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April 8th 2016
Published: April 8th 2016
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Spring Fashion



We were spending a sunny afternoon walking the narrow back streets of the ancient Oltrarno neighborhood on the other side of the Arno River from downtown. We had already passed the massive Pitti Palace and were heading towards the Santo Spirito church and square. The lilac bushes have just reached full bloom and overpoweringly scent the air with a fragrance so intense that the entire neighborhood smells of a fancy French boudoir. We heard the commotion of glasses clinking and theatrical voices coming from down a cobbled alley past a colorful bakery. The large group of well-dressed people standing in the alley were smoking and enjoying champagne half way down the narrow street. It was Wednesday afternoon so it couldn’t be a wedding and they were dressed too brightly for a funeral. We were curious enough to make the decision to take a detour to see what was happening.



We followed a tall and very thin young lady wearing extremely high heels and a very short dress towards the group. She was smoking a long cigarette and walking a huge pit bull on a thick, expensive looking silver chain. We wondered how she
Florence at NightFlorence at NightFlorence at Night

Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio, Arno River
maintained her balance on the rough surface of the alley. As we grew closer the people were even better dressed than we had realized. Everyone was very tan and had perfectly coiffed hair. The women had expensive jewelry and the men were all sporting trendy sunglasses and designer cut jackets.



We began to feel extremely underdressed in our well-worn jeans and scuffed shoes. We become very aware of our overdue haircuts and pasty skin that has been covered by large jackets for most of the last six months and only yesterday was exposed for the first time to the light of day. It is too late to turn around, so we clumsily make our way through the crowd trying our best not to make eye contact. The sign inside the courtyard of the beautiful Palazzo says GUCCI in large letters and it is obvious this is a fashion show for the elites of Europe. We feel hopelessly out of place and regret our decision to be so nosy.



As soon as we uncomfortably finish squeezing through the stylishly elegant group, pleased only by the fact we didn’t cause anyone to spill a drink, we realize the full extent of our error. The other end of the narrow street is tightly barricaded and we will not be able to complete our exit. Instead we are going to have to return the way we came- directly through the group again.



We finally completed our uncomfortable foray into the world of high fashion and exited onto the beautiful Santo Spirito square. We found a bench and looked across the square to where there was a group of rather rough looking characters. They had unkempt hair and seem to be sharing cigarettes and drinking from a common bottle. We realized that our clothes don’t look too much different than theirs and decide that now that spring is here we definitely need to upgrade our style as soon as possible.



Not the Easter Bunny



Easter is celebrated in many ways throughout the Christian world. Usually very solemnly and with great reverence. Lots of robes, candles and pageantry. But not fireworks. In Florence it is all about fireworks.



Scoppio del Carro (Explosion of the Cart) is one of the biggest yearly celebrations in Florence and takes place in front of the magnificent Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly called the Duomo here. The Duomo is a majestic building that stands tall over the center of the city. The opulent façade faces the large piazza. The entire church is covered with pink, green and white marble in intricate designs. Statues adorn the entire building and the massive Brunelleschi dome completes the architectural masterpiece. The equally impressive Giotti Tower and Baptistery sit alongside to make this one of the most elegant squares in Europe.



On Easter morning thousands fill the piazza to watch the festivities. Groups of uniformed men begin arriving in the square. Elegantly dressed in 15th century costumes and carrying flags, drums, banners and various armaments they form themselves on the steps of the cathedral. Music is broadcast from inside the church to the square. Eventually several huge white oxen appear. They are decorated with garlands of flowers and are pulling a huge wooden cart, nearly 30 feet high, which is extensively loaded with fireworks, rockets and other pyrotechnics.



The massive doors to the cathedral are opened. At the end of Easter mass the “Columbina”, a dove shaped rocket, is lit from a holy fire and is shot on a rope from the altar to the cart. For almost 30 minutes the cart explodes as the bells ring in the tower above. Smoke fills the air and everyone cheers. If all the fireworks explode it is said that a good harvest and successful year will be had by all.



Definitely not the somber occasion that takes place in most of the world!



An Eerie Tour of the City



One morning we were searching for some new ideas for things to do in the city. We did a Youtube search for “Florence Tours” and found a strange video of a huge parade and tour of Florence that was taken in 1938 by Mussolini and Hitler when they were at their prime. Throngs of people lined the streets as they passed in their motorcade throughout the city. They stood in their limousine and waved to the masses. Of course we recognized all the major sites and were surprised at how little the city had changed in nearly 80 years.



