Having explored Rome and Assisi, now it was time to get some flavour of north and we had set our sails towards Firenze (Florence). I met a nun from New Mexico in the bus as we left for Assisi station. Some of the words were quite reflective of the current state of the world. How the love, and faith in your path can really take you through your journey towards right destination and being good at heart is important, as all the material wealth is of no use when it comes to real mental happiness.
The sight of cute and tiny villages tucked away into the ever green mountains and few farm fields of olive trees is quite common in Umbria and I could not stop taking out my camera and trying to capture them from the running train as we passed them on the way to Florence from Assisi.
After some experience in Rome we had got a bit smarter and planned to stay at Florence for a day and packed accordingly. Finding a B&B was quick and the agent walked us right up to our home for today, where we dropped our bags to rush to the station again a train to Pisa. The plan was to quickly visit Pisa in the morning and then leave the rest of the day and next day for Florence.
The Pisa visit was quick but enjoyable as we got to see the Tuscany’s countryside as we travelled through some of the farm fields of Tuscany with cute houses and villas. Coincidentally a Marathi speaking family from Prabhadevi got into the same compartment, we had a quick exchange of our tour till now and also a little more information about our ware-about in India. It’s so funny, back home, you keep meeting the same guys in the rush of Mumbai local, but hardly have any time to exchange a glance, but here on a train to Pisa we were talking about the vacation, profession and everything under the sky.
The leaning tower, although have heard of it right from our childhood, we were quite curious to see. The tower is situated around 15 minutes ride from the train station by the red line bus and the ticket was 1:10 Euros. As we entered the complex, the view of the sea of people who had gathered there in that small town was enormous. The ticket to go to the top was 18 Euros and there wasn’t any concession for the children. Did not really feel like paying 54 euros for that view from the top as the tower looked much attractive from the outside and we enjoyed our photo session in front of the tower.
Apart from the leaning tower the Piazza Dei Miracoli also hosts three other significant buildings including a Baptistery and a Catherdral. The place looks more beautiful because of the emerald green lawns around these unique and beautifully architected structures. All these structures exhibit splendorous Romanesque architecture made in grey and white striped marbles. It was fun to see people trying to make the moment memorable using all the poses that they could think of.
The return train from Pisa turned out to be a super slow one and instead of 1 hour it took 2 hours to get us to Florence again. Almost the whole day was lost. Probably I might have planned a Cinque Terre Trip within that time, but anyways, unpredictability is one of the factors of travel.
It was almost 6 as we reached Florence, The best option was to make quick enquiries about the local bus transport and reach any of the places in our list. We headed towards Ponte Vecchio. Got into C2 a very tiny bus, with lot of people dumped into it. I had already got my 1:10 Euro 90 minutes’ ticket from the local Tobacchini shop and as per Italian tradition punched it using the machine inside the bus. The elderly woman sitting next to me gave directions in terms of stop (fermata) to get down and the way ahead.
We got down at Piazza Della Republica and finished our wrap we packed in the morning. Now being a bit hungrier the wrap was a life saver. The cafes, just behind the bench we were sitting, had a steep competition and a lady dressed more like an air hostess grabbed each and every person’s attention to lure them to her restaurant. She off course had an advantage of being right on the corner and would do her best to get the customers in before they reach out to the other cafes in the line.
The weather was amazing and as we approached Arno river near Ponte Vecchio, we were mesmerized by the sight. This place has a different aura and glamour of its own. The glittering sunshine reflecting from the surface of the Arno river, the thousands of year old bridge with its unique architecture, the high speed group canoeing on the river, shooting of some Italian TV serial along the river bank and the tourists trying to capture all this beauty in their cameras, the whole scene was enchanting, making you feel the moment, be part of this grand celebration of life and enjoy the sheer beauty. The evening atmosphere had added different colors and shades to this beauty and we were stuck for a moment trying to absorb all the history, beauty and peace.
The bridge is not very long and still has few of the old two storey shops, continuing their age old tradition and it’s unbelievable to see, touch and feel this thousands of year old masterpiece. Although it was built during Roman times, it was destroyed by flood and reconstructed couple of times.
The surrounding buildings are a mixture of old and new and apart from Duomo, I guess this place is quite symbolic to Florence. Interestingly on our return journey, we saw an illegal painting seller grabbing all his painting and running away as two police women approached.
We walked down to Pallazzo Vecchio, again quite happening place with ample cafes, beautiful statues and place to hang around and feel the essence of Florence. It started raining and we had to take shelter at Piazza Della Signoria admiring the sculptures.
You really don’t have to visit a gallery to admire sculptures in Italy and this Piazza was another such example, with a number of sculptures including a replica of David, Herculus and Cacus and Perseus with the head of Medusa. This open air exhibition is place to hang around, but also a treat for an art lover, especially the renaissance art.
The piazza got lit up quite beautifully in the evening and as the sunlight faded we could experience the place coming alive in those lights. The cafes being filled by leisurely visitors while a whole lot of tourists hanging around to enjoy the ambience of this age old place of public affairs and gatherings.
A bit exhausted by the travel and still enchanted by this glorious city we headed towards our B&B. The rain had added peculiar glitter to the streets and the first visuals of the grand structure of Duomo was inviting to come back and explore more, next morning. The curiously Islamic influence on this structure was intriguing. It definitely isn’t as grand as Vatican, but gives a lot of significance to Florence and its skyline.