Crossroads Tour – First day in Florence…

May 4, 2011

This morning I take a walk to the train station in preparation for my trip to Genoa tomorrow. I locate it without any problem, walk around inside to make sure I can find all the gates, and then walk across the street to buy a day pass for the bus. My first blisters appear at 11 AM.

I hop onto the D bus back to the hotel, and take a short walk to the Pitti Palace. I spend over two hours in the costume gallery alone, about half of that time sitting at the computer in the back room, looking at slides of all the pieces they have in storage. My note says to ‘see my notebook for notes on those collections’ but it now appears those notes were lost, along with large sections of my original journals from the past two days 🙁

After an obligatory stop at the Library Store and lunch at the cafeteria (a typically Italian caprese salad and a caffe latte) I exit the building in time to hear a cacophony of church bells which you can hear below:

I head out to the Boboli Gardens, where  wander for much of the rest of the day.  My last trip to Florence ended here, so this is my official starting point for this trip.  The grounds date back to 1550 and cover an extensive area behind the Pitti Palace.

I am disappointed to find the Island Fountain (Vasca dell’Isola) is locked. There are a number of tourists, and several of us spot a heron perched on the edge of the fountain on that island. I never find the Perseus on Horseback that is supposed to be partially submerged here, and wonder if it has been moved. I ask a fellow tourist to take my photo next to the sandstone columns that support the locked iron gates which block our path to the garden. They are topped with marble Capricorns, symbolizing Cosimo Medici. The lemon trees are full of fruit.

I wander through the cypress arbors that run the length and breadth of this park, a feature I am exceedingly fond of. I rest for awhile on one of the rustic benches in one of these arbors, just to listen to the birds and relax my eyes in the dappled shade.  There are so many birds in this garden… 

There are several statuary here, displaying such a broad range of styles and time periods that at times the mix is jarring. I find the grotto, one of the buildings I missed the last time I was here. It is dark and in disrepair.

I figure out how to take a movie with my camera, and capture a video of thebirds and running water as I walk along the Mostaccini Fountain.

The Mostaccini Fountain

I come here to drop coins and well-wishes into the mouths of the Mostaccini for friends and family, and walk along the length of it, admiring the fantastical heads, of which no two are the same. It was built in the early 1600’s as a water source for birds, which were then hunted with nets. 

I find the Porcelain Museum, but I’m not as impressed with it as I am the view, and with the garden just outside the door with its pink roses and peonies surrounded by a boxwood maze. On the way back down the sloping grounds, I find a bench overlooking the Forcone Basin, a collection point for water used to irrigate the grounds. In the center of the Forcone stands a bronze Neptune, dating to 1571 and sculpted by Soldo Lorenzi, originally intended for a flower garden north of the Pitti Palace, but moved here here in about 1635. It was common for artworks here to have been commissioned for specific places, and then later moved.

Galileo’s house is supposed to overlook this garden, but I cannot find it, so I decide to walk up to the Piazza Michelangelo and look for the house on my way back. The #12 or #13 buses go directly to the piazza but I can’t find the stop to catch it at, so I start the exhaustive climb up the hill. Once there, the view was the reward…the best panorama of the city outside of the Ghiotti Tower.

Just as I am looking for a place to eat, I find a #13 bus waiting in the parking lot, so I hop on. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

The bus took a lovely meandering scenic route back down the hill, and along the Strozzi Wall which I would not have seen else wise. But I didn’t get off when I should have, and ended up in a completely different part of town. Off the bus, I take my usual ‘turn left instead of right’ navigational style which made matters much worse. I finally ask an elderly passerby to please point me in the direction of the Ponte Vecchio, and she waved me off with some annoyance, in the direction I had just come. I spend the next hour trying to find my way back to the Arno Fiume. I never did find the abode of the great Galileo…

At one point I see the two construction cranes that I had seen from the Piazza Michelangelo, and a few minutes later, the Duomo, so I keep those landmarks in my sight as I trudge wearily along, keeping as close to the riverbank as I can. Walking, walking, walking, oh, look, there’s the Strozzi Wall that I passed while I was on the bus! Finally I arrive back in the land of ‘houses with green shutters’. The heels of my shoes are about an 1/8 of a inch shorter now than they were this morning. 

It has been a long day and I am famished with a capital F. I pop into Dante’s for dinner. I order a glass of chianti, bread with olive oil, pappardelle in wild boar sauce, and a nice piece of salmon. The boar is a surprise, I expect it to taste like pork but it’s more like deer. I watch the wait staff ignore the line of customers at the door even though there are empty tables. The atmosphere seems a little uptight and I finish my meal quicker than I intend to, just so I can leave.  Back in my room, I pack for Genoa…

For photos of this trip, please visit my supplemental travel blog at Daveno Travels.

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