Florence - a city surrounded by the Italian hills and with enough famous names, including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci to keep art scholars, tourists and digital cameras busy for centuries. It's been through floods, fires, sieges, plagues, political dramas (aka The Medici family) German Occupation and is the home for incredible monuments, cathedrals, buildings, bridges and art works. Just saying you need longer than our few days here.
Each day we venture out with a plan and a coffee. And every day the plan goes awry - usually within the first hour! We wandered into a tourist beauro (hopeless - but got a map) and perchanced upon a Firenze Card. Parted with some euro and we were off! Turns out it was a magnificent thing and gave us entry into loads of places, and each time by a "get through quick" line.
Oh I marvelled at David - in marble and over 5 metres high he has such WOW factor. Round and around gazing at him. Awesome. Beyond awesome. Sometimes you think you know what you will see but disappointed in reality. But David stands magnificent, calm, proud and true- as if all the tourists are just ants at his feet.
Michelangelo's name crops up time and time again throughout Florence paintings and sculptures and many stories about him. He did this and that, was there, wrote this, argued with them... Suddenly this mythical painter, learnt about in high school art history became a real and a rather dramatic person. His vision, passion and ability took Italy by storm and me by surprise.
We saw crypts and graves, full of tourists and excessive marble. We saw churches, golden with sunbeams in rays from high windows. Alters and dry bones from saints in days gone by. Places of sacred intent turned into a milling tourist throng, aiming cameras high for a token photo of grandure. Mary, Jesus, John the Baptist, the discipes all mixed up with mythology and medievel costumes and blue eyes and wavy golden hair. Here artists are not limited by wikipedia but let their imaginations go, their chisels and brushes create with flair and colour.
Florence is very three dimensonal - so many statues, everywhere, parks and gardens, peeking out of hedges and supporting fountains of water, town squares and street corners, churches and musuems and public buildings. Everywhere. Women men and children, mystical creatures and animals, enormous towering over me or tiny in a niche. Halls filled with lines of statues in every posture imaginanable. Many of the stautures were carved nude and that brings more questions, what was the clothing code of the people of ancient days?
Florence has run out of room on her walls, they are overloaded with art works -master pieces from past painters, up to 12 on a wall. Or sometimes just one, the size of the entire wall. The artists painted on the ceilings outrageously gaudy with colour and dreams, three dimenional cherubs and angels peering down over the cornices. The floors are often mosaics in marble or tiles and have beautiful designs and patterns worn with the passing of time and feet.
We go out for dinner one night and after wandering around trying to chose finally made a decision on a outside pizza area. Turns out the only seats were inside. And in we went. Into a back back room, dark with candles glowing and 6 huge anterlope heads on the wall gazing benignly down. Fabric lined ceiling, think Buffalo Bill meets Italy. I had to rummage around for my glasses and iphone torch to read the menu -(oh my goodness, where did my youth go?) but was rewarded with the nicest waitress - complimentary breads, soup and pannacota and most incredible pasta ever ever ever tasted.
Have been up so many stairs in Florence. Long and wide, narrow and curving, marble and stone. Sometimes you stop and gaze at yet another flight of stairs. Gaze and then sigh. Heavily.
But the views from the tops of the stairs and top of the hill have been beyond wonderful. the curve of Florence in the blue green hills. The terracota roofs misaligned. Every where I look the beauty of Florence is framed, in the stairs, the windows, the arches and the lacy leaves of the trees.
So much in so few days. My legs ache my head is spinning with the enormity of histoy and the passion of the Italians. They take life, death, black coffee and soccer very seriously.
And its a learning curve. At the train stations I have seen crowds of people waiting. Stretching. yawning. waiting. I wondered what they are doing, until I become one of the wait-ees. Turns out the platform number for the train gets popped up there. And the 6.50am train still didnt have a platform number at 6.40. 7 mins before departure the number pops up and along with the crowd we get swept along to the empty Platform 11, the train slides in and we all pile on. We lucked business class with a cheap weekend ticket so are on our way to Rome, leather reclining seats, Italian magazine, black coffee and wifi included. Away from Bella Firenze (Beautiful Florence) resting in her circle of blue green hills.