April 05, 2004
florence trip ~ 4 april 2004

After arriving at the Villa Boboli around midnight last night, and reading for an hour about the Florence's conflicted past, I slipped into a profound slumber which could have continued indefinitely excepting my mother's knock at 1000 this morning. After all of us got ready, we ventured out on foot past the Porta Romana and down Via Romana, past the Piazza Pitti where we stopped at a cafe for lunch of coffee, lightly grilled panini, insalata Cesare, and piatti Sfzi___. I had a Campari Orange too.

We then continued on to the Arno which we crossed on the Ponte Vecchio (incidentally the only bridge not severed during the Second World War, the Arno being an important strategic line in the Italian campaign), the closer we came to the bridge the more tourists there were, festooned in their Oakleys, Pumas, and athletic gear that have become the uniform of travelers everywhere.

The weather was high sixties and dry. Perfect for sightseeing. Alas, no Baedekers or "Macintosh squares" here (see Merchant Ivory's film adaptation of A Room with a View).

Since this was a "familiarization" walk and there was no point in trying to see sights while the turisti were out in force, we just walked through the key spots: the Piazza Uffizi, the Duomo, the Piazza Santissima Annunziata with its statue of Ferdinand I made from bronze molten down from Turkish cannons from the Battle of Lepanto. This last plaza also houses on it's eastern aspect the Spedale degli Innocenti, a foundling's hospital (and likely the first in the world) where there used to be a rotating window where unwanted babies used to be abandoned until the late 19th century. Another feature are tondi featuring babies in swaddling clothes.

We rested there and then made our way back by way of the Via Cavour, passing the upscale shopping area (and stopping briefly in a Miu Miu boutique) and back across Ponte Vecchio. We detoured into the Bobolino Gardens financed by a visionary who made his fortune with pre-baked pizza crusts imported to the United States...just kidding...The gardens are the only central public gardens in the town and were comissioned by the Medicis. They lie behind the Palazzo Pitti and stretch a long ways southwest. The palace's backside has a courtyard and entrance where you can easily imagine horse-drawn carriages disembarking eminences of the time for a grand ball, or volta, or whatever it is they danced to. There is also a huge bathtub (carted off from the Roman baths in Caracalla). The garden lies astride a significant hill and provides dramatic views of Florence. Since my battery hadn't been charged in three days, alas there are no pictures currently. I'll have to go back for those.

The garden has long cypress-lined walks, many hiding places, and just feels suffused with history. At its highest point you can look west down upon a field of olive trees that looks just as you would imagine that spot where George first professes his admiration of Lucy in A Room with a View (and prompts her to play much Beethoven); suffused with sun, olive trees rustling in the breeze, wildflowers sprinkled about the grass.

After whiling away our time there, we made our way back to the Villa Bobolino where I downloaded my photos and we rested for a couple of hours until dinner time which we spent at Beccofino, a restaurant tucked between Ponte alla Carraia and Ponte Santa Trinitas. There we had Pea Soup with Mint, Risotto with Lard(!) and Celery Root, and Sea Bass Carpaccio followed by Tuscan Beef with Red Onions and Fingerling Potatoes, Roast Pigeon with Prunes, and Roasted "Baby" Chicken followed by Almond Cantucci, and Pistachio Mousse.

Then home. Then sleep (after reading for a few hours).

The pictures:

Morning, looking out on the terrace and garden:

Getting ready to set off, and looking in the distance off Ponte Vecchio:

Florence_040404 - 06.jpg

A tondo on the foundling's hospital in the Piazza Santissima Annunziata:

Florence_040404 - 20.jpg

A night time long exposure from the Ponte Santa Trinitas:
Florence_040404-21

Posted by erich at April 05, 2004 12:32 PM
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