began in 1296 only to be finished in 1436. Of course there were already lines extending around the building of people waiting to enter the Cathedral and then if they wished they could proceed to the top of the dome.
From the Cathedral we walked to the “Old Bridge” (Ponte Vecchio) — a medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewellers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. The Ponte Vecchio’s two neighbouring bridges are the Ponte Santa Trinita and the Ponte alle Grazie.
Once across the river we proceeded to try and find a little of non-tourist Florence.
It was a very hot day and we decided perhaps visiting one of the gardens we’d heard about, Garden of Boboli, might be a cooler alternative to beating the scorching pavement of the Florence streets. Alas we were wrong, the gardens were if anything hotter, dryer and dustier, offering only a few interesting views and very little shade or blooming flowers.
We also thought a museum might be a good venture but the one we chose, near the gardens, was only partially air conditioned and the main exhibit happened to be of North American Indian tribes — so did we travel all the way to Italy to see an American Indian exhibit…I think not.
The heat and constant walking, including us being slightly lost at one point, made for a grueling afternoon. For me personally this was physically the hardest day of our vacation. I’m sure I was in pure survival mode following the others in a daze. It was one of those experiences which later seem more like an adventure to be shared and laughed about.
We did finally make our way to the Ponte Santa Trinita bridge and again crossed the Arno River working our way back towards the bus station.
It was a pleasure getting on the bus and sitting down for a while — very tired but satisfied.
I took fewer photos in Florence then anywhere else and I must say they were more tourist postcard type photos — not terribly inspired. I’m not certain why that was. One would think that in a city known for history and art, a city that is indeed beautiful I would have been inspired, but it was a tough visit mentally and physically. I’ll blame it on the heat and perhaps the time change finally catching up with me.
I do remember by that night, enjoying another fine meal, delicious Italian white wine and good friends, all the hardships of the day seem trivial.
Note: I’m recording a good bit of the detail of our trip itinerary into these blog posts because I’ve come to realize as the days, months and years pass, and memory fog sets in, these entries will serve as an accurate” trip log. It there’s TMI (too much information) for any of the others reading this, I apologize.