Today we were off to the visit the city that gave birth to the Italian Renaissance, Florence.
We were up early, had a great breakfast and on our way. We had to make one stop at a ticket center to purchase a permit for the buses to enter Florence. I can only imagine that the fee is an impact fee.
We were dropped off several streets from the square and were led by Mary to the Piazza Santa Croce. After giving us a short orientation and letting us know that we would be taken on a walking tour by a local guide.
That done, Mary led us into a wonderful leather goods and jewelry shop called Misuri. A store representative gave us a short history of the store and explained that they only use the finest quality leather in all their goods and have remained faithful to Florence craftsmanship.
She then proceeded to show us a beautiful black handbag and several leather jackets. As she was talking, she chose several of us to model the jackets. I was chosen to model a beautiful jacket that I can only describe as pure butter to the touch. The jacket was so soft and lovely it was hard not to buy it right on the spot.
Our local guide came along and started her tour talking about the Church of Santa Croce (Holy Cross) which was also in the Piazza Santa Croce. The church is the burial place of Michelangelo among other Italian notables. I love these walking tours because each member of the tour is given a radio receiver with a set of ear buds so you could always hear the guide, no matter the noise level.
The streets were like so many other streets we have seen so far, narrow and winding. Periodically, we had to press ourselves against buildings to make a path for a car or motor scooter.
Our next stop was Piazza del Duomo, Florence’s religious center. The plaza is the site of Florence’s Cathedral (The Duomo ), and the Baptistery. The architecture of the cathedral is breathtaking. Unfortunately, the Baptistery was totally covered for a complete cleaning. The crowd was so dense it was hard to get close to the Baptistery doors called by Michelangelo, “The Gates of Paradise”. The door is has 10 rectangular panels depicting scenes from the Old Testament.
We continued our walk and came upon a very funny street performer who was a one-man band with a funnel on his head, had an accordion in his hands and played the drums with his feet. What a funny sight.
We were actually on our way to the Piazza della Repubblica where our guide explained that in modern times the square is a theater to street artist, impromptu shows after sunset and home to many historical cafés and the Arch de Triumph.
We then moved on to the Piazza della Signoria the center of political life in Florence since the 14th century. There was so much to look at it was hard to know where to look first. My eye went immediately to the open-air sculpture gallery, Loggia dei Lanzi. Can you imagine living so close by to such artwork? Looking around the piazza was a treat for the eyes.
Then I turned to the left and was taken by the Palazzo Vecchio museum and tower. In front of the building is a copy of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of David and to the right Bandinelli’s sculpture of Hercules and Cacus. The original David is housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia.
On the other side of the palazzo was the Fountain of Neptune. What can I say about what I was seeing? The words, beautiful, wonderful, awesome, and fantastic and many others seem just mere words in the shadow of such artistry. I will say that all that was before me was a true wonder of artistry.
This is where our guided tour ended. We talked about where to go next which was a hard choice but Randy had been here many years before and had seen and loved the Ponte Vecchio and wanted to return and see if anything had changed.
“I remember being in Florence years ago and remember the Ponte Vecchio,” Randy said. “I think you; Sue and Doug would like to see the bridge up close, not just a distance”. So, off we went through a crush of tourists and soon we were on the bridge admiring the beautiful view, the shops and the whole experience.
I loved everything about the bridge. The views from the bridge were wondrous, the clamor of people was almost festive with everyone taking pictures, bargaining for pieces of jewelry and some just enjoying the view. What I loved the most were the old shop walls. They looked old and crusty just as something that has been around for hundreds of years should look. It all looked so authentic. And, of course, there were many buildings with beautiful grille work and flowers. It was all just wonderfully beautiful.
We left the bridge making our way back to the Piazza Santa Croce to look for a restaurant to have lunch and talk about our day. We decided to stop at the Ristorante Pizzeria “S. Croce” and took a seat at their sidewalk café.
What a great choice. I ordered the Bruschetta Pomodoro and a Caprese Salad. Everything we ordered was delicious. Fresh ripe tomatoes, wonderful, moist mozzarella cheese, sweet basil. Just yummy for a wonderful, sunny day in Italy!
When we finished lunch we all decided to walk around a little more. I had to beg off because I was having a bit of a problem with intestinal distress that had started when we arrived. Eventually they returned and we stopped in a souvenir shop and then made our way back to meet our guide Mary in front of the Misuri to wait for the rest of the group to return from their individual searches for history in the many museums in the city.
The ride back to Montecatini on the bus and was in Randy’s words, “A chance to rest our weary bones.
Tomorrow we are off to Pisa.