Florence – The Walking City… explore Piazza Michelangelo by foot

3C529AF7-46FB-4CF9-A311-DF3A3983D9DBI’ve been to Florence many times, especially when my Florentine grandmother was alive.  When I would visit Florence, I was not a tourist. I was staying with my grandmother. I did do some touring, but mainly I lived the life of a Florentine. Go early to the market to buy your groceries, come home set the table for lunch, always put down a table cloth, grate the parmesan cheese, cut the bread, make the salad – this was routine. With my grandmother gone, I realized I needed to find a new way to fall in love with Florence.

Back in those days, there were hardly any tourists. Some, but you walked the streets comfortably. Now, you walk elbow to elbow with tourists and foreign students. It is so packed you cannot enjoy the city unless you wake up at the crack of dawn BEFORE the tourists have started their day.

The Central Market used to have lovely leather purses, cashmere sweaters, silk scarves, belts and more. Now, the vendors, year after year, sell the same products and it’s hard to know what is real leather and what is not. The designs are not special anymore. It’s sad to see this. Gold is so expensive that the Ponte Vecchio does not sell unique jewelry anymore either. BUT for the first timers to Florence, where the leather goods, etc. are all new to them, they think it is fantastic!

It’s amusing to hear conversations among tourists, there is a competition to know Florence better than the next person, to have been to Florence more times than another person, to be the best Florentine blogger, know the best restaurant  — you get the idea.

So, with my heart feeling a bit sad and nostalgic for the old days, I decided I needed to re-discover Florence in a different way.  I was curious to explore the hills above the Piazzale Michelangelo.

64F1C219-CF8E-4EFA-8BD4-F54CB65CD8F3I got lucky and as I was walking up a long road, I found “The Walking City” map. See the photo of the map. I want to see if they have other maps for walking the city like this. What a great adventure for people who have been to Florence many times, want to get away from the crowds and get some exercise. The views and the villas up there, as you can imagine, are fantastic.

If you make the walk all the way around, you’ll have this view of the Duomo from Piazzale Michelangelo!  Stop and treat yourself to a gelato, you deserve it!

Yes, you can see Florence with “fresh eyes!”

Florence – YES, I found a 99 cent store…

DC6A821E-F171-4F8F-93CE-85290D3A99F4The Family Dollar stores are all over America, but I didn’t expect to find one in Florence. I thought you might enjoy seeing this, so if you travel to Italy you can save money by buying water and other small items here! They really have quite a bit, it’s amazing how the store looks small on the outside, but upon entering it’s quite big.

If you save on water, etc….  you can enjoy a gelato!

Firenze – Bartolini kitchen store

2AB82753-8768-4542-AB5A-F9EC1B009E18Yesterday, I was walking in Florence and I got lost. I was trying to catch the bus. I knew where I was, but I thought I would be “smart” and take a “short cut” down a small street to get to the bus stop faster, but that led me in a different direction from the bus stop. In Italy, the streets can twist and turn, it feels like being in a maze.

The good news with getting lost is that we explore a new area. I sure got LUCKY on this street. I came upon a store called, “Bartolini.” I was drawn to the beautiful window display of kitchen items. It is fun to explore kitchen stores when traveling.  For example, look at the window display, it’s amusing to see the variety of espresso machines you could buy all lined up! BEAUTIFUL, isn’t it!

Personally, I use my little Bialetti espresso machine daily! Works perfectly, even after years of use. In fact, I was looking at the smallest Bialetti, which would be for one espresso. Trying to find the BEST deal, I have been checking every store to see what the cost of the smallest Bialetti is. I’ve noticed the price for the machine varies from 14 to 17 euros. I’m curious to see what the price is in the country. Hoping to get this down to 12 or 13 euros if possible!

Inside, the store reminded me of  Williams Sonoma in America. Same quality of kitchen items. Everything from pots, pans, Le Creuset, china, appliances, coffee machines, etc… Oh, but with lots of espresso cups and oil and vinegar containers!!

An Italian Cemetery in Florence – Love captured…

img_3974I was just in Florence and I went up to The Abbey of San Miniato al Monte, which is above Piazza Michelangelo. My intention was to look at the church and see the breath taking views of Florence. I had arrived at the church early in the afternoon and they were closed for lunch. I had about an hour wait, so I started walking the grounds of the church expecting to see a beautiful garden, but instead they had a very interesting cemetery. I was captivated right away. I find old grave yards / cemeteries full of history.img_3961

A little trivia from my friend. She was told in Ireland that when a burial ground is in conjunction with the church it is a grave yard, when it is a standalone it is a cemetery. I had not thought about that. Good to know.

As I was walking through the grave yard I saw many beautiful mausoleums, sculptures, and tomb stones. Long ago, families really invested money in tomb stones that would convey a message of the love they had for a family member and/or also in honoring a family member’s accomplishments.

I came across a statue of a man and woman (see photo above) having a very romantic moment together. I thought it was beautiful, I had not seen something like this before. Normally, we think of grave yards/cemeteries as being spooky and scary, broken tomb stones, etc. This was different.

img_3977The statue made me smile. Secretly, from a distance, I was sharing in their special moment. I was curious as to “who” had commissioned this statue. The husband/wife before they died or maybe their children, because they knew how much the parents had loved each other. A treasured memory from the past, but also a way to keep their love alive. I felt it and I did think, “Thank you for sharing that moment with us!” It’s so sweet and innocent. A reminder that love does exist.

As I continued on, I saw this beautiful mausoleum and a sculpture of a military man, very handsome with all of his medals. There was more…

By the way, remember the story of “Pinocchio?” Well, the author Carlo Lorenzini (Collodi) is buried in this grave yard. I learned this after my visit. Next time, I will look for him and leave a little Pinocchio by his grave site.

So, it was a good thing that the church was closed for lunch. I experienced Florence and had a feeling of its history in a whole new way!  They say things happen for a reason.

Grazie!

The Bridge of Gold

imageThis week I was talking to a few people about my trip to Italy. They were asking me what I saw and I jokingly said, “Well, I was on the bridge of gold.”  As they have not been to Florence, they did not know about the Ponte Vecchio. This reminded me of my arrival to San Francisco years ago when someone pointed to a reddish/orange bridge and said, “There is the Golden Gate Bridge.”  WHAT?  It’s orange, I thought. I had envisioned something totally different, so it was a bit of a let down for sure.

Luckily, I had a few pictures of gold shops to show them. One was a really good photo of the Rolex store. I had been standing on the Ponte Vecchio watching the tourists go by when I happened to look up and see this little glass window with the Rolex logo. What an elegant and clever marketing idea!

imageRight now, gold is at an all time high at over $1,200 an ounce. It was interesting to compare what they were selling now on the bridge from jewelry styles a few years ago.

I spoke to a German woman who lives in Florence and works at one of the jewelry shops. She said because gold is so expensive right now they have to make what will sell and that means jewelry that is lighter in weight and hollow inside. She had me feel the weight of an older bracelet versus the new styles. There was no comparison. I told her it is the same with clothes and purses. Designers cut corners, so that leather is thinner and clothes have no lining. This is the new way.

Oh, I have to share with you a sculpture of a man riding a turtle. When I walked into the Piazza della Signoria I noticed immediately this gold looking sculpture. It was really beautiful. Sounds like the artist has it on display for a few months. The sculpture is by Jan Fabre, “Searching for Utopia,” silicon bronze, 2003.

I leave you with YOUR thoughts on this sculpture…

image