Taking it easy in Florence, Italy

Standing guard at the cathedral in Florence....

I’m sorry to say that from the moment we get to Florence, we were a bit frustrated. Our train to Florence takes us to Rifredi station, not quite in downtown. We have to take a bus to Campo di Marte, near where we’ve booked another room through Airbnb. This time at the a place called the Casa dell’Arte, the Artists House.

The bags are heavy (not Florence’s fault) but we’re unsure where Campo di Marte is and after about 20 minutes on the bus, I get scared we’ve missed it. We’ve both asked the bus driver and so I’m just hoping he’ll let us know when we get there. The man at Rifredi said it drops us off “right in front” of Campo di Marte. Happily, the driver does let us know when we get to Campo di Marte. We get off the bus and find that being dropped off “right in front” means at the unmarked back entrance of the train station. We trudge across the sky bridge and find our street directly on the other side.

As we walk along Via Manzanni we get tripped up as the numbers on the buildings suddenly jump from 85 to 12. We’re looking for 15. Why the big jump? Just a few doors later we’re back to 83. How? Why? We read our directions over and over again, 400 metres from the station. Ok, so we keep walking. We finally find our place, on the top floor of an apartment building cum offices. We find out later that Florence has 2 numbering systems, one for businesses and one for residences. Businesses are red, residences are blue. You gotta be kidding me!

We finally find our flat and …well… it is definitely an artists house. Not that it’s not great, but we had to be a little open minded about some of the art on the walls. Our host, Gabrigga living up to the artist stereotype was a bit scattered and our room wasn’t ready. After about 5 minutes of incomprehension (my baby Italian was failing me) he brings out his laptop with Google Translate. Finally! Understanding! Our room will be ready in 5 minutes, we get the big one with a loft inside. There’s lots of room for us to spread out a bit! Ok, ok, thanks Florence.

The downstairs of our loft at the Casa dell'Arte, via airbnb.com

It’s easy to get into town because we’re right next to Campo di Marte train station, we’re also about a 20 minute walk in to the “old town” area. On our first day we visit the museum of Opera di Santa Maria della Fiore. This is one of the lesser known, lesser visited museums in Florence but was rich with sculpture that had been taken from the famous cathedral. Its most famous piece is Michaelangelo’s second “Pieta”, (the first is at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican).

Michaelangelo's Pieta at the Opera di Santa Maria delle Fiore, Florence

This second one was supposed to be for his grave and was made later in his life (when his talent was even greater, and he was even more spiritual). There’s a big difference between this one and the one in the Vatican. This one is almost vibrant with life as the three figures bring Jesus down from the cross. The one at the Vatican is quite somber, morose and almost tranquil in it’s sadness as Mary holds Jesus in her arms.

This panel is the representation of "music", I love it because he looks like a laid back beatnik strumming his guitar

I just love lions everywhere

I liked the gawdiness of this painting, the detail and business that shout "This is important!"

When we left the museum it was twilight hour, almost before sunset. We walked all around the Cathedral marveling at how unique it is. There was a great exhibition about its creation and construction in the museum so we learned that it had gone through several reincarnations and much struggle to finally be built.

Basilica di Santa Maria di Fiore

Sunset at Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

The Campanile, Florence

We walked towards the river Arno that runs through Florence, seeing the imitation David on the way. We were impressed but decided to pass on seeing the real thing. Maybe next time?

The faux David they keep in the Piazza, the real one is safe in the museum

Another piece near the faux-David in a statue gallery, photo by Eric

We walked to the famous, lock-laden Ponte Vecchio (meaning “old bridge”). First built in 1157, (think about that date for a while, that’s old) and swept away twice by floods. It’s rumored that Hitler even ordered that the bridge go un-bombed even when the rest of Florence was receiving heavy bombing .

The tradition is that lovers come to the bridge and put a lock on it (or a gate on the bridge, handle, rail, anything really) and then toss the key in the water to symbolize the eternity of their love. The bridge is absolutely littered with them!

Ponte Vecchio- laden with locks

Ponte Vecchio at night

Ponte Vecchio by night, Photo by Eric

The inner section of the bridge (the part you walk across) is lined with jewlers. Lots and lots of sparkles to be seen. History says that the bridge used to be filled with butchers who would toss their leftovers into the river. The ruling Medici at the time kicked them all off, and inserted jewelers and diamod sellers in their place. Much better for the city and he was right. As our friend Noeleen put it, “Your inner magpie goes wild!”.

I loved the old medieval doors and shutters on the bridge, look at that peep hole!

Jewels! Jewels! Jewels! Try to control your inner magpie!

We sat on the bridge for a while and listened to a Spanish singer on the guitar. He sang in Spanish, Italian and English! He got a Coldplay song stuck in my head for the rest of the night.

One of Eric’s favorite parts about Florence was getting coffee local-style at the neighborhood café.

Breakfast, Italian style. Eric's "Americano" espress is served with the shot in the espresso cup and a small pitcher of piping hot water to add to his liking.

In Italy, coffee is drunk fast, usually standing up at the bar downing your espresso in one or two sips. People stand around in the middle of the café, scarfing down their pastries. I thought it was funny that they all do it so quickly instead of savoring their moments like they’re famous for. Also, they don’t do “to-go” but they’re all in a hurry (this was early morning after all) so they just stand around in the café busily eating their breakfast before rushing out. Why not walk down the street with your croissant? Unthinkable apparently.

As we walked back to our apartment we noticed an electric car charging station. We were impressed by how common the electric cars were in Florence and how many cars and scooters were plugged in.

Look! This clown car is electric!

On our last day we tried to visit the Uffizi Gallery which holds innumerable renaissance masterpieces. Unfortunately, we didn’t really do our homework and realize that the line would be 2.5 hours long. We decided that the Uffizi was for next time and went to the Galileo Museum instead, which came from the recommendation of my good friend and former Florentine resident Erin. Good decision! Unfortunately, we couldn’t take any pictures but if you ever visit Florence I second Erin’s recommendation. Go to the Galileo Museum. It has an incredibly impressive collection of turn of the century scientific instruments, globes and astrological instruments. We were fascinated by everything we saw there and were happy to visit this lesser noticed treasure.

When we walked back that night, we came across something amazing, right on the ground!

Chalk art, Florence

The artist himself, working on a second piece

This guy was unbelievable! If you look at these photos, this is all done in chalk. Just chalk! Can you imagine! You can see the artist working on it there. This little girl was mesmerized and he gave her a little piece of chalk so she could draw too! I walked by this site the next day and the two ladies were gone, but the angels were still there. I couldn’t believe that these incredible works of art were only there for 24 hours. It seemed like this guy was performing magic with chalk. I mean, I was there and I still can’t believe these photos!

In Florence we were a little homesick so we did take some downtime to just relax. Florence is jam packed with things to see (and people!) so we know we’ll need to go back some time in the future to take in more of the amazing art work. We did enjoy everything we saw, all the gelato we ate (we ate it every day) and beautiful sunsets. We left after 4 days to hike the hills of Cinque Terre, the five villages connected by cliff side trails. Watch this space for the next post!

<3 Chelsea

Statue of Santa Maria del Fiore, otherwise known as The Virgin Mary or Mary of the Flowers


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