Crossroads Tour: Florence (Day One) – The Director’s Cut

My original travel journals were split across August Phoenix Hats and a few other websites. February 2021 marks the 12th anniversary of the beginning of my travels. To celebrate, I’m reissuing my journals as Director’s Cuts, with the complete text as well as larger and additional photos.  My Crossroads Tour series details my travels to Florence and Istanbul in May 2011.

My first task this morning is to time a walk to the train station, from where I will depart for Genoa tomorrow. I browse for breakfast to-go and cross the street to buy a day pass for the city bus. My first blisters appear at 11 AM.

I hop the D Line 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 that are in storage. (My notes on these collections as well as journal entries from my arrival and Day One, were lost on this trip).

Architectural detail on the face of the Pitti Palace.

After an obligatory stop at the Library Store and lunch at the cafeteria (a typically Italian caprese salad and a caffe latte) I step outside just in time to hear a cacophony of church bells which I capture on this short recording.

The Boboli Gardens cover an extensive area behind the Pitti Palace and were established in about 1550. It’s where I ended my last trip, so I plan to spend the rest of my first day here.

I’m 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 olive and oak arbors that run the length and breadth of this garden, 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 songbirds here… 

The statuary present 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 return to the Mostaccini Fountain to video-capture the the sound of birds and running water. I walk 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.

The Mostaccini Fountain at Boboli Garden.

I locate the Porcelain Museum, but I’m more impressed with the panoramic view from it’s dish room, and the maze garden just outside the door that is planted with pink roses and peonies within borders of boxwood.

On my 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 stands a bronze Neptune, dating to 1571 and sculpted by Soldo Lorenzi. It was originally intended for a flower garden north of the Pitti Palace, but moved here here in about 1635. It was fairly common for artworks here to have been commissioned for specific places or events, and then later moved.

Galileo’s house is supposed to overlook this garden, but I cannot find it, so I 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 bus stop, so I start the exhaustive climb up the hill. Once there, the view is the reward…the best panorama of the city outside of the Ghiotti Tower.

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

The bus takes 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, my standard ‘turn left instead of right’ navigational style makes matters much worse. I ask an elderly passerby for directions to the Ponte Vecchio, but she waves me off in the direction I had just come. I spend the next hour trying to find my way back to the Arno Fiume. I never do 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 Ristoria 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 had planned to, just so I can leave. 

Back in my room, I pack for Genoa…

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