Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘project 101’ Category

….and other stuff I learned before I had to…….Press Pause 《 #SouthwarktoCanterbury –
a horse, a horse…..my kingdom for a horse!! I could surely have done with a horse on Tuesday last week!!!

horses southwark to canterbury

with my patron Saint; George to guide me, I set off from The George Inn, Southwark to Canterbury and met some other horses along the way…

And there it is; after 3 days of walking, eating, enjoying, seeing and experiencing – heat, exhaustion, love, joy, excitement, support, exploration and pain, my sojourn came to an abrupt end in Faversham 😔😔😔

town of faversham

My relief at seeing this sign was enormous….I thought I was close to my destination! I wasn’t, and had yet another 45 minutes to go; 3 hills and 6 kms in the rain later…..

A hard lesson to learn, but one I’ll never forget…..= DON’T WALK IN WET SOCKS!!!
Fundamentally I knew not to walk in wet socks, one part of my brain was saying “it’s not a good idea to walk in wet socks” while the other part of my brain was arguing “oh nonsense, it’s fine, they’ll dry out while you’re walking” – well it wasn’t and they didn’t.

That time in Newington when I’d stopped at the church to rest and then shelter from the rain…well I walked across the grass in my socks and got them wet. Why?? Who knows?? But, I’ll spare you the minutiae, suffice to say that by the time I got to Faversham my feet were in a sorry state. Although the blisters only pained for 3 days and have lasted till now, they pretty much spelt disaster for the walk. On the plus side I discovered that Newington was not only a Domesday Book village, but the church contained the tomb of a Saint; Robert, a pilgrim murdered on his way to Canterbury in 1150.

St Mary's Church, Newington and the tomb of St Robert.

St Mary’s Church, Newington and the tomb of St Robert. My view from under the tree where I sat to shelter from the rain

After setting off from Rochester at 05:19, 36.67 kms later at 18:56 I quite literally staggered into the Sun Inn at Faversham; feet in agony, exhausted and drenched to the core!!! Oh did I mention that it rained the last 6 kms of my walk that day? LOL…..well yes. It did. A lot!!!  The look on people’s faces in the bar when I fell over the portal absolutely dripping water everywhere was entertaining. The lass behind the bar counter rolled up a huge wad of paper and gave it to me to dry myself off with. I was so wet that I had to unpack Pepe and toss all my clothes into the tumble dryer…thankfully the proprietor was amenable to my doing that!!

Besides the blisters, my phone crashed in Sittingbourne and just didn’t want to charge up, ergo I ended my photo journey too…..at the Sun Inn at Faversham…with no battery power I didn’t want to continue; it was most important to me to have a photo-journal of my journey. Besides that, I wanted to map my walk all the way, for the record. I tried everything – connected it to my emergency charger, to the plug in the wall….no matter what, it just did not want to charge.

Pilgrimage; Southwark to Canterbury

Pilgrimage; Southwark to Canterbury

I had booked to spend the night at The Sun Inn anyway, the fabulous 17th century inn I’d found in Faversham, which was just as well since I could hobble no further (more on that in Day 2’s episode to follow). The next morning, to spare my feet and the nasty blisters, instead of resuming my walk, I hobbled to the train station and took the train to Canterbury. I had to be back at work within a few days and could not afford to be incapacitated by blisters.

My daughter and I met up as we had arranged at The Falstaff, where we enjoyed our cream/champagne tea. Although to be fair, I don’t think either of us were up to celebrating right then…I was too exhausted and she was too ill. I had planned to stay overnight at The Falstaff Inn, a fantastic 14th century inn just outside the West Gate at Canterbury, which was just as well since I could walk no further. There too the staff were amazing. More about that later. 😉

My daughter and I celebrating my journey at The Falstaff with a Champagne Afternoon Tea in Canterbury

My daughter and I celebrating my journey at The Falstaff with a Champagne Afternoon Tea in Canterbury

The long and short of it is that I will walk the last 8.1 miles from Faversham to Canterbury at the end of July after my current assignment.
The distance on Day 3 from Rochester to Faversham was just too great. Pretty much everyone who walks the Camino and the 1000 Mile Challenge agrees; 22.92 miles is pretty much two days of walking. Of course it can be done, but at what cost?

Some of the distance and direction signs I saw between London and Faversham...and onto Canterbury

Some of the distance and direction signs I saw between London and Faversham…and onto Canterbury

So a few lessons learned, experience gained and new knowledge stored for future reference 😉
Meanwhile I’m back at work. My phone is still not working properly and will have to go in for repair. 😡😡

What have I learned after 3 days of walking and 59 miles? One of the most important lessons I learned from my walk/pilgrimage/Camino has to be: never, ever, never contemplate WALKING WITH WET SOCKS!! Other than that:

  • Plan shorter distances. I didn’t have to walk those distances; just that when planning my route, Google maps said 6 hours and 18.1 miles…..at least this much I have gained for the Camino in September; plan shorter days.
  • Pack light!! Even though my backpack (Pepe) was not at full capacity, weighing in at just over 7.5 kgs at the start last Sunday, by Day 2 I was leaving it lying about and praying someone would pick it up and walk off with it….even with all my valuables in it. Hah!! I did in fact post some of the stuff home from Higham; 1.5 kgs lighter made all the difference to the comfort of carrying my backpack.
southwark to canterbury - backpack

My backpack; Pepe, weighed in at just on 7.5 kgs when I left and 6 kgs after posting home 1.5 kgs of stuff!!

  • Eat!! I love my food, but when I’m walking I tend to forget to eat. So I planned to eat plenty of food, frequently and yet even that wasn’t really enough. I can feel my body is still depleted. I’m bumping up the protein no end and yet I still get excruciating cramps in my legs. I’m guessing those dried black ants my daughter bought as a dare will have to be eaten soon!! hahaha.
  • Drink!! Lots of water. I consumed 6 liters of water on Day 1 between Southwark and Thamesmead. It was 28 degrees c with a humidity level of 44% and terribly terribly hot. The water bladder inserted on the backpack weighed in at 1.5 kgs when filled and added to the overall weight of my backpack, but that supply it was most welcome along the way.
  • Rest!! This is imperative, especially on a very hot day. I did in fact take a lot of rest breaks, but because I had a deadline to reach Gravesend by 8pm for a dinner reservation I had made, I really pushed myself to keep going. Although I did snooze on the grass at Woolwich…and woke myself up with the sounds of snoring LOL.
  • Pack a rain poncho!!! Yes, I had packed my rain poncho, but because the weight of the bag was killing me on Day 2 I posted the poncho (weight 385 grams), along with my sandals and a few other bits and bobs, back to my daughter. hmmm.

