Thursday, May 10, 2012


I like to walk. I love entering a new town and walking for hours. Down random streets, discovering something new around every corner, watching people pass by, pausing at shop windows.

And, that was my first day in Firenze. I walked.

I walked across a bridge with a view of a dam. Sun worshipers were sprawled upon the concrete, hastening the onset of skin cancer. I strolled up and down narrow streets, most just wide enough for one car to pass, with sidewalks only a foot and a half wide. I saw tourists galore, Indians, Japanese, German, American, young, old, awed, bored.

I stumbled upon a mazey nest of streets filled with artisan shops. I watched as a sculptor took hammer and chisel to a block of wood. I saw a book binder examine an old and battered tome with the owner standing over his shoulder. She left the shop with the book in his care, looking relieved. Furniture repairers, a chandelier maker, a shop filled with wooden boxes, a man welding an ornate patio table. I bought postcards at an printmaker's. Window after window of artists at work. I spent hours just watching them.

I climbed a hill. It looked steep and long, but I didn't care. There must be a view to behold at the top. I climbed up two dead end streets and had to double back. But, I made it to the top, and I saw nothing. Massive stone walls on both sides of the streets, no view to speak of. I chose a different street on the way down. It was narrow of course, but no sidewalks. It had gutters of flat stone laid in a concave shape. Whenever a car drove by, I had to gingerly step in, holding onto the wall for balance. Downhill was even steeper, and I'm still feeling it in my ankles.

I came across a square tower with large arches on every floor. I could see the staircase winding up inside, and I wondered, are tourists allowed up. I checked - locked. But, a friend has told me where to go for a view. I'll try it today.

I walked down a flight of steps onto yet another twisting, narrow street. There I found a tiny park with a low stone wall. A perfect spot for a rest, so I sat. The view was just another stone wall, and few pedestrians passed by, but it was peaceful.

The sun was blazing hot, far too miserable to enjoy a stroll. But, with the combination of tall buildings and narrow streets, I spent most of my time in the shade.

Almost all buildings are light earth tones with roofs of reddish orange tiles. Even the satellite dishes are painted a dull red to match. Most streets are rectangular stone blocks, much larger than cobblestone. Footing is treacherous. Drainage grates are stone, as are many manhole covers. Unlike those in Rome, these are round.

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