Exploring life and the world with wide eyes and curiosity.

Heart of the Renaissance

If you haven’t been to Firenze (Florence), put it on your “life list” of must-see places in the world. Really.

Two years ago I spent a couple of afternoons exploring Firenze, but I hadn’t been back since I returned to Italy last June. So I hopped on the train late last Friday morning, and less than two hours later, at 1:00, I arrived in Firenze and smiled. I walked from the train station to my hotel shooting photos along the way because I couldn’t wait until I put my bags down. I checked in, changed my clothes for the bit of humidity under the partly sunny skies, then left and took off walking for the next five hours.

If I were to move to Italy NOW, or want to relocate to another spot, I would pick Firenze.

Excerpts from my journal Friday night, 26 March 2010 , while resting my feet and having a delicious dinner:

“I love Firenze! At this point, with what I know and with my familiarity and my language, I’d move to Firenze. Milan was a great place to land and gave me anchors. I find much to interest me there. My camera is always at my side and I can stay as busy as I wish, but in just an afternoon, Firenze has thrilled me with its visuals, much the way that Venezia does.

“It’s very definitely a tourist town! I think that Spring/Easter vacations have begun because the clustering tour groups are everywhere and unavoidable. (I thought that, late March, I’d still be missing them all.)

“Firenze – Florence – is ‘tighter’. Narrower streets close into the center of town around the Duomo, and many ‘pedestrian-only’. the selection of little shops, restaurants and curious places gives much to explore without going far. The antiquity is a saturated wash over the town and gives it a texture that is lush across-the-board. Like Venezia, I could photograph here forever.

“I’m sitting at a table for two at Zá-Zá, a lovely, dar, funky, delicious trattoria just blocks from my Hotel Caravaggio. There’s been a table of four sitting near me having their meal, their drinks and their desserts. I smiled at them once… As they were leaving, the woman that had been nearest to me said goodbye – ‘Arrivederci‘. That tickles me.” (I highly recommend both the restaurant and the hotel.)

Excerpts from my journal Sunday afternoon, 28 March 2010 , on the train heading home to Milano:

“I had an incredible, full time in Firenze. So glad to have gone back, and with only an hour and 45-minute train ride, I could come for a day if I wanted to, or just an overnight.

“The city of Firenze, though packed with tourists, seems to have a quite comfortable parallel world of locals that go about their days and their work. With transportation and services so readily available, Firenze seems quite livable and pleasant.

“I very quickly got the-lay-of-the-land and covered much of the “Centro Storico” – the historic center of town – in my two days there, walking close to 20 hours overall.”

Yesterday evening, a friend asked by e-mail, “Should Florence be on my to-do list? What did you especially like about it?” I responded with an off-the-cuff, spontaneous list:

Everyone’s on foot or bike! The whole historic center, large radius, is almost all pedestrian-only with very few cars and some half-size, mini-buses. Walk everywhere. (I don’t think there IS a subway, but lots of public transportation.) Streets are narrow and closer in for easy strolling. NO traffic to even have to think about.

Absolutely fascinating art, history, culture, architecture at EVERY turn!

Historic sites. Historic art: Michelangelo’s David. Botticelli. Caravaggio. Dürer. Giotto. Leonardo. Lippi. Raphael. Rembrandt. Rubens. Titian. And so many more!

Visually lush. Vital, Small-city-energy.

VERY tourist-oriented (which I didn’t like having the vacation tours already swarming) but it felt like there was a parallel universe happening of people just going about their lives.

Florence doesn’t have the crazed-busy-frenzy of business-minded Milan.

Cool stuff for curious kids and adults alike. Sundials and crenulated towers.

Good gelato.

Neat bridges.

Street markets selling you-name-it.

Good cow-stomach sandwiches. (Lampredotto.)

The heartland of the Renaissance.

Oh. And they have curb-cuts designed for uninterrupted walking.

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