In all, I had a great time. I will write more about my Southwark to Canterbury walk that ended at Faversham in due course. I discovered some extraordinary places, explored magical churches (one of which was being built at the time Chaucer travelled to Canterbury – I mean seriously, how awesome is that!!!), met some wonderful people along the way and saw some incredible sights. I am planning on writing up a day to day travelogue, but in the meantime –

Here are the stats:

1 Pilgrim’s Passport – duly stamped 🙂

southwark to canterbury pilgrims passport

1 Castle – Rochestersouthwark to canterbury rochester castle

1 Horse – seen in a field near Bapschild – ate my tangerine!!southwark to canterbury rochester castle

2 Cathedrals –

Southwark Cathedralpilgrimage southwark to canterbury southwark cathedral

Rochester Cathedralpilgrimage southwark to canterbury rochester cathedral

3 blisters – one on my left heel and two under the ball of my right foot. I cannot tell you how painful those two blisters were by Day 4…..which as it turned out was entirely different to how I originally planned it!!! Duh

3 Inns –pilgrimage southwark to canterbury medieval inns

The George Inn (17th century galleried coaching inn), Southwark.

The Sun Inn (17th century), Faversham.

The Falstaff (14th century), Canterbury.

5 Beds –

YHA Thamesidepilgrimage southwark to canterbury

The Old Prince of Orange, Gravesendpilgrimage southwark to canterbury

Greystones B&B, Rochesterpilgrimage southwark to canterbury

The Sun Inn, Favershampilgrimage southwark to canterbury

The Falstaff, Rochesterpilgrimage southwark to canterbury

6 liters of water – drunk on the first day….between Southwark and Thamesmead

6 kms walked in pouring rain – sans rain poncho (uhmmm yes, well)

9 Churches –pilgrimage southwark to canterbury

The first 3 churches I visited in Gravesend, none of which had pilgrim stamps.

St Mary the Virgin, Chalk – closed

St John’s Church, Higham – open 🙂

St Mary the Virgin, Newington – open 🙂

St Margaret’s Church, Rainham – open 🙂

Holy Trinity, Sittingbourne – open 🙂

and the last one I forget…..both the name and whether it was open or closed LOL

9 meals – in no particular order……pilgrimage southwark to canterbury

YHA, Thameside London – breakfast. always a brilliant spread

The George Inn, Southwark (supper) – fantastic people; my favourite London pub

Costa Coffee, Greenwich (breakfast) – lovely young man; so interested in my journey

The Three Daws, Gravesend (supper) – Josie was amazing; made my night special

The Copperfield, Shorne (breakfast) – imminently forgettable….but nice staff

Crepe & Co, Rochester (supper) – delicious crepes…I had 2 🙂

Manor Farm Restaurant, Rainham (lunch) – Emma was a charming host

The Sun Inn, Faversham (breakfast & supper) – Leigh was very interested in my journey

The Falstaff, Canterbury (Afternoon Tea) – fantastic spread, thoroughly enjoyed

The Falstaff, Canterbury (breakfast) – good meal, lovely staff.

Lunches were mostly buy & go snacks and fruit, with cups of tea or coffee and cake along the way.

22 Places visited: Southwark, City of London, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Royal Greenwich, Royal Arsenal Woolwich, Thamesmead, Erith, Gravesend, Chalk Village, Higham, Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, Rainham, Newington, Sittingbourne, Bapschild, Teynham, Ospringe, Faversham…and ultimately Canterbury.

94 kilometers / 59 miles – which brings my miles walked for 2017 to the grand total of 720 miles…..plus all the walking I did that I didn’t record.

160,000 steps plus!

One of the more amusing signs I saw came just as I was leaving Greenwich. I rounded a corner and there before my eyes……okayyyy, I got it!! Thank you!!southwark to canterbury

And that summarises my #SouthwarktoCanterbury pilgrimage that ended at Faversham! Fear not, for I shall complete the walk in just over a week’s time and in fact I’m planning on tagging on a 2nd walk next weekend too…why not? St Augustine’s pilgrimage from Ramsgate to Canterbury. And this time I’ll be sure to keep my socks dry. 😉

Now about that phone…..

Read Full Post »

After a fitful sleep brought about by a noisy crew at the inn (hostel) I woke early and partook of a hearty breakfast.

I had planned a side excursion for today – to the Battle of Britain Airshow at Headcorn Aerodrome…I wonder what Chaucer would have made of these flying beasts?? My train left from London Bridge which gave me the perfect excuse to explore the area before I left.
First I walked onto London Bridge once again; love that view.

 Then I popped in at The George Inn to get some photos before the place filled up with patrons intent on becoming merry!!

The George Inn is the last galleried coaching inn in London, and the current building dates from 1677; rebuilt after a devastating fire.

In Chaucer’s day there would have been many such inns, and in fact he and his pilgrims gathered at the Tabard Inn in Talbot Yard before setting off on their journey to Canterbury. I sought out and found The Tabard Inn blue plaque in Talbot Yard

and then made my way back to the station for my trip to Headcorn; the Airshow was fantastic. 😀😀 loads of photos.
I was back in London by 19:30 and went straight over to The George Inn for my final London Pilgrim’s meal; Battered Cod, chips and  mushy peas washed down with London Pride (of course 😉).

There were still a number of places I wanted to visit before setting off tomorrow; places Chaucer would have been familiar with, albeit some have changed dramatically and some are just remnants.  So after supper I waved fare thee well to the Patrons and set off on a quick whizz around the city:
1. Winchester Palace – once home to the very wealthy and powerful Bishops of Winchester.

2. The Clink Prison – oldest prison in London

3. Crossbones Garden – final resting place of the ‘Winchester Geese’, the prostitutes of the city and some of their children and babies.

