Stroking the nose of Il Porcellino (a porket statue) in order to have good luck. I couldn’t help thinking of that when the motor of the plane broke, the bus to the gate didn’t start, the escalator was out of service, and the plane next morning couldn’t take off because of the hard wind in hometown Amsterdam. Back home, I read the stroking alone was not enough, in order to have the luck, one should throw money between its legs…That explains it!
With a Pandoro in my arms, (big Italian traditional Christmas cake thing, close to Pannettone, if I might say that) I returned from a trip to Florence, where I had stayed a week to do an Italian language course and to be immersed into Italian lifestyle again. After seven years, it was simply time to go back and finally give my Italian language skills a serious boost.
For those who are wondering if the stereotypes of Italy are still true: yes, they are 🙂 Including the “mammoni” and passionate Italians falling in love with you (while you are standing there trying to figure out when did this actually happen in taht short time period). But, of course, I wouldn’t go back if I didn’t appreciate Italy and its inhabitants, and I learned again a lot more about the Italian way of life. Favourite fact: I found out that with Easter, they have huge chocolate eggs the size of me! I can go inside the egg! Awesome! What will the stewards say next time I will show up at the gate with such an egg instead of a cake? 😀
This time, no couch surfing, although I used the platform to meet up with people in both Florence and Pisa, a city where I stayed one day as well. In Florence I would stay in a guest family, or better said with a guest mama. I had the luck Silvana lived a 5 minute walk from the Leonardo da Vinci School, in the very heart of the city, 15 minutes from the yoga school and 20 minutes from the salsa place. It couldn’t be better.
The school personnel was very friendly and I could choose the class I wanted to be in – no need to say I picked the smallest one in order to have the chance to talk as much as possible. So let’s present my classmates! A Turkish young boy who did not understand the police of Florence doesn’t send away to prison all homeless and beggars, as this is common habit in Istanbul. This guy disappeared after Tuesday. A Brazilian lady who assured us that EVERYONE in Brazil has their own cook 😀 This lady disappeared after Monday. So my last two class days I spent only with Irene, a German mid-age lady with such a positive attitude she did not even notice Florence is like a big public dog toilet! I can only admire that. My teachers, Carla and Tiziana, recommended me some very Italian places to have lunch, aperitivo, and apericena at, since they understood very well I was not planning to mix up with the tourists.
In the evenings, after dinner with my guest mama and having commented the news of the day, I studied and worked. The afternoons, I was free to explore the city. I always love it when after two days you can throw your map away, you recognize the buildings and your sense of direction is coming back in service. This time, it was actually quite fun to discover how the cities are in reality, since I prepared the trip by reading only, without seeing any picture.
Although I had not enough time to visit all the highlights, or the not so highlights, I will share with you the places in Florence that I loved most.
***Chiesa Badia Fiorentina***
I went there with two fellow students and one of the teachers, Monica. Monica turned out to be a passionate teller, but if you don’t have her around: no worries, audio head sets are available ;). This church, originally founded even before the year 1000, is really a hidden gem, with art inside from different centuries – if I’m not mistaken, from the 14th till the 18th. Its story is quite fascinating, as is the art inside. Especially il Chiostro degli Aranci (Cloister of the Oranges) is a serene spot in the middle of the “hecticness” of the city.
***Piazza della Signoria***
If I had not been already impressed by this exposition of art, the Piazza della Signoria by night would manage to shut me up. I passed every night to behold the uniqueness of this square, with its Neptune fountain, Michelangelo’s David (the replica), the Loggia dei Lanzi with its magnificent statues, the Palazzo Vecchio that extends above your head and gives you the feeling it watches over you to avoid you collapsing by seeing all this beauty. By night, the square, and actually the whole city, is illuminated like in a fairy tale.
***The Palazzo Vecchio***
The Old Palace is a wonderful place as well. Since in it resides the municipal government, it’s only partially open to the public. Too bad, since I felt like exploring each stone of it! The Palace presents art from the 15th till the 18th century, on the walls, the floors, the ceilings… and is a superb place to visit when outside it’s cold and rainy.
***Gallería degli Uffizi***
The Uffizi Gallery has been built commissioned by Cosimo I De’Medici, Duke of Tuscany, somewhere in the 16th century. It contains a huge collection of art, one of the biggest in the world, they say. Paintings, and statues. The corridors with the marble statues are very impressive, and I especially loved what I call ‘the statue room’ (I do not remember its real name, sorry, but it is among the pictures).
***Piazzale Michelangelo and Chiesa di San Miniato***
This square is situated on a hill in the Oltrarno quarter, from where you have a magnificent view over the city. To avoid the mass turism you can go slightly higher up to the San Miniato Church and take your pictures from there.
I didn’t had a lot of time to explore this part of the city, which is a pity, but I headed here for the yoga school (which I never found) and have been enchanted by its charm. It seems miles away from the hectic city center, while it’s just one bridge away, and still breathes the idea of a city from back then. Maybe even a bit like a Hobbit village (sorry, just saw Hobbit 3 ;)).
Ok, you’ll have understand by now: Florence = art. Generally, I’m more a nature lover than an art lover, but I can genuinely say Florence is an ABSOLUTE MUST for everyone. Of course, there is much more to see than I described here: just go and discover yourself 🙂 If I might recommend you a last thing: December is actually an excellent period to visit – not only because of the enchanting sight the city has in the darkness of the early night and the christmas ambience, but also because mass tourism is far away. No lines, no reservations, which actually allows you to really emerge in the (he)art of this city.
Wandering around the city, there was also time to reflect on 2014. Or to reflect on the reflections, since 2014 was full of them. The year knew a lot of goodbyes, some smaller, some bigger, some encouraging, some just hard. 2015 will be no different, I’m afraid. For all the goodbyes, there is a reason, though. It is simply time to let go.
On 28.12.2012 I started my journey towards my dreams. Understanding that the path I’ve chosen is no longer contributing enough to them (although I admitted this just recently to myself), in 2014 I embarked on a road to change. The new year will be there to develop more foundations to move on. It will be challenging – making it far more interesting! 😉 Florence was just a part of this different approach. Jumping up an down at the Piazza della Signoria, I thought of them who saw my eyes sparkling this year. The one who noticed me turning my head towards a hope-giving sound, in the middle of a Sunday market. The one who told me the recipe to survive a particular day I’m very afraid of. The ones I did see not enough this year but I know we care for each other no matter what. The ones who noticed good vibrations around me without me having told anything. The one who noticed I stopped sparkling at all. The one who spent the first evening of 2014 with me. The ones holding my hand. The ones declaring their love to me. The ones not letting me go. The ones who did when they needed to. All these people, and many more, contributed this year to my happiness, and by that, to the journey that’s called life. Thanks – I’m sure that without all of you, Florence would have been far less beautiful!