My first guests have already come and gone, and the week they were here disappeared in an instant. Although I have only been here four weeks it was fun to see Florence as new again through their eyes. And it was fun to be able to show them around a little bit using my growing knowledge of where things are. I used to think I had a good sense of direction until I traveled with my friend Brenda to Boston. I was just getting my bearings but she already and always knew which way to go, even though it was the first time there for both of us. I had to have a rethink of my capabilities. Here I have a well worn tourist map tucked in my bag. Now more of a security blanket than a necessity. Strangely I love imaps for driving, but find it frustrating when I am walking. I wonder if other people have the same experience.
The closer you get to the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), the more expensive the shops become. The bridge is packed with 18k gold jewellery stores, and in the surrounding area pretty well every big Italian fashion house is represented. Gucci, Dolce & Gabana, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Prada, to name a few, and although I will very likely never shop in them it feels “right” that they are here. Italian companies in an Italian town.
When I was a kid I loved the idea that old London Bridge had shops built all along it. It burned down in 1666 during the Great Fire of London and when they rebuilt it the shops did not return.
All during my time on Little Star I enjoyed hearing church bells coming across the countryside air. Often it was a weekday evening that I would notice the sounds, and the bells were tuneful and often went on for some time, stopping and then starting again. I imagined that it was the practice session for the bell ringers, to get it right for Sunday services. It was a far cry from the single bell that rang out from our village church on Sunday morning, a rather doleful sound, but that has nothing on the bells of Florence. I have been trying to find the right word to express the sound. Clamouring? Dissosant? Tumultous? Discordant? People are hauling on those bell ropes for all they are worth with no concern for how they sound, often two bells or more at a time, completely out of step with each other, and jangling on the ears and nerves. But they do ring at 7 am in the morning, when I need to wake up for school. They must follow the Catholic church services as they ring at times I can make no sense of, not being a Catholic.
I will bring all my visitors here. Markets, a connection not just to other markets worldwide, but to all markets through time. For some reason markets always make me think of the Silk Road, and traders moving their goods from China and India all the way to the Middle East and on to Europe, and goods going in the other direction. Meeting at markets along the way and trading. Spikenard is mentioned in the Bible, set in the Middle East, but it comes from the Himalayas.
The temperature in Florence has cooled down to the low 30’s now, so I am able to take more than small sips of the city when I venture out, but most people still seek the shade. The following two pictures were taken standing in the same spot, just in different directions.
Notice the beautiful paving stones, these are relatively flat. Many around Florence are worn and very uneven. Watching where you walk is an absolute necessity to avoid a twisted ankle. I will have to take pictures of the street next to Sante Croce, which are the worst I have seen. I wonder if there is a disclaimer that we all commit to about not suing the city of Florence if we injure ourselves as tourists. North American cities would never survive being sued by trip and fall suits being brought against them if their pedestrian, or roadways, were in this condition. It is truly authentic, and I don’t blame them for leaving them they way they are. Definitely part of the character of Florence as much as the Duomo or Baboli Gardens.
While Sandra and Hailey were here we wandered along the banks of the Arno, abandoning a plan to climb up to the Piazzale Michelangelo because of impending thunder, lightning and rain, and having had to abandon climbing the Torre Palazo Vecchio, tower of the old palace, due to rain that began and ended and began again. They close the tower when it rains. As we walked along we saw a throng of people looking over a bridge to the water. This is what Hailey saw when she zoomed in with her camera.
We still do not know whether they were rescuing the dog, or if the dog was there to sniff out a body or ? We hung around for a while but gelato was calling, so we don’t know the outcome. Didn’t really fancy seeing a body being brought up. We checked the local news as much as we could but to no avail.
Firenze fact. The historical part of Florence is a Limited Traffic Zone. It limits who can drive in the city at various times of the day. Now being Italy it is a very complicated system, which changes between Sundays and the rest of the week, holidays, and between seasons. It only allows residents, taxis, delivery trucks and municipal (or subcontracted) vehicles, such as the garbage pick up from the designated boxes to drive in the old part of town. Which is great for pedestrians. Even if it is a roadway walking in the road is possible, which is essential to pass snaking lines of tourists as they follow their shepherds, I mean tour guides, listening to the guide through their headsets. I checked out a visitor site that emphasized that even if you made a wrong turn and ended up in a LTZ for one minute that they would find you and send a fine, long after you returned home. I had been planning to drive to Florence from Amsterdam because I was going to be bringing Zoey. As much as I miss her every day and wish I could still enjoy her wonderful energy I am glad I don’t have a vehicle here. However, there are enough scooters, vehicles and bikes on the road to keep us on our toes. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a driver trying to avoid tourists. Or tourons as a young man serving us lunch in Yellowstone park, right next to Old Faithful, called us back in 1983. The word has really stuck with me. It was, quite literally, the last day of the season, his last day of work, and he was letting off steam. Pun intended. Ciao.