4. The Ferryman’s Seat – Chaucer would likely have used a ferry to cross the River.

5. St Paul’s Cathedral – the one Chaucer knew would have been destroyed in the Great Fire of London 1666.

6. The Thomas a’Becket sculpture in St Paul’s Churchyard.

Thomas a’Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral and to visit his grave was the ultimate purpose of Chaucers journey.
7. All Hallows by the Tower Church – the oldest church in London; undoubtedly Chaucer would have visited.

8. The Tower of London – On 12 July 1389, Chaucer was appointed the clerk of the king’s works, a sort of foreman, organising most of the king’s building projects. During his tenure, but he conducted repairs on Westminster Palace, St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, and continued building the wharf at the Tower of London, as well as stands for a tournament held in 1390.

As I walked back across the River Thames via Tower Bridge I wondered what Chaucer would make of London today? Bet he wishes he’d hung around a few years longer for this view 😉

 And that brought my whistle stop tour to a close after which I hopped on a bus back to my abode.

Of course I also went past Southwark Cathedral that looked lovely with the light from the setting sun.

Tomorrow morning my walk begins. Wish me luck. 

Read Full Post »

Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in the footsteps of Geoffrey Chaucer.

6 years ago, after discovering the George Inn in Southwark and seeing the Chaucer window in Southwark Cathedral I was inspired by my love of London, the River Thames, my love of walking and my interest in Chaucer to follow in his footsteps to Canterbury.

Although I did indeed complete the walk from Southwark Cathedral to Greenwich, life got in the way and I never completed the rest of the journey.geoffrey-chaucers-probable-route-to-canterbury-pic-via-httpfaculty-arts-ubc-casechard346map-htm1

However, since I’ll be walking the Camino de Santiago this year in September, I decided that not having completed my journey to Canterbury is just not on! So as part of my Camino training and in order to complete one journey before the next, I resolved to walk from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral in July of this year over a period of 4 days. This will not only complete my original journey, but will add 60+ miles to my walk 1000 miles challenge (#walk1000miles) and enroute I will visit a few cathedrals, a couple of UNESCO World Heritage sites and hopefully add one or two new places to Project 101.

To this end I have continued apace with my Camino practice walks (640 miles since January 1st 2017)….only now I am carrying my lovely new Osprey Mystic Magenta Tempest 40 litre backpack with me…75% loaded. I did try one day to carry it fully loaded (8.5 kgs) but I nearly put myself on the ground in agony! So I emptied the water bladder and removed my toiletries and for the month of June and part of this month till I leave for my walk I’ve been practising with 5kgs on my back and slowly built it up to 7kgs.

nordic walking poles and osprey backpack

my nordic walking poles and osprey backpack looking fairly benign….

It’s been heavy going and I can see the impact the weight has on my joints and my back, as well as which I am constantly tired. But persevere I must as time is fleeting and although its now July and not April, I can identify with Chaucer’s comment: On Wednesday 18 April, I stood in Talbot Yard off Borough High Street in London getting wet: an April shoure soote was piercing me to the roote. Some days walking with the Osprey has had me feeling like the backpack was ‘piercing me to the roote’. LOL

Chaucer and his merry band of pilgrims left from an inn called the Tabard Inn and although the Tabard Inn no longer exists, I shall repair to the George Inn, the last of the medieval London Coaching Inns, for a meal on the night before I begin my journey. I’m not sure what to eat; fish and chips with mushy peas or sausage and mash with onions…but one thing is for sure….I will be having a glass or two of a suitable brew!!

the george inn

pulling a pint at the George Inn in 2011

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387–1400 of a journey taken by himself and a number of pilgrims from Southwark to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Thomas á Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

In the year 1387, Geoffrey Chaucer and his motely band of pilgrims gathered in the yard of The Tabard Inn before setting off on their pilgrimage to visit the shrine of Thomas á Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. They travelled mostly on foot but in one or two of the images I have seen of Chaucer on his pilgrimage he is usually seated on a four-legged animal…ergo a horse.

geoffrey chaucer canterbury tales pilgrims route to canterbury

a sketch of Geoffrey Chaucer as he may have looked on his route to Canterbury

Therefore I shall endeavour to travel by foot for as much of the way as I can and revert to horse-power if and when necessary.  I have carefully worked out my daily routes, taking distance into account, and will follow as closely as possible the same route that Chaucer followed….with 2 exceptions: from Southwark Cathedral in London – I will follow the banks of the Thames to Greenwich and from there to Erith

southwark cathedral and geoffrey chaucer

Southwark Cathedral – a place of worship since 606AD

….the road that Chaucer travelled along from Southwark towards Deptford; Tooley Street, is now a very busy, polluted highway with hundreds of cars, trucks and whatall travelling along and frankly; it’s unpleasant. The 2nd exception will be between Dartford and Rochester. Dartford is not a lovely place to spend the night (sorry folks 😉 ), so once I reach the town I’ll take a 7,000 horse-powered vehicle in the form of a train from there to Gravesend (which is not where Chaucer stopped), but since this is my journey…..

As a prelude to the journey I shall once again visit some of the places that were around in Chaucer’s day….albeit today they are somewhat altered and some even have different names.

London Bridge – in Chaucer’s day (14th C): Late Medieval: the Peter de Colechurch Bridge – There was a Stone Gate House on the bridge and on its roof stood poles where traitors’ heads were placed. This practice started in 1304 and continued until 1678.  In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell’s head was placed on one of the poles.
Southwark Cathedral – a place of worship on this site since 606AD –  a medieval priory which today has become Southwark Cathedral.
Winchester Palace – the remains/ruins of a 12th century palace, London residence of the Bishops of Winchester.
The Clink Prison – 1144-1780 now a museum – The Clink Prison Museum is built upon the original site of the Clink Prison which dates back to 1144 making it one of England’s oldest, if not the oldest Prison.  Now a museum (great fun for a visit)

Saint George the Martyr Church on Borough High Street – a church that was in existence during the 14th Century and before. The earliest reference to this church is in the Annals of Bermondsey Abbey, which claims that the church was given by Thomas de Ardern and Thomas his son in 1122.

And of course The George Inn – in it’s present incarnation, having gone through a number of fires over the years, and rebuilt.  The George Inn was situated next door to the Tabard Inn from whence Chaucer commenced his journey to Canterbury.

