Day 12: Florence
I visited Florence today with, oh, maybe 10 million of my closest friends. They were there to celebrate Easter. It was quite an experience.
First, I have to talk about the weather a little bit. I haven’t mentioned lately that I am the Weather Fairy. But this power has come in very handy on this trip. The past two days have started out rainy, with the forecast calling for a very good chance for rain all day. Both days it was raining when we boarded the bus at the villa. Today it rained steadily all the way to Florence – about an hour’s drive. When we got out of the bus, viola! No rain. Thank you, Weather Fairy.
Not only did it NOT rain today, it got very warm and sunny. But at one point in the early afternoon a huge black cloud loomed over the city, and I thought for sure my powers were not strong enough to hold off what looked to be an impending storm. But not a drop. I am really good.
I have been to Florence before, but it was such a brief and superficial visit, I barely saw the city. In fact, I thought I’d seen Michelangelo’s David, but I had only seen the reproduction. And I had not seen the famous duomo. This visit was much more thorough. We started at the Galleria dell’Academia, home of the actual David and other Michelangelo sculptures. David is a really incredible work of art, and to see him in his proper place and to be able to spend a nice amount of time gazing all around his perfect 17-foot body…well, I am humbled.
Beyond the Michelangelo sculptures, the gallery wasn’t very interesting. We paid our respects and went out into the street to head for the famous Florence duomo…only to find the streets blocked off for the traditional Easter celebration in which a paper dove is lit on fire and it glides down a rope to a cart filled with fireworks, which explode in a frenzy of happiness and joy. We saw very little of this, unfortunately, because by the time we got down to the square we were on the wrong side of the duomo and could only see the occasional spark…and lots of smoke. But we heard the whole thing, and being in a crowd like that can only be compared to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Nuts-o.
Following the fireworks came a very interesting parade. I had a good look at the first part but then, since I am short, I missed most of the second part, which featured flag throwers. I could see the flags being thrown into the air, but I couldn’t actually see the throwers. Nevertheless, it was fun.
After the parade we continued to walk through the crowds to the Palazzo Vecchio with its fountains and sculptures – including the false David that I had seen before. It was good to see him again, however, since we were not allowed to take pictures of him in the art museum; I am not ashamed to say that I photographed him with a telephoto lens in all his anatomically correct glory.
Our group broke up at this point – it was about noon – so we could explore and dine on our own. I spent most of my time taking pictures and loving, loving, loving Florence. I went to the Ponte Vecchio bridge, which is totally crazy with gold jewelry shops and people, but cool for the view. I walked up and down the streets and took pictures of the people and the shop windows and the bicycles. I found my first sugar waffle on this trip. (Last time I was in Italy I discovered these delicacies in Rome, but I didn’t see them there this time. Here, however, I smelled them before I saw them. Man, they taste good.) I did a little, teensie bit of shopping, walked back to the duomo for photographs, drank a coffee on a rooftop café overlooking the center of the city…wow, it was just a spectacular day.
After our group met and walked to the bus, we drove to a parking and garden area overlooking the city for a spectacular view and a group photo.
Now we’re back at the villa, which looks prettier every time we come “home,” and I am enjoying the cheese and olives I bought in Perugia, drinking a glass of wine…you know, the usual.