The night before we had stood high above the city in the beautiful Piazzale Michelangelo. The square provides an amazing view over the whole city and is must see stop for anyone who has ever visited the city. It gave us a surreal feeling when the video showed Hitler standing in the exact corner of the square where we stood as he cast his evil gaze over the entire area. In a city filled with centuries of history, it was the first time we felt so closely attached to it.



Later that day we crowded onto one of the tightly packed city buses that weave their way on circuitous routes throughout the city. It was rush hour and we were forced to stand in the very front of the bus, just behind the front window. We drove across the Arno River at the Santa Trinita Bridge, near the Piazza della Repubblica and its famous arch and past all the huge ancient Medici Palaces. We both had an eerie feeling that this must have been much the same view as the two evil dictators had while they stood in their limousine and viewed the city on their tour. When we thought of how in just a few years they had done so much destruction to the world and caused so many deaths it made for a very strange tour of the city.



Thanks to the Tourists



We have become very independent travelers. We usually avoid group tours and very crowded tourist areas in general. Florence (and all of Tuscany) is very full of visitors and we have found it is often difficult to avoid the crowds. We took day trips to San Gimignano, Siena, Pisa and Lucca in midweek just so we could have some part of the town to ourselves instead of fighting the flag following masses for a chance to see anything.



We have not enjoyed as much of the wonderful Renaissance art that makes Florence such an interesting place to visit as we would have liked. Partly because of the desire to avoid the massive lines but mostly because our limited budget necessitates that we be very choosy about which museums we can afford to visit in an area.



We were sitting in Piazza San Marco on a sunny Sunday afternoon. We had been here for 3 weeks already and generally knew our way around the city pretty well. We were looking at a bus map and trying to figure out a route. A lady sat down next to us and asked if we needed help. She told us that she had been in Florence for two days already and also had visited Rome and Cinque Terre. She spoke with such enthusiasm about her trip that it was actually contagious. We enjoyed her excitement as she told her stories of all the things she had seen in Italy and expressed how lucky she was to have gotten the opportunity to visit. We enjoyed hearing her stories and even shared a few of our own. I have to say that we kind of enjoyed being tourists again.



We ask her if she was by herself and she said that she was waiting for her friend who was visiting the nearby Accademia Museum where Michelangelo’s famous David statue is. We continued to talk to her about travel for another 15 minutes until her friend arrived. Her friend said she enjoyed seeing David and then mentioned that because today was the first Sunday of the month, the museum was free.


Pisa Pisa Pisa

Field of Miracles

If she had not told us we would not have had a chance to see the museum. Perhaps we have spent way too much time avoiding tourists. These two had an enthusiasm that was contagious and without talking to them we would have missed one of the true treasures of the city.



We have enjoyed our 2 months in Italy and will be moving on soon. We are often asked what our favorite country to visit is. We always hesitate to answer because they are so vastly unique. But if we really had to be honest, Italy would be the answer, not even close…


Additional photos below
Photos: 34, Displayed: 28


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From Piazzale Michelangelo
San GimignanoSan Gimignano
San Gimignano

Views of Tuscany


8th April 2016

Gucci??
Wow, I laughed so hard at the story of you and the fashion show. That sounds like something I would have done. I really enjoyed your pictures and story. Looking forward to your next country.
9th April 2016

Gucci?
We travel pretty light and have not upgraded our wardrobe since we left home about 7 months ago. Italy definitely makes you aware of your lack of style very quickly! Thanks for reading, Brendan!
9th April 2016
David

David
How could I resist this pic Nanci...and your pics in this blog in your rich distinctive style...love it.
9th April 2016
David

David
Thanks, Dave. Florence is a well photographed city and it is hard to find new angles. Even after we took this, we saw a very similar picture in a guide book. Oh, well....
9th April 2016

I agree with you...
Italy has it all...history, art, architecture, cuisine, people... Just too many tourists so you have to pick the right season, which should have been the months you were there. I'm looking forward to your next destination!
9th April 2016

Italy
Hi Bob! Yes, Italy has definitely been discovered. Florence is full even in the off season. I really hope to come back someday and see some of the less visited places. We hope to move on now to some less visited countries. Thanks for reading!
9th April 2016
David