On Sunday 9th July, I will stand opposite Talbot Yard off Borough High Street in London getting ………wet? Who knows….we often have rain in July…..but I have a poncho 😉

I’ll be posting photos on instagram as I go and updating my progress. If you’d like to follow along you can find me @notjustagranny and the hashtags I’ll be using are #SouthwarktoCanterbury and #inthefootstepsofChaucer amongst others.

Hope to see you there and if you happen to see me along the way….say hello 🙂

And so to Canterbury……..

southwark to canterbury in the footsteps of chaucer

This plaque on Titsey Hill on the North Downs shows various routes and distances to faraway places….one of which is Canterbury…53 miles from the Titsey Estate

Read Full Post »

Palazzo Pitti was quite frankly just extraordinary. I think I went a little mad with my camera and photographed every inch of the walls and ceilings, the displays of treasure, those fragments of clothing from 500 years ago take your breath away. Finally after I had explored every inch I could, I left via the main entrance on Piazza Pitti and looking back quickly took a #selfie…I just couldn’t believe what I just seen and felt like I needed to record the fact that I had actually been there….it was so surreal. And I hadn’t even mentioned the Grotto!!

palazzo pitti Buontalenti grotto florence

Palazzo Pitti and the amazing Buontalenti Grotto in the Boboli Gardens, built by Bernardo Buontalenti between 1583 and 1593, commissioned by Francesco I de’ Medici

Florence truly is a city of opulent architectural gems and the centre highly deserves it’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Where to next? I didn’t think I could see anything else that was so amazing, but I was wrong!! Making my way back to the river I crossed over Ponte Vecchio again and within a couple of minutes I entered the Palazzo Vecchio. Well!!! What do you say when you are stopped in your tracks by something that is so amazing you almost have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming….what I saw in front of me was someone’s dream, and it was magical.

palazzo vecchio florence

the magnificent Palazzo Vecchio, once home to Cosimo Medici and his wife Eleanora of Toledo

On the Visit Florence website they talk about time-travel and walking through these extraordinary buildings it seriously is like stepping back in time: “Palazzo Vecchio offers Roman ruins, a Medieval fortress and amazing Renaissance chambers and paintings” Do visit their website for more information. This building, now the Florentine Town Hall is magnificent, influenced by Moorish architecture, if you blinked you could be in Morocco. I’ve seen similar crenellated buildings in Gibraltar. It’s amazing! During the mid 16th century the Medicis; Cosimo and his wife; Eleanora of Toledo (the clothing fragments in my previous post belonged to her) turned this into their residence and much of the paintings and decorations you can see today were influenced by them. Sadly I had a very strict daily budget and if I wanted to eat…so I didn’t get to visit the interior, which is such a shame since the rooms are decorated by people like Michaelangelo and Donatello. I guess I’m going to have to go back LOL

palazzo vecchio florence

the sculptures in the courtyard are stunning

The courtyard; Piazza della Signoria is equally as impressive with a towering replica of Michaelangelo’s most famous ‘David’ along with some other stunning sculptures. Ohhh so beautiful. If you’re a fan of art, then seriously Florence is a must.

palazzo vecchio Piazza della Signoria in Florence

Palazzo Vecchio overlooks Piazza della Signoria. The Equestrian Monument of Cosimo I is a bronze equestrian statue erected in 1594 in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence

After satiating my appetite for ‘amazement’ I went walkabout again, just meandering here and there, aiming for towers I could see towering above those gorgeous red roofs. Plunging into the warren of streets I slowly but surely make my way towards my goal: Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence’s main cathedral.

Along the way I discovered the Oratorio dei Buonomini di San Martino founded in 1441. Closed, but the history looks well impressive. Then the Museo Casa Di Dante….only Dante’s home. I mean seriously!!! Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265, on the site where the Museo Casa di Dante stands. Poet, politician, writer; author of The Divine Comedy, one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature, Dante is considered the father of the Italian language. Again I had to bypass = (bigger budget next visit I guess LOL). Discovering all these places, of people I had learned about in school was truly awe-inspiring. Never in my wildest dreams/imagination did I ever envisage actually visiting.

casa di dante and oratoria dei buonomini

amazing discoveries; Casa di Dante and Oratorio dei Buonomini di San Martino, Florence

Next discovery was The Badìa Fiorentina; an abbey and church, now home to the Monastic Communities of Jerusalem, situated on the Via del Proconsolo, was founded as a Benedictine institution in 978 by Willa, Countess of Tuscany. Dante grew up nearby and would likely have heard the monks singing the Mass and the Offices here in Latin Gregorian chant. It looked totally intriguing and stepping through the door you are transported to another era. Chiesa Della Badia Fiorentina; place of silence, eucharistic adoration and liturgy  – I couldn’t believe what I saw….at the front of the church were a number of nuns and monks kneeling on the floor in front of the altar!!! I have never in all my years of visiting churches around Europe and the UK seen such an ethereal and other-worldly scene. I sat down with a bump on one of the pews, just stunned into overwhelming amazement. It was totally surreal. I felt like all my sins were emblazoned on my forehead and that I should immediately ask for forgiveness. It didn’t of course stop me from taking as many photos as possible, although I did feel like I was intruding on a very special moment. The church is filled with wonders: the altarpiece showing the Virgin appearing to St. Bernard painted by Filippino Lippi between 1482 and 1486, the funerary monuments, and the magnificent elaborately carved wooden ceiling, made in 1631 by Felice Gamberai, looking up before I left I had noticed this extraordinary ceiling; solid looking and elaborately carved it looks way too heavy to remain in place!! Wonderful place. I love churches and visit them often, but I can honestly say this is the first time I felt so insignificant. Seeing those nuns kneeling in supplication…..wow.

church 3

Chiesa Della Badia Fiorentina; place of silence, eucharistic adoration and liturgy

Slipping quietly out the door I continued on my way. Okay so there is an abundance of churches in Florence, and I was in my element….I learned my lesson in Venice, where I mostly ignored the churches, except for St Mark’s obviously, until the last day of my visit….at which time I ran around like a chicken without a head trying to visit as many as possible….I had never realised how magnificent they are; the paintings, the treasures, the ghoulish relics venerated in their elaborate ossuaries. To be able to stand on the exact same space where the old masters had stood, transferring their extraordinary talent onto the actual walls of the building is just mind-blowing!! Not canvases painted elsewhere and hung in the church, but painted right there onto the actual wall…..so now, I never pass a church that’s open without stepping inside, especially not in Italy that must surely be the birth-place of extraordinarily magnificent art!

Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri Florence

Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri Florence

Anyway, before I wax too lyrical, the next church I stumbled into was the huge, massive and very imposing Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri. The size and facade of this church are overwhelming (yes, I was overwhelmed quite a lot in Florence LOL). On the website they describe the building as huge…uhm yes rather. I spent only a few minutes exploring this enormous cavern of a church; the altar is just amazing, since it was just on 6pm and they were about to close. But I saw enough to be well impressed.

Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri Florence

Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri Florence

I continued my meanderings and passed the ever so delightful and quirky Pinocchio shop; Bartolucci!! Oh the temptation to buy something….Too cute. They’re located on Via della Condotta, 12, 50122 Firenze.

Pinocchio shop; Bartolucci

Pinocchio shop; Bartolucci

After wandering around some more getting closer and closer (or so I thought), photographing all the street names as I went, I found myself suddenly impatient; not wanting to delay any longer….I instead found myself back in the Piazza della Signoria, I have no idea how…seems I had walked in a circle LOL. So catching my bearings (yay for mapmywalk) I made my way with determination now, past Piazza della Repubblica then followed Via Roma and suddenly, as I walked around the corner into Piazza S. Giovanni, there it was….OMG!!! Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – the Virgin of the Flower. Writing about it now I’m in tears. I cannot explain in words the emotions that rushed over me.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - the Virgin of the Flower. Florence, Itlay

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – the Virgin of the Flower. Florence, Itlay

It is quite simply magnificent. Like I said to my daughter afterwards, I had seen a number of images of the cathedral viewed from the side, photos of the very recognisable dome, close up and from afar, but I had never before seen the front of the building!!! It is exquisite. From that edge of the piazza the view of the front entrance is blocked by the fabulous Baptistery; Battistero di San Giovanni, which in itself is very impressive, an outstanding building of glowing white marble with green inlays – but walk around the corner and ohmygosh!!!

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - the Virgin of the Flower. Florence, Itlay

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – the Virgin of the Flower. Florence, Itlay

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – the Virgin of the Flower; this most amazing facade is so beautiful I just couldn’t believe it. I have seen some beautiful cathedrals in my life and was to see many more over the next 3 days, but oh my word….this was the creme de la creme!! I confess that I just stood and cried. And then camera in hand I proceeded to take a photo of just about every inch of the building LOL. I couldn’t wait to see the interior. That was planned for the following Friday at which time I would also climb the dome and the tower. It’s free to visit the cathedral (which I didn’t realise at the time) but you have to pay to climb the Dome and Tower and visit the Museum.

The facade of this cathedral is like an explosion of fondant icing; brilliant white, delicate pink, subtle shades of green all framed by delicate lacy carvings, exquisite mosaics and astounding sculptures. I’ve tried putting into words how it looks…but I’m afraid words desert me.  I guess you’ll just have to go and see for yourself 😉 From the website Santa Maria del Fiore, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, is the third largest church in the world (after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London) and was the largest church in Europe when it was completed in the 15th century”. Surprisingly the facade was only completed during the 19th century, and of course followed the fashion of the time.

The bell tower right next door is equally impressive, just outstanding; white marble inlaid with green and red marble fading into pink, with elaborate designs and a few sculptures. One of the 4 principal monuments on the Piazza del Duomo, the tower, designed by Giotto di Bondone, stands 84.7 metres tall and about 15 metres in breadth; a classical example of 14th c Gothic architecture in Florence.

Slide11

Bapistery of St John, Florence, Italy

Slide10

Bapistery of St John, Florence, Italy

All I can say about these buildings is that the people who designed them had the most extraordinary imaginations! If you consider they didn’t have computers and the tools we have today, their buildings mostly leave many of our newer architectural creations in the shade…and mostly they seem to last a lot longer!! Started in 1334 by Giotto, it was completed in 1359 by Francesco Talenti. I mean seriously 1334!!!! And it’s still standing!!!

After photographing my fill of the cathedrals facade and the tower I walked right around the whole building. I was sad to note that the east side (dome side) of the building was quite grubby and tatty but there is restoration going on. I’m guessing it costs a whole heck of a lot of money to maintain this magnificent building.

Slide16

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

Slide17

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

The Museum of Opera of Saint Maria Fiore is located in this area and proved to be a stunning place for art lovers to spend a few hours. I visited on Friday 28th, on the same day as the Dome, Cathedral, Baptistery and Tower. Combined ticket.

After walking right around the cathedral I took a closer look at the Baptistery; the Baptistery of St John, is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. Constructed in the Florentine Romanesque style around 1059, the construction of white Carrara marble with green Prato marble inlay was finished in 1128. More about this on 28th 😉

the Baptistery of Saint John, Florence, ItLY

the Baptistery of Saint John, Florence, ItLY

After I had walked around the cathedral at least 3 times, and inspected every possible angle, I popped in at the Museo del Bigallo….wow, beautiful interior. There is one other area of the museum that you can visit but they only open that at certain times of the day for a short period, so I didn’t get to go in. I finally tore myself away from the Piazza del Duomo and started to make my way back towards the station. It was already after 7pm and the sun was beginning to set. I had been walking for hours and needed some food!! But first, as I passed the open doors of the Chiesa dei Santi Michele I couldn’t resist popping in for a look. Goodness gracious. I’m sure that if the Catholic Church organisation sold all the paintings and gold and silver treasures that fill their churches they could solve world poverty at a stroke. It’s just too much! Seriously. But hey, meanwhile, I loved seeing all these beautiful places.

Chiesa dei Santi Michele

Chiesa dei Santi Michele, Florence, Italy

From there I headed towards the river…the evening was so gorgeous I wanted to see another Tuscan sunset…while standing at the bridge looking downstream I saw what looked like a group of people walking on water. After all the churches I had visited during the day, I would not have been one bit surprised!!!

River Arno Florence, Italy

River Arno Florence, Italy

But on closer inspection it turned out to be a weir that stretch across the river between the two bridges. A brilliant optical illusion.

the weir stretching across the River Arno in Florence

the weir stretching across the River Arno in Florence

Of course this needed closer observation so after walking around a bit, and crossing over to the opposite bank I finally found where I could access the lower reaches of the riverbank and the weir. As a bonus I also discovered some of the old city walls.

wall 1

City Walls in Florence

The list of Project 101 discoveries was growing!!

