Fascinating Florence

Continued from my earlier post -“Exploring Amalfi”

We set out early from the  Amalfi coast and headed out to Naples -a distance of about seventy kilometres which we covered in an hours time . We initially went on the Amalfi coast road towards Sorrento and thence on the Superstrada 45(National Highway) connecting Sicily with Venice Via Naples and Rome . This highway cuts   through Italy along the ancient Roman Highway  .  We passed  Pompeii and on to   board the Trenitalia treni (train)  bound for  Florence , our next destination.We had our bigglietti (tickets)  NAPLES TRAINin hand , watched the big screen for the departure binari (platform), used the acensori(lift) to head to the servizione (rest rooms). The majestic Garibaldi Piazza with a mounted statue of the Italian patriot and Red Shirt leader adds to the  impressive facade of Napoli Centrale Stazione .We boarded the Premi(premium) seconde class on the Frecciarossa train bound for Venice via Roma and Florence  which touched speeds as high as 250 km per hour . Apart from the speed what never fails to impress me are the    spotlessly clean interiors of the train . Keep  wondering whether it was the civic sense of the passengers or the efficient of the sanitation staff or both !  The journey was pleasant and we got into Firenze Santa Maria Novella (Firenze SM Novella) station in a few hours time  . Florence is  Firenze locally and the station takes its name after the Cathedral of Santa Maria.

We followed the Uscita(Exit)   signs  and found ourselves on the high  street.Our attempt to  flag down taxi after taxi bore no success  – APPtaxiA kind passer-by  explained  that in Florence taxis do not float around seeking   passengers -You need to call a central number or use the APPTAXI  – very similar to Uber which is  currently banned in Italy.  And so with the help of the App we got  to our hotel quite easily.En route to the Hotel the cab driver informed me that Florence has 73 museums and 125 cathedrals/churches. Tried to verify this and the best answer   I got was “many many”! But then we chose to see just one Museum and one cathedral and spend the rest of our time absorbing Florence and Tuscany.

Florence is the capital of Tuscany province and is astride the Arno River. The Arno brought back my knowledge of the Italian Campaign which I so assiduously studied for my military promotion exams nearly 35 years ago.The retreating Germans  blew up all but one of the bridges across the Arno and razed to rubble buildings on both sides to act as a further barricade to the advancing Allied troops in 1944 .  The city had not been razed completely and was spared  as both the Allies

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Ponte Vecchio -The bridge spared by the Germans

and the Germans were alive to the  historic buildings and architecture of Florence. As Hitler is rumored to have  famously said “Florence is too beautiful to be destroyed”  but that did not stop the Germans from mass looting of art works and sculptures , many of which have over the years been painstakingly restored to the museums.  That however is a  fascinating story for another day. The allies limited their  bombings to only  the railway station to cut off German supplies . And so Florence survived the Second  World War with  only one ancient bridge the Ponte Vecchio intact. Rumour again has it that Hitler had a hand in this noble gesture(!)as well .

After a quick check in at  Hotel Kraft,  a modern Hotel in the city center (Check out  my review on Trip Advisor) we  spent the evening at  one of the many Medici Palaces -The Palazzo Riccardi.The Medici family of Florence were a trading family(1500s to 1700s) with immense wealth who

CONcert in Florence
Concert In Medici Palace

wielded great influence over Italy but are best known as generous patrons of  art and culture.The music concert by a local group was set in the huge spacious courtyard of this palace and was a fine rendering of classics from Mozart  and Strauss .  Such concerts are organised each  day at one of the many beautiful architectural buildings of Florence and must not be missed .Gives a tourist a few hours of taking in the ambience amidst great music .!

The concert was followed by Ravioli with Truffle sauce   in a restaurant off Piazza San Lorenzo yet another picturesque Piazza that is part of the history of Florence . Malati had Zuppa Verdure (vegetable Soup) served in the most beautiful surroundings in a sidewalk cafe besides the San Lorenzo church. We were by now quite into Italian food, bland by Indian standards though I must say I  did  not miss the Indian spices  and deep fried foods at all.I am  now veering towards the view that unspoiled natural flavours of farm fresh

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Ravioli with Truffle

meats and vegetables should be savoured without sullying  it with spices . Another feature common to all restaurants is the large bowl of grated Parmesan Formaggio (cheese) kept on the table as a spice equivalent ! My knowledge of Italian food was fast improving – till now limited to the  to the “Little Italy” chain of restaurants in India.

The next day we headed for Piazza Michelangelo.  The route went past  Bobboli gardens ,an open air museum built over four centuries which is another much visited

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David -The replica at Piazza Michelangelo

  tourist attraction.We were however  content to look at  the gardens through the   bus window. The Michelangelo Piazza is a large square set amidst rolling gardens at different levels and affords a panoramic view of the city of Florence.In good light you can get some brilliant  pictures. In the centre of the square is a replica of the famous statue of David  surrounded by souvenir shops selling Italian football and other  memorabilia.  David is one of the  best known sculptures of Florence and Michelangelo and the original is located in the Accademia Galleri. Another replica exists at the entrance to the Signoria square.After some time watching the sunset over the skyline we hopped on to the first bus back to the hotel only to be told that no tickets were available for sale – we got off at the next stop and hopped onto another one only to be told the same thing . Buses are manned by only a driver  and as we discovered  he is not obliged to sell tickets on board . Tickets are sold at all cafes , stores and numerous outlets across the city.  Since these tickets  are undated and are valid  for a fixed duration (day/ week /month/single trip ) or  they need to be punched with the start date and time else they can be used without any limit  .This process is referred to as validation and is done with the help of a small yellow coloured card punch machine available on every bus and tram in Florence. Traveling on an un-validated ticket is treated as ticket less travel and attracts hefty fines . The process is pretty much the same in the water transport system of Venice but with different user interfaces.And so with this new found knowledge we head for lunch and onwards to Ufffizi  museum, the largest museum  in the world. One the way we enviously saw lavender and oleander bushes growing wild . Malati has been trying to grow lavender in her garden but with limited successimg_1057.jpg

Continued in my  next post –  Uffizi and much more !

6 thoughts on “Fascinating Florence

  1. Why have yopu cosed comments on all your oither posts? What about indulging laggards like me who have just got around to reading all of them in one happy gulp? Want to hear more about what you wewre thinking as you travelled amnd saw all this …. your mind usally thinks off the beaten track, so would love to hear :))

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  2. Fascinating Blog….very vivid and excellent Narration – Keep posting More…your detailed research before you embark on a tour is pretty evident – A passionate Traveler in Fascinating Florence….

    Like

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