Published: May 17th 2011May 17th 2011
This morning I said arrivederci to Bologna and buon giorno to Florence. I was a little concerned at the fact that my pace had definitely slowed down for the three days in Bologna. I was hoping that it was not the pace of travel that was catching up with me. I am only one-third through after all. I definitely have a few aches and pains ... my poor knee is bad after a couple of days of hard walking in Montreal ... so a month means that it is a little tender at best.
My concerns were swept away the second that I reached Florence. Just like Venice, it is what I pictured it to be and I was so warmly welcomed at the Hotel Berna on top of it. This hotel is literally a few steps from the train station and a few more steps away from the Church Santa Maria Novella. It is a small hotel ... only nine rooms. In the building, there are about three or four such small hotels. This one is on the third floor. The feeling is that you have literally walked into someone's home and are spending the night. My room was
not ready on arrival and the maid asked if I wanted her to do it quick. I of course refused and said I would head out to visit and come back later. The owner then asked me if I needed coffee before doing that ... I could not refuse that though!! As I was sipping my espresso, I asked her if there was a password for the wifi. She said .. yes I print out for you because it is long. I laughed when she handed me the sheet ... 24 characters ... no chance of me remembering that anytime soon! The other oddity ... the remote is wrapped in Saran Wrap ... mmmm I have no idea.
So armed with my map, I made my way to ... well ... across the street to the Church Santa Maria Novella. This construction for this church began in the 13th century. It is a beautiful church ... it is quite sedate actually. There are high vaulted ceiling. The "beams" are striped in black and white but otherwise the ceiling is white and devoid of any embellishments. The floor is a black and white checkered pattern and there are coats of
3 Some funky seats
Just outside of Church Santa Maria Novella
arms incorporated into the floor. The sun was shining and the stain glass windows was leaving beautiful coloured patterns on the floor.
I then crossed the street again to the Museo Nazionale Alinari Della Fotografia. The temporary exhibit was described as "a wide range of photographs from the beginning of photography to the present day which have been the focus of controversy or legal proceedings". It was amazing. There were a number of photos from Oliviero Toscani who did many of the controversial ads for Benetton. There were doctored photos with Joseph Stalin. There was the iconic photo of the little girl in Vietnam burned by napalm. There was a photo taken during 9/11 ... it was of a severed hand which was quite shocking to see but very much shows the brutality of that day. Photos were also used to allow Charlie Chaplin to establish copyright properties on "The Tramp" after he realized that someone was using a similar character. There were photos taken in the concentration camps. It was truly fascinating. Each photo was coupled with an interesting back story and many questioned censorship, doctoring of photos, etc. Fascinating, just fascinating.
The visit of the museum
then continued to the permanent exhibition which included a vast collection of photographs (of course) but also a large collection of antique photo albums and cameras. Of course our old Kodak Instamatic was again on display ... it makes me feel old every time! And to show that they are updating and keeping with the times ... they had a Nokia cell phone which was the first cell phone that incorporated a camera.
From there I made my way down Via della Scalla to reach the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. This pharmacy was begun in 1221 by Domenican friars and is still operational today. The surroundings are beautiful and there are definitely tempting things to be bought. I bought rose tea ... yes tea ... I need that like a hole in the head. Just adding to the collection!
By that time I was ready for lunch. I stopped for an incredibly yummy pasta dish with prosciutto and melon. What was more incredible was the view .... it was amazing to be eating this lovely meal with lovely wine in the shadow of the Duomo.
So of course the next stop would be the Duomo.
Having seen the Basilica of San Marco, I was expecting mayhem because it was getting later on in the day. The line was relatively long but moved swiftly. Inside, tourists were dispersed and ... dare I say ... quiet. It really gave you time to just soak it in. Despite the ornate facade of green and white marble, the inside of this church is subdued. I walked out and noticed that there were a group of kids (they were six years old) and they were drawing the Duomo. I could have watched them all day long!
Seeing that the crowds were relatively small, I went into the line to climb the steps to the dome. I must be getting in shape with all of this walking ... 463 steps and I was barely winded! There is a part where you are climbing stone steps and that you can actually start seeing the arc of the dome. The view up there is amazing. It is definitely a must-do in Florence. There is also a portion where you are on a narrow pathway that circles the dome and allows you to see down into the church. First you get to see
6 Amazing photo exhibit
Loved loved loved this museum
the beautiful frescoes of the dome and you can get a much better sense of how vast this church is.
And that would end my day in Florence ... I love it here. I am so looking forward to seeing what the other three days have in store for me!
There are more photos below