I walked along the river till I reached the weir and after a bit of climbing and unsteady walking, watching my step on uneven cobbles and concrete, I too was ‘walking on water’. The water level was lapping the edge and a misstep would have seen me taking a swim with the fishes. Nearby a group of gorgeous giggling girls having a celebration asked me to take a their photo…of course!! Then they did some for me 🙂 Turns out it was the birthday of one of them and I took delight in telling them that it was mine the very next day!! I got to eat a slice of heavenly chocolate cake while standing on a weir in the middle of the River Arno in Florence. Isn’t life peachy!weir 3 I took loads of photos….surprise!!! I sometimes wish I could just take one photo of any one place and be satisfied. As if!! LOL

By now it was getting quite dark, the sun had slipped behind the horizon and I had some exploring to do.  I walked back towards the old walls I had seen earlier and left the city for the suburbs, but not for long. Just to have a look. Then following the wall I walked along just looking and enjoying the night, it was sublime. I found a convent, Chiesa e Convitto di San Francisco de Sales established in 1700, now a girls boarding school.

I meandered along, the light fading and the night drawing in, just loving being alone and on my own with not a soul in the vicinity who knows me. Marvellous. I love the anonymity of travel. By now I was HUNGRY!!! It was 8pm and I hadn’t eaten a thing since 10:30 at Caffe Dei Fossi. Right find me a trattoria. I really wanted to eat at a traditional eatery, so scanning the streets I walked and walked…..finally I found just what I was looking for……Trattoria Dante – perfect!!!

Trattoria Dante, Florence, Italy

the Convent top left, empty streets, Trattoria Dante, Florence

I, without further ado, entered, found a table and by 8:30pm I was tucking into a most delicious pizza…yum yum yum!!!

An hour later I was on the streets again and heading back to the apartment. The night was wonderful, Florence looked so pretty all lit up and I so enjoyed my walk through the now much quieter streets.

The River Arno, streets at night, my square, Chiesa Santa Maria Novella

The River Arno, streets at night, my square, Chiesa Santa Maria Novella

I was tempted to go have another look at the cathedral nut managed to resist…I had an early start on the morrow….a visit to San Gimignano for my birthday. Yayyy. Besides which, my bed was waiting – 12.5 hours after I set off in the morning it was time for sleep. Goodnight.

my bed...calling me

my bed…waiting for me

Connect with me on instagram as I continue my travels. I’ll be writing about San Gimignano in due course; come back soon.

Website links you may interested in:

Dante’s House

Badia Fiorentina

Chiesa di San Fillipo Neri

Bartolucci

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

More on the cathedral

Baptistery of St John

 

Read Full Post »

Hello, you’re back. This is a continuation of my one day in Florence adventure. So yes, the Baboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti. May I just say that if you ever decide to visit this extraordinary location, enter the gardens via the Fort Belvedere entrance at the top of the hill. It’s a heck of a climb and I was puffing by the time I got there, but what I found is that the story of the place seemed to unfold before me as I walked. To think that I very nearly, and only because I had no idea of where I was and the significance of the place, didn’t go in. The entrance fee is not really that much but since I hadn’t heard of the place, I almost decided against it. The cashier gave me a flyer on request and on opening it, my decision was made…..do go, it’s fantastic.

florence as seen from palazzo pitti

the wonderful city of Florence viewed from the Baboli gardens, Florence

I have no idea where to start, there is so much to tell and see. The Medici were a very powerful family in their time and produced Popes and Princesses. Their wealth was extraordinary and they spent it well. The interior of the palace is quite simply breathtaking. The exquisite paintings that cover the walls and ceiling; just unbelievable.

palazzo pitti

interior of Palazzo Pitti; home of the Medici family

Instead of much dialogue I’ll just post some photos for you to enjoy. Suffice to say I had a marvellous few hours wandering about and admiring this fantastic legacy left for us to enjoy from 5 centuries ago! Wow.

Slide1Slide2Slide5Slide3Slide6Slide4Slide7Slide8Slide11Slide9Slide12Slide14Slide16Slide13Slide15Slide21Slide18Slide10Slide20Slide22Slide17Slide19Slide23Slide24Slide28Slide27Slide25Slide26Slide33Slide34Slide29Slide37Slide30Slide36Slide38Slide39Slide42Slide44Slide48Slide50Slide46Slide47Slide51Slide31Slide32Slide40Slide41Slide45Slide43Slide49

 

In one of the rooms there’s a double padded bench where you can sit to look at the paintings on the walls…much like they have in museums…well I lay across them looking up at the ceiling in one of the rooms. It was so exquisite and so breath-taking that you simply had to just lie there and look at it. All too soon I had a few companions…seems my idea took off 😉

A seriously stupendous place. I would love to go back again just to look at those ceilings. I know I took loads of photos….and I’m really glad I did. You forget the details all too soon other wise. The remnants of clothing that you can see in the images are actual clothes worn by the Medici’s in the 16th century. Now that is mind-blowing. Imagine how fragile they must be. What a terrific heritage.

The Baboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti are a UNESCO World Heritage Site; quite rightly so.

If you’re interested to find out more about the Medici, I have located this link. Happy reading.

Read Full Post »

The title may be a bit misleading; ‘one day in Florence’, because I was there for 7 days in total, 3 days of which I used to take days trips to San Gigmignano (via Poggibonsi), Siena and Lucca. But today (22/04/17) was my first full day in Florence and I was ready to explore!

the wonderful streets of Florence

the wonderful streets of Florence

Quite tired from all the travel, and extensive walking I had done in Pisa I slept in, had a leisurely cup of tea in bed with a biscuit, then up and dressed and by 09:30 I was out the door. I avoided going down in the lift, I just didn’t trust it really (although by the time I got back in that evening 9.5 hours later, I didn’t have any such qualms!! After all the apartment was on the 3RD FLOOR!!! LOL

one day in florence

the hood where I stayed; gorgeous weather! Love the street names; Via Ventiquattro Maggio – sounds so romantic

The day had dawned bright and blue; such blue skies on a regular basis…what bliss! I took a photo of the street where I was staying just so I’d have some reference for my return, and with mapmywalk on I set off at a brisk pace – I had a city to explore.  By now of course I knew my way, and within 25 minutes I was back at the train station. (platform 16 led down to the street next to the fort where the buses congregate, and is enroute to where I was staying – in case you wondered 😉 )

