We spent our last day in Florence visiting the Pitti Palace Boboli Gardens, the Piazzale Michelangelo (where a replica of Michelangelo’s David statue looks over Florence) and the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte.
The gardens are situated behind the Pitti Palace and cover about 11 acres. They were built in the mid 1500’s, and were extended to their current size in the 17th century. The gardens were the first of their kind for Florence and were built by Cosimo I de Medici for his wife, Eleonora di Toledo. In the gardens there is a combination of wide gravel paths, fountains and water features, statues, small and secluded areas a huge arena and other expansive areas. Amazing views of Florence can be seen from many vantage points within the gardens. The many gravel paths, wide and narrow seem to go on endlessly down gullies and back up over the tops of the hills, paths criss-cross the whole garden. It would be very easy to get lost while walking along some of the paths that are almost fully enclosed by vegetation. There must have been hundreds of gardeners and staff to keep the whole estate in shape.
After a quick lunch we visited the Piazzale Michelangelo. We walked along the riverside, up the first part of the hill, which is quiet steep, until finally we arrived at the last bit, 3 sections of stone steps. Barbara, not given to exaggeration, gasped at the thought of climbing the ‘3 million steps’, (actually 77) to the top in the 38 degree steaming heat of the middle of the day!!. We spent some time admiring the fantastic views of Florence from this great vantage point. There was a change in the weather approaching and the dark, heavy clouds added a new dimension to the view. We also saw the replica ‘David’ that has pride of place in the centre of the Piazzale.
After we finished admiring the views we visited the nearby church the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. On a previous visit to Florence we were fortunate to arrive in time to hear the monks sing Evensong at this amazingly beautiful church, which is full of gorgeous frescos. We both love this church and enjoyed just walking around the church and experiencing the serenity and tranquillity.
In a previous post I mentioned some of the habits of drivers while negotiating the thin walled, winding road between Fiesole and Maiano. After we finished in the city we caught the bus up the hill to Fiesole to visit the local Irish Pub. We left the pub to walk the 2.5 k’s to Maiano, and as we rounded the first corner on the journey, I saw an old motor scooter heading up the hill. The bike had done a lot of kilometres and was well worn. The bike’s windscreen had seen many hot summers and the perspex of the windshield was cracked, weathered and unwashed. As I looked closer I could see slits where the eye sockets were and that he was smoking a cigar, probably a reward for the journey home after a long day at the coalface….his lips were slightly apart, like he had lost the battle with consciousness and had entered the land of slumber, his bottom lip was much bigger than the upper, probably from the exercise his lower lip gained from the daily ritual of holding up a massive cigar. The cigar was hanging at about a 45 degree angle just being held in place by, I suspect, the slightest bit of moisture on the top lip…the cigar bounced violently down and then back up again, as the bike hit rough sections of the road, the top lip moved in and out, only just winning the battle with gravity, some bits of ash that hadn’t been blown off by the wind as he wound his way up the hill, were dropping off the end of the almost extinct cigar. The bike and the man looked like they had made this trip many times over many years and I’m sure the old trusty scooter knew the way home…but, I’m still convinced that I finally saw someone sleeping as they made the journey up this thin winding road to the top.
On the previous weekend we decided to avoid the hustle of Florence (and the extreme heat) and spent more time in Fiesole, learning more about the local area. We visited the archaeological Museum where the remnants of the Etruscan walls, the Roman baths and the Roman arena/theatre, have been preserved. The theatre is in really good condition and is still in use today. There were lighting and sound rigs set up ready for performances that evening.
We also visited the museum and looked at the astonishing amount of relics that have been uncovered in archaeological digs in the area. It is thought that many of the sights around the town had been plundered many years ago and that all that remained were the treasures that weren’t easily unearthed. The museum is really well done with huge amounts of information (I know ‘first hand’ how much information there is, Barbara left her glasses at home, so I had to read all the ‘English translation’ cards throughout the entire museum)
We, as always, had a wonderful visit to Florence, one of our favourite destinations and two of our most favourite places to stay, Hotel Torre Guelfa, and Fattoria di Maiano. We would like to thank Barbara and Chris and all the staff at Torre Guelfa, Sara and all the staff at Fattoria di Maiano for all their assistance and for making our stay in Florence such an enjoyable experience, we will be back to see you all again, thankyou. (We still haven’t found the lake at the Fattoria – so a really good reason to come back!!!)
Lance and Barbara