Fun in Florence (Part 1)
From Positano, we head to Tuscany, with Florence as our ultimate stop. We board the high-speed train in Naples and at 200 mph we are in Rome within just over an hour. A brief stop there to pick up more passengers and we then speed north. The outlying areas of sprawling Rome begin to give way to more rural scenes. The cypress trees and vineyards of southern Tuscany start to dot the landscape and within another hour we are in our final destination of Florence.
Florence (Firenze in Italian) is the capital of Tuscany. As soon as we stepped off the train, and began the short walk to the hotel, we noticed the stark contrast from Positano. Whereas Positano felt like a dream everywhere you looked, Florence feels like you have landed at the original heartbeat of everything that is terrestrially human. The weight of history is all around you. It overwhelms you and comforts you all at the same time.
The renaissance started here. Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Galileo, Machiavelli, the Medici family – all of them lived and worked here. Most are all buried here. HERE is where it all went down. As you walk the streets you wonder to yourself “Did Michelangelo walk here?” “Did he meet with Lorenzo Medici in that building there?” “Did Galileo see something in the heavens in that spot on the hill?” There are reminders everywhere that many of the loftier pursuits of humanity were originally hatched here.
We checked into the Westin Excelsior along the Arno River and immediately went to the rooftop bar (SESTO) for a cocktail to unwind. Our view of the Arno and surrounding Florence was breathtaking. You can sit in silence for quite some time just taking it all in. The Arno splits Florence in half. Rustic brick bridges span it at many intervals and people gather on them each evening for the brilliant sunsets, no doubt a time-honored tradition.
The streets of the main center of Florence are narrow and haphazardly arranged in a maze of cobblestone, brick and mortar. There are 3-way stops, 4-way stops, even 5-way stops. A reminder that these streets have been here for ages, long before automobiles. Many of them are no more than glorified alleys, but charming nonetheless. Every few blocks you will happen upon a statue of someone of great import. Some decades old, some centuries.
Later we strolled down one of the cobblestone streets in search of dinner. We came upon a small cafe and sat outside at a 2-top. Many times when you sit outside you are on the sidewalk, or in this case on the actual street (in the statue photo above you can see this in the lower right corner). Dinner was incredible, the artichoke salad being the star. This might have been partly due to the fact that I tried to make an artichoke dish recently from fresh artichokes and it was a disaster – don’t eat the leaves! But I digress. Wandering the streets each day, taking in the sights, and happening into a cafe for lunch or dinner became our prime activity. And we loved it. No plans. No schedules. (to be continued…)