Before too long I was back in front of the wonderful Santa Maria Novelle Church, and couldn’t believe my eyes at the crowds! By now, feeling a tad peckish, I looked around for somewhere to eat. To my delight I found a tiny little cafe just a few minutes walk from the church piazza; Caffe Dei Fossi which then became my first stop every morning I was in Florence.

one day in florence

Santa Maria Novella, scenes of the square and Caffe Dei Fossi

Una cappucino e croissant, mille grazie 🙂 See I can speak Italian hahahaha Just don’t answer me in Italian….. Actually jokes aside, their croissants were A.MAZ.ING!! Filled to bursting with pistachio creme or Nutella (OMG!!) or custard creme, the next day I had 2 instead of just one. Btw, this cafe was excellent value for money. One cappucino and a croissant = 2 euro!!! Wow. Highly recommend. Of course, as I was soon to learn, they don’t do ‘grande’ in Italy!! I suspect that the selection of sizes that we get in USA & UK are a popular American coffee chain’s (no names mentioned) marketing ploy to make bigger profits. So yeah, no grande, but we did eventually agree on a bigger glass cup for an extra 0.50 cents.

Moving on. After the heavenly delight of the croissant I set off for the river.  I had thankfully found the direct route and now I reached it within a few minutes. Oh how beautiful it is.

one day in florence

the River Arno, Florence on a stunning day looking downstream. looking upstream = clouds!! and behind me, looking different to last night, what became ‘my point of reference’ – Piazza Carlo Goldoni

My curiosity was piqued by a tower I could see ‘towering’ above the buildings that lined the banks of the river on the opposite side so putting on my navigating hat I set off. I seldom use any form of map or GPS, preferring instead to get lost…hahaha. But oh the places I found on my meanderings. But first I made my way upstream towards the Ponte Vecchio. I was keen to see if I felt differently about my impressions from the previous night….sadly I didn’t 😦 Ohhhh, such a disappointment. It’s a lovely enough bridge, but nothing at all that I was expecting. Lined with gold and silver and jewellery stores, it just seemed…ordinary really. The centre of the bridge is terrific, quite beautiful really and the ‘shops’ that make up the rest of the bridge are quite intriguing. But I have to say that it wasn;t at all what it looks like in photos. Perhaps the photos have been photoshopped!!

ponte vecchio florence

The world-famous Ponte Vecchio that bridges the River Arno in Florence, Italy

Now, if we were talking about the view…….well, what more could you want? Stunning.

river arno florence

stunning view downstream of the River Arno from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy

Still, here I was, in Florence standing in front of one of the most famous bridges in the world, so without further ado I crossed over and into the maze of streets beyond. Oh how I love the architecture in Italy. They really have got the colour scheme and shabby chic down to a T!!. Stunning.

florence italy

shabby chic. I adore the architecture in Italy. France is lovely, elegant and cold, but Italian architecture feels like a warm embrace.

I made my way through the streets, meandering here and there. I love the scooters that whizz by…so Italy. The buildings are enchanting, and so very old. Oh the stories they could tell. Eventually I found myself at the edge of a massive piazza and realised I had found the church with the dome I had noticed earlier further down the river. This turned out to be the fabulous Chiesa di Santa Maria del Carmine.

piazza del carmine and santa maria del carmine

Piazza del Carmine and the Santa Maria del Carmine Church which belongs to the Carmelite order. Est 1296 it suffered a devastating fire in 1771. Now restored.

I bought a ticket to see the Cappella Brancacci; a small chapel within the Santa Maria del Carmine Church, with absolutely no idea what it was I was about to see. Wow, sometimes it pays to just not know. That way you form no perceptions. Breath-taking, mesmerising, exquisite…oh I could list so many superlatives, but none of them would come close to describing the sheer beauty of these frescoes…

The Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine

The Brancacci Chapel in Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy

I spent ages here just looking. So much detail, such beauty. Amazing. I have inserted a link here to their official website which gives you more details, opening times and cost. I can highly recommend that you visit if in Florence, especially if you enjoy the exquisite art of the old masters. These are quite simply exquisite. Besides the chapel, there is the evocative Room of the Last Supper just off the courtyard….

santa maria del carmine florence the last supper

Room of The Last Supper by Alessandro Allori – Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence.

The rest of the church’s interior is just beautiful. There was a service going on while I was there and sadly I missed visiting. Nonetheless what I could see was wonderful.

the painted dome and interior of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence

the painted dome and interior of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence

At last I tore myself away and set off back through the streets and along the riverbank back towards the Ponte Veccho.

the streets of florence italy

strolling the streets of Florence in Italy

When I got there I spent a short time walking around in a circle (yeah I know LOL) and kinda like north, south, east, west which way should I go? I eventually settled on up!! Never one to take the easy route to wherever it was I was going, I started waking along Costa S. Giorgio and street the went up and up and up and up some more!! Whew!!

exploring florence italy

as I climbed higher and higher, little did I know what I was to discover at the top…ever heard of the Baboli Gardens? LOL I hadn’t….

With absolutely no idea of what I would find, as my feet took me further and further until suddenly there before me was Forte di Belvedere!

fort belvedere florence

The Forte di Belvedere or Fortezza di Santa Maria in San Giorgio del Belvedere (often called simply Belvedere) is a fortification in Florence, designed & built by Bernardo Buontalenti over a 5-year period, between 1590 & 1595, by order of Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici

Well well well. Who knew. I guess it makes sense to do real proper research before visiting instead of a cursory sweep of ‘things to do in Florence’….however, I find it thrilling to discover these places by accident! What I was discovering more and more was the influence of the Medici family on Florence in particular and how far-reaching their empire.  I remember learning about the Medici in school, so it was fascinating to be finding these places….little did I know what was just around the corner…..

Palazzo Pitti - home of the Medici family

Palazzo Pitti – home of the Medici family – The House of Medici was an Italian banking family, political dynasty and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de’ Medici in the Republic of Florence during the first half of the 15th C

The Baboli Gardens and the Palazzo Pitti. A location that turned out to be not only the home of the Medicis but is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, OMG!!! I was thrilled when I discovered that. Now I could add another UNESCO site to Project 101…Bonus!!!!

