Traveler, writer, reviewer, all-round observer. I like anything cool & fast, but occasionally sit at a cafe watching the world go by.
Pia drove us to the train station in Pescia, a town at the bottom of the valley, to go to Florence. We got there a little early which allowed me to get another espresso at the cafe. The 9:11am train was late by 20 minutes -I guess NYC is not the only place with train-scheduling problems. It took an hour to get to Florence but the ride was very scenic and comfortable. Once there, the photo-happy tourist in me kicked in. I was snapping away at the facade of the building’s architecture, the streets with its small cars, even at a hotel with a familiar name -the Hotel Astoria (as in Astoria, NY in Queens). I know of one in Piraeus, Greece, and later found another in Vienna!
What’s remarkable about Italy, and especially the Tuscan region, is that despite its modernization (the cars, cable wires, antennas, stucco siding on some buildings), you can still see and feel the Renaissance period resonating in the air. It’s in their architecture, their 5-8 hundred year old buildings, bridges, statues, and even with their food, their rolling hills, and trees. It’s just everywhere. What I truly loved about this place is the blend of the old with the new.
Following my in-law from street to street, not knowing where she was taking us, we finally turned a corner and to my amazement was Il Duomo (the Florence Cathedral) and the Baptistery of St. John. Although completed in 1436, it looked as though it was built 6 years ago rather than 600 years ago! And inside Il Duomo was just as amazing as the outside. When we exited, once again we followed my in-law but this time through alleys and small streets. Turning around another corner, we faced Basilica di Santa Croce. Unbelievably, this was built in 1385. And just like Il Duomo, it looked amazing inside as much as the outside. The details were incredible -the design and patterns on the floor, the walls, corners, the ceiling, statues, plaques. I couldn’t stop admiring it all, thinking about the workers and artisans with their hammers and chisels, sculpting away at wood, stone and marble to create, well, all this.
Back outside, we walked toward the Arno river, passing by some more famous sites and statues while taking lots more pictures. Up ahead was the famous Ponte Vecchio -the “Old Bridge”. Having been built twice before, only to be washed away by floods, this third rebuild has been here since 1345. What makes it an alluring structure are the shops and cafes on it, and not to mention the great view of the river itself. I wish I could’ve stayed there longer, but there was more to see and time was ticking to catch the 5:06 train back to Pescia. The short walk to the station certainly didn’t lack in scenery. Tons of statues and structures everywhere, just frozen in time.
On the train, we sat next to an Italian in his 20’s who happened to have lived in London for 6 months! I mention this because it’s very rare to find an Italian that knows English. The mentality of the typical Italian is that everyone should know their language since no other language is needed -even in Europe where the most common languages are French and English. Any time they meet someone, they’re always surprised if the person doesn’t speak Italian.
Back at Pia’s & Domenico’s home, Suzi and Andrea, my wife’s cousins, stopped by to give their anniversary gift to my in-laws and joined us for dinner. I think at this point I started picking up the language a little. When I went to bed later that night, I was still thinking of Florence. What a day.