Continuing on with my Italian trip in October last year:
After leaving Capri, we took the ferry back to Naples, and experienced the first rain of our trip. Fortunately, we were travelling by coach for most of the day, so it didn’t matter at all. We started off on our journey to Tuscany, passing settlements of shack dwellings on the outskirts of the city. This pic was taken through a rain spattered window in the coach.
I can’t think where that old saying, “See Naples and die,” came from, as it didn’t strike me as a place I would want to spend any time in. The streets looked dirty, and the buildings in a bad state of repair. Maybe we just had to drive through the less salubrious part from the docks in order to get onto the highway. That phrase was most probably coined during the city’s “Golden Age” in the reign of the Bourbons. I believe that there is a royal palace at Caserta, which has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. It has 1,200 rooms and is one of the largest and most opulent buildings to be built in Europe during the 18th century.
Our coach was very comfortable with lots of leg room, as there were only forty seats, unlike most, which have fifty-five. The sun peeped through the clouds as we drove along the highway, with the Apennine mountain range on our right, and on our left, small towns like this one perched high up on the hillside.
When we stopped for a comfort break, our guide suddenly produced trays of fresh Santa Rosa Sfogliatelle, a delicacy of Naples, which our driver Fabio, had collected from the bakery early that morning.
These delicious baked pastries are shaped like a lobster tail, filled with yellow custard and topped with cherries. So delicious, but impossible to eat in a lady-like manner. Fortunately, serviettes were also provided to wipe our sticky paws.
We arrived in Florence, ‘Firenze’ as it is called in Italian, in the mid afternoon, and were taken to the ‘Hotel Brunelleschi’ which is a magnificently restored historical building, under the ‘Dome of Mary of the Flowers’, right in the city centre. The Paggliazza Tower which forms part of the hotel, dates back to the 6th century, and is the oldest standing structure in Florence.
Our room was lovely, but not nearly as big as the one in Capri, and despite being really grand, there was not a single drawer to put anything in, and the wardrobe had no doors on it. The marble bathroom was gorgeous, but had not a single shelf or surface to stand any bottles, so my lotions and magic potions had to be relegated to the floor.
We had a guided walk around the ‘City of the Flowers’, and as we emerged into the main street, we were amused and delighted to see this exuberant bridegroom-to-be, being transported to his wedding by his enthusiastic groomsmen.
In the Republic Square, was a grand parade of men wearing ancient soldiers’ uniforms, celebrating the anniversary of the founding of the city’s police force.
This is only a replica of Michelangelo’s David, the original having been moved to the museum, to protect it from pigeon poo and vandals.
The Italians do love their statues. and they were everywhere; famous scientists, philosophers and astrologers, as well as this one of the Roman god Perseus, holding the severed head of Medusa, with her corpse at his feet.
The Ponte Vecchio, the oldest of Florence’s six bridges, is one of the city’s best known images and is lined with expensive Goldsmith’s shops.
Our guide told us that in this area a small one-bedroomed apartment overlooking the river, can cost in the region of 800,000 Euros.
At the entrance to the bridge, we saw a whole collection of padlocks. Legend has it that if you and your loved one attach a padlock to any surface of the famous bridge and then throw the key into the Arno River below, your love will last forever. Millions of couples have come to the Ponte Vecchio for expressly this reason, to lock in their love and throw away the key for eternity. Most of the padlocks had to be removed by the city council, as they were spoiling the bridge’s beauty. Nowadays to discourage this practice, there is a hefty fine for anyone seen doing this, so some couples just come to touch the remaining locks and make a wish that their love will last forever.
The beautiful Gothic style “Duomo” in Cathedral Square, begun in the year 1296 and only completed in 1436, is 110m high and has four hundred and sixty-five steps to the terrace at the top; no lift of course.
Florence is absolutely infested with sculptures, like this Neptune figure whose face is said to resemble Cosimo I de’ Medici. He stands on a high pedestal in the middle of an octagonal fountain, the middle of which is decorated with many more mythical figures. This was the first public fountain in Florence and is in the Piazza Della Signoria,
No photography was allowed inside the museum, so you are spared more statue pics, but we did see the original ‘David’ which weighs in at 6 tons. The story behind this masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture, is that Michelangelo stole cadavers from graveyards at night, to use as models for his statue. He looked like a perfect specimen to me, but our guide pointed out that there is an iron fault line in some of the marble, which has resulted in him having blue veins in his legs, so take heart ladies, even the magnificent David has ‘varicose veins’.
Wishing you all a great weekend. Next week, I’ll take you all to see the beautiful Tuscan town of San Gimignano.