Come this way as I show you more about Palazzo Pitti and the Medici….post to follow soon.

P.s. if you’d like to follow my travels around the UK and Europe, connect via instagram and say hello.. My next adventure is Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway in Co. Antrim. N.Ireland.

 

Read Full Post »

Finally, and with great difficulty, I tore myself away from Pisa. Collecting my bag from the Pensione Helvetia (where quite frankly I could easily have stayed…I love it so much), I said goodbye to the cat and started my walk to the station.

pensione helvetia pisa italy

the house cat at Pensione Helvetia

It’s a mere 25-30 minutes walk and although Michel had said I should get the bus, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity for another walk through the streets of Pisa 🙂 So much to see!!

a walk through the streets of Pisa

a walk through the streets of Pisa

First I walked past the Piazza de Miracole to say my good byes to the Tower (gosh I really love that building!) and then heading south (I think) I made my way to the river and onto the station. The buildings in Pisa are so beautiful. Worn and tatty with paint peeling, shutters loose on their hinges, the plaster falling off the walls in chucks, it has the aura of an ancient Dowager, her beauty fading as she ages, the creams and lotions she applies no longer hiding the sagging lines of her skin.  But oh how pretty she is with her gaily decorated walls and flower boxes filled to the brim with brightly coloured flowers dancing in the breeze. I was truly enchanted. Perhaps I was wearing rose-tinted glasses!

pisa italy

some of the fabulous and very old buildings in Pisa

I reached the station in no time at all and since I had already bought my ticket previously I made my way to the platform and onto the train. I love those double-decker trains. I remember we first encountered them in Amsterdam. Super cool to sit on the top deck…brilliant views as you travel.

Statzione Pisa Centrale

Stazione Pisa Centrale

Florence…I’m on my way. I was really keen to visit the Ponte Vecchio and watch my first Tuscan sunset……I was not disappointed.

I finally arrived at the SMN Florence Stazione and that’s when the stress began. The host at the AirBnB had said to take the Number 33 bus and after about 10 minutes and 4 stops to get off. Well thankfully I had mapmywalk on and I was able to watch our progress in real time….it was more like 25 minutes and 10 stops!!! Urgh. Seriously. I bet he never uses the bus. Anyway we had ‘le grand tour’ of Florence, although I was way too stressed to appreciate it. Finally we reached the point where I was meant to get off but the driver didn’t stop!!! He’d forgotten about my request. Seriously dude!! Anyway, I reminded him and voila, he just stopped right where we were, and with no further ado opened the doors and I got off. hell would freeze over before a London bus driver would do that!!!

And there it was the road where I would be staying and before long I found Number 77. Oh gosh!! LOL. I wish you could have seen the lift!!! It was ancient. You could probably fit 3 people in with a hell of a squeeze, but no suitcases. Gladly I was on my own. It’s one of those lifts where you have to first open the gate that slides back and then you have to open the two interior doors, step inside and the do the reverse. Hilarious.

The apartment was terrific. My bedroom to die for. I had the most marvellous bed that proved to be so comfortable that I slept like a baby every night.

florence italy

I used AirBnB again for my stay in Florence. This bed was amazing

Huge kitchen, wide passages and then horror of horrors….a communal bathroom with only 2 basins and 2 toilets and the smallest shower I have EVER seen in my life… to accommodate up to 10 people. The apartment had 6 double bedrooms.!! And when I say the shower was small…I mean VERY small. I couldn’t even undress properly there was so little space. Oh well. Since I am preparing for the Camino…this would be good practice. Getting used to communal bathrooms and tiny showers. LOL

I hardly put my bag down, tested the bed, took the obligatory photos and then after trying to extricate myself from my AirBnB hosts most appreciated, very useful and kind, but long-winded explanation of ‘places to go and what to see’ I finally managed to get myself out the door. Finding my way back to the station was easy peasy. It was no more than a 20 minute walk and fairly direct. If only he had given me proper directions…. anyway. I was here, in Florence and on my way to explore. There was a seriously awesome fort just across the way from the station, but for some reason I just never got to visit it!!

my route to the station

my route to the station

Wow, what an amazing city. Firstly, never just plunge into the maze that are the streets of Florence. They do not go in a straight line, they twist and turn and while you may think you’re going in one direction….you’re probably wrong.

florence italy

the streets do not always go in a straight line, and even when they do…not necessarily in the direction you want to go

Well I was, I did and I got so muddled. It took ages to find the river….

But finally!!! There it was. Just as the sun was starting to sink into the horizon I reached the river.

sunset  in florence

sunset in Florence – not the Ponte Vecchio

And there, just upstream from where I was standing and finally…Ponte Vecchio. Hoorah!!! I had wanted to see this bridge for ever such a long time, it was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Florence at all.

ponte vecchio 1

Ponte Vecchio, Florence – that most famous of bridges

As I got closer I noticed that there was a massive crowd in the middle of the bridge; all waiting to watch the sun set. Apparently this is the ‘done thing’. Well, as it turned out, sometimes the dream is better than the reality. The bridge was not at all what I had expected (?) and was sadly quite a let down. The Rialto Bridge in Venice was so much more than I had expected, but I’m afraid the Ponte Vecchio did not live up to my expectations. But, hey I was there, the sun was going down and I made my way up and onto the bridge. I managed to squeeze into a tiny space at the front when some people moved off and there it was…my first Tuscan sunset. Stunning.

ponte vecchio 2

Ponte Vechhio, Florence

After that I made my way back along the river to the bridge/piazza where I had first exited the maze and this time found a more direct route back to the station. And there it was that I discovered the fabulous Santa Maria Novella Church. OhMyWord!!! I could only stand and stare. It is so beautiful. Closed by then of course, it was already after 8pm, but I determined that I would be back as soon as possible to visit it.

santa maria novella florence

The ethereal Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Walking the streets of Florence was amazing. I felt so safe and never threatened in any way, despite the lateness of the hour. Although there are a lot of North African touts around selling those ubiquitous selfie sticks and various other bits of fake tat, I just walked boldly on and with a cursory No, grazie and made no eye contact. I’m pretty good at just staring ahead and walking on. They left me alone.

And so my first experience of Florence was drawing to an end as the day turned into night. How thrilling to finally be here.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »