Florence is, by far, the most beloved city among my friends. One lived here for a year, one lives here now, and many others have visited here. In a Venn diagram of the places all my friends have been, the biggest overlap is this small(ish) town in Tuscany.
Though I’d been here before, I never had the chance to just wander. So that’s this story. A story about wandering around the winding narrow streets and OH FUCK A CAR and narrower MOPED sidewalks of BIKE il Comune di Firenze.
The sidewalks are useless. They’re about 1.5 persons wide, if that, and since most people walk, slowly, alongside their friend/lover/walking companion, it means you have to dart out into the street or risk never getting anywhere.
Except, that’s tempting fate. There’s no such thing as pedestrian-only streets in Florence. You’re constantly dodging angry bicyclists, psychotic moped riders, and pathologically demented drivers. Oh the drivers. Italian drivers are a breed in themselves, abiding by no laws, physical or governmental.
But let’s say you survive the streets without getting clipped or squished, and you make it to the two iconic landmarks of Florence: The Duomo, and Ponte Veccio.
The Duomo looms large over the entire city. It’s surprisingly big, though that could just be because of the narrow streets and low buildings that surround it. In a sea of yellowed (Burnt Sienna, perhaps) apartments and shops, the white and red Duomo is a stark contrast.
Inside is… actually, I’ve never been in it. Or up it. Yeah, I’m a horrible tourist.
I’m MUCH more fascinated by Ponte Vecchio, a 700 year old bridge, covered in shops.
Perhaps it’s my love of Gibson’s Bridge Trilogy, or an extension of my love of population density, but I love this. The shops hang over the sides like panniers. I really want to explore the upstairs in these shops, but the one store I went in informed me it was just storage. Sad, that. Oh well. I imagine in the old days, shop owners would live above their shops.
During the time of the Great Fire (and Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle) London Bridge looked similar (if not more elaborate).
Down the river is a partial dam, or weir (a word I just learned), called the Pescaia di Santa Rosa. You can actually walk on it, and “onto” the river.
Passing beyond the dam, and away from the city center, you can approach the city walls. Massive doors, taller than any vehicle, squeeze traffic into the city center.
The inset door-within-a-door you see below could still fit a big van:
Outside, you can make your way up the surrounding Tuscan hills. This stature adorns a roundabout near a park:
I’m pretty sure that guy is planking.
Once in the hills you can get your first solid look at the city, the Duomo, and Ponte Vecchio. From Piazzale Michelangelo:
And the surrounding hills themselves, with adorning city walls.
Inside the nearby Giardino di Boboli, there are some abandoned (maybe?) buildings.
They offer an odd juxtaposition between the beautiful surroundings and city, and standard and common urban decay.
As I worked my way back down towards the city and dinner, I walked along the gorgeous Via di S. Leonardo, a narrow (even for Florence) residential street, and witnessed a gorgeous sunset at the one spot I could see over the copious fences.
The third smallest country in Europe.
Can I read the signs: Surprisingly well, actually
Do I have a funny accent: See, grat-see
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