A two hour train ride took us from the wild countryside of Proceno, to the big city of Florence. It is a delight to witness the many faces of Italia. Here, the air doesn’t have the smoky sweetness of pellet stoves I’ve come to love, instead the air is filled with sounds. Sirens, cars honking, the steady thrum of traffic drifts upward and outward to the clear blue sky above the tall buildings.
There are people everywhere, bundled in long winter coats against the shadows cast by the cityscape. There is always hustle and bustle and I enjoy watching the people go by as we eat up the pavement on our way to the next jaw dropping destination. Who makes eye contact? Who looks away? Who never looks up at all? What is everyone wearing? Women in Italy love their boots and I love seeing the sometimes questionable fashion. Italians aren’t afraid of bright colors or loud patterns or extra sparkle.
Like the high fashion district, Italia leaves nothing out with the intricate details of the cathedrals and basilicas. How did the artists of years past get so much emotion and expression out of cold slabs of marble?
How did they paint a ceiling so clearly that you have to look twice, just to make sure there aren’t actually men climbing out of the sky.
I’m blown away by the rippling muscle of stone structures, appalled by the blatant dominance and violence of our species, grateful for the history preserved over hundreds of years. What can we learn from it?
Hidden inside the city are gardens that provide respite from the bustling streets. We took a day to explore and even in the winter the sights were well worth the price of admission, though I imagine the summertime would inspire a trip to Florence just to sit among the fountains and the flowers.
By a happy accident I took us to a small garden inside the city that provided us with an epic view of Florence. (Pictured at top) It’s a smaller garden set inside a restored 17th century villa with wisteria walkways, intricate statues, and a baroque staircase that I’m sure could inspire romantic Italian novels aplenty.
The next garden experience was Boboli Gardens, and wow “Garden” is putting it mildly. A public garden opened in 1766, it was originally designed for the Medici, with renaissance statues, fountains, winding walkways and mazes, and grottos to delight the senses and a Palace to inspire awe, though we did not pay the additional admission to explore the palace.
Florence is full of artwork to amaze and we haven’t really even scratched the surface. There are museums aplenty and more gardens to explore. There are hidden gems among the streets, not to mention the street art you can find if you pay attention. The door knockers, the window coverings, the buildings are all designed in a way to be works of art in and of themselves.
Personally, I’ve found the most joy in Oltrarno which literally means “On the other side of the Arno” the river that divides Florence. This is where the gardens are and this side of the city has a big more olde world charm, more cobblestone streets, a more historical vibe, and perhaps most importantly, we saw an English bulldog on that side! Oh my heart.
We are staying on the side of Florence that has more big city vibes, in a huge apartment that looks out onto the city streets. We are in walking distance of everything we need, there is even an Asian market literally 10 steps outside the door, and our new favorite Vegan Chinese restaurant is a 20 minute walk. Since we don’t have a car, the ease of access has been super important and welcomed after some of our missteps in Proceno.
I’m sure there will be more to discover and share in the coming week and as always, thank you for following along on this journey!
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