Love!!
Your photos deserve to be on a magazine!! Always so beautiful, inspiring, and dreamy-like :)
9th April 2016
David

Magazines....
Thank you, Jennifer for your kind words. Italy is very beautiful and photos here are seemingly around each corner. The weather is just warming and we almost hate to leave now. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
9th April 2016
Siena

Top of the list!
High heels on cobblestones a cacophony of Easter fireworks and bells, and an eerie, modern connection to history--fine adventures and fabulous photos! Great that you made weekday, day trips to the smaller, ultra-charming smaller towns. Having sampled quite a bit of Europe and five months in Italy (Nov-April), I agree with you--Italy, especially Tuscany, was my favorite. So now, the road less traveled--Eastern Europe? And then there will be the question of where to hide during high season--best wishes with that!
9th April 2016
Siena

Top of the List...
Italy is without a doubt one of the best places and now that the weather is so much warmer and the flowers and trees are blooming we really hate to leave. We never like to tell where we are going next but we do admit you are a fabulous guesser :) Thanks for always reading and leaving such nice comments!
10th April 2016
David

From the well clothed to the naked
Now you can say things like 'remember that time when we crashed that Gucci party in Florence?'! We were staying not far from the Piazza della Signoria, and even though the area was touristy, we really loved the atmosphere. I love this photo of David, and my take on it has David about to be eaten by the lion :)
10th April 2016
David

David
Nanci likes to say, "I've been to many museums with David, but never like this!". :) I kind of wish I had of backed up just a bit so you could actually see the lion in this photo better. We live in a quiet neighborhood a short bus ride from the center, so we only see tourists when we go into town. It has been a fun month and Tuscany combined with the Cinque Terre last month made for a nice visit to one of our favorite places. We will definitely need to start the diet soon though! Thanks for reading and commenting!
11th April 2016

Framing
Marvellous to be in Italy for two months.... You have visited most of the places I have been to also .....happy memories all those towers in San Giminiagno and that wonderful shell shape piazza in Siena ... I love the way you frame views through doorways in your photos . I will have to,try that. It made me smile when I read about your brush with the Gucci crowd. Lovely writing thanks, Nanci.
11th April 2016

Italy...
We really like Italy as much as anywhere we have visited. The food, people and style are all great. We liked San Gimignano and all the towers. I couldn't get far enough away to capture all the towers in one picture which was a little disappointing. Thanks for the compliment on photos. Yours are great! Thanks for reading and commenting, Lynne!
11th April 2016
Lucca

Lovely Lucca
Did you walk the city walls ?
11th April 2016
Lucca

Lucca Walls..
We did but pretty briefly. We went from the train station inside the walls and pretty much walked everywhere. We ended up on the other side of the old town and used the walls to return. We really liked Lucca and it was hardly crowded at all. I had actually not heard of it before this trip and we are so glad we visited!
12th April 2016

You keep getting drawn back to Italy
When we were in France recently we noticed how nice everyone dresses all the time. They look like they feel good about themselves. Their care about the look. We wanted to fit in and look "a little" better than the weary travelers. Glad you had such and extended time in a wonderful part of the world. Your pictures have captured the essence of the Italian countryside. We loved our stay in San Gimignano and your blog reminded us of the parking ticket we received in Pisa. It can be hard to avoid tourist in that part of the world but as you found sometimes they have valuable information. Glad you continue to enjoy.
12th April 2016

Italy
We have seen a good portion of Italy now. Nice that you had a car to tour. Travelling by train and bus probably limited how much of the small towns of Tuscany we could see. Surprisingly we noticed a little bit of a downturn in the style in Europe. Seemed it was much more "Americanized" (jeans, t-shirts and tennis shoes) than our past visits. Still very fashion conscious for sure. Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting.
12th April 2016
Pisa

Many nice photos
Many nice photos in this blog entry. I picked this one as an homage. I went to Pisa myself a few years back and seeing this photo of the leaning tower made me wish I had taken it myself. Very good photo, much better than any of mine. /Ake
12th April 2016
Pisa

Photos
Thank you, Ake! That's very nice to say and we appreciate the comment. Italy is a beautiful place and nice photo opportunities seem to be everywhere. We always like to visit and hopefully will again soon. Thanks, again!

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