My Trip to Florence, Italy in November, 2018

by Donna K. Taylor of Duncan, British Columbia

Episode 3: My Journey’s End Nears

It is now twelve days into my Florence trip and I have spent dozens of hours in the Museum of San Marco, Uffizi Gallery, Pitti Palace, Accademia Gallery, Bargello Museum, Duomo Museum, the Baptistery, Medici Chapel and the Churches of Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, Santa Maria del Carmine and Santa Trinita.  Many of the galleries, museums and churches have washrooms located in obscure areas so as not to detract from their revered valuable collections.  I have searched out and found washrooms in near invisible secret doorways, up/down narrow staircases with scant signage and after long, hurried and isolated walks through crypts and cloisters.  Some washrooms are located near the building’s exit signs to encourage the swift passage of tourists outside, eyes blinking into the sun’s blinding light.

Duomo (the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) and Campanile (the Bell Tower)

Today is the day, before my time in Florence runs out, to “Do the Duomo” and “Brace for the Bell Tower” (I later rename them “Dante’s Duo”).  The weather does not look good.  I rush to the Duomo in Piazza del Duomo to visit Florence’s Gothic Cathedral.  I have read that after climbing the 463 stone steps I will be rewarded with splendid panoramic views of Florence.  I arrive one hour early in anticipation of the long lineups to find no lineups.  The rain pelts down upon me while the wind whips my soaked rain-resistant jacket like the flags atop the buildings.  My socks feel soggy in my new waterproof running shoes while I wait one hour outside for the doors to open.  My city map and my book,“Art and Architecture” are safely enfolded in a plastic bag inside my jacket.  My initial light footsteps graduate into a slow, steady, trudge up the stone steps where I am rewarded by huge frescos of “The Last Judgement”and “Dante and the Divine Comedy” (irony is not lost on me here).  The sun is shining now so I take splendid panoramic pictures of Florence.  After my descent, I join the other tourists outside sitting on stone benches resting their wobbly legs.  The Bell Tower will have to wait another day.

The following day I cheerily approach the Bell Tower near Piazza san Giovanni and commence the long, winding, thigh burning climb up the 416 stone steps to the top where a huge bell resides.  I take a picture of the bell as proof that I made it to the top.  During my descent, the passage on the stairway narrows to accommodate the tourists squeezing past me on their upwards climb.  I try to make my descent as nimble as possible for fear of being overrun by athletic young tourists behind me.  I hear a young female voice behind me impatiently declare “Vecchia!” (translation:“Old woman!)”.  Another young female voice responds “These stairs are very dangerous”. (Severe ego-bruising is averted).

Church of San Miniato al Monte (mountain) and more stairs

St. Minias (“Miniato” in Italian) was martyred in Florence in the year 250 AD under the Emperor Decius.  Legend tells of after his execution, carrying his own head, the saint climbed this hill south of the Arno River where he died and was buried.  The Benedictine Church of San Miniato al Monte was built here. It is an outstanding example of Florentine Pre-Renaissance architecture.  My goal is to first undertake the uphill climb of many stone stairs to visit ”David” at Piazzale Michelangelo then visit the nearby Church of San Miniato al Monte.  As I struggle to climb the hill to see David, I reason that if St. Minias could make a similar climb carrying his head then surely I could do so with my head firmly intact.  It was not to be.  I linger too long admiring David so when I finally arrive at the Church of San Miniato al Monte, a Benedictine monk in a long dark brown robe firmly closes the heavy wooden doors while solemnly announcing that the church was closing for a two-hour lunch break.

Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge)

This is the only bridge on the Arno River to escape being blown up during World War 2.  Jewelry and other brightly painted shops now line and overhang the bridge to the delight of photographers and painters alike.

Ponte Santa Trinita

This is the most beautiful bridge in Florence, elegantly designed by Michelangelo and restored after it was blown up by the Germans in 1944.  I spend much time lingering here in the late afternoon sun after a long day of art-induced sensory saturation, watching Italians rush home from work on their noisy scooters and in their small cars.  At sunset the view of the Ponte Vecchio and the buildings and walkways on the embankments of the Arno River is entrancing.  Tired but happy,it is now time to say goodbye.

Grazie, Florence. Arrivederci!