The very first moment I saw the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, I knew I wanted to come back and live there. I had just graduated from the University and was ready for a 2-month adventure to Europe with my aunt. Of all the cities and places I visited, there was nothing like Florence. My dream came true a few years later when I was studying at Middlebury College in Vermont for my Master’s Degree and they offered a year abroad to Florence to complete my studies. I won a generous scholarship from a benefactor named Dr. Locascio and I would never have imagined what I would be in store for.
The City of the Renaissance- of Michelangelo, da Vinci, Galileo, Machiavelli, Botticelli and so many more! IT WAS ALL MINE! I rented a modest apartment in via del Romito #1 with a roommate and took the bus to the Università di Firenze every day. I was overwhelmed by the beauty and art that surrounded me. It was easy to find your way to the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) which was filled with gold shops and where many young people “hung out” at night.
Most of the time one could only afford to window-shop on the Ponte Vecchio which was nearly destroyed by the flood of the River Arno in 1966, when all the shops were literally under water. It has long since been restored to its original beauty.
Usually in the evenings as you make your way from the Ponte Vecchio to the Piazza della Repubblica, you see many street vendors and young artists who recreate works of art in the street using special chalks and await tips that people may give them for their work. Unfortunately, they are gone by morning so other artists can share the spaces left behind.
Since those days of getting my Master’s Degree are far behind me, I try to visit as often as I can and still have Florentine colleagues and friends who welcome me “home” with opened arms.
I always rush to Piazza Signoria to see the Palazzo Vecchio with the copy of the David, even though the original is in the Accademia and will take your breath away. It is breathtaking to sit at a Florentine outdoor caffè and gaze at the statues, in particular “Il Ratto delle Sabine” (the Rape of the Sabine Women) by Giambologna.
It is difficult to be in Florence without enjoying the leather crafts and jackets that are everywhere!! Last year we wandered through a back street and saw a leather crafter making purses. He loved my cousin’s purse so much that he asked if he could make a copy of it! His shop was full of leather goods: belts, purses, coin purses, to name a few.
Florence is immersed in gelato, ice cream, that is. It is so beautifully presented with all the different flavors of fruits that it is impossible not to have a cup on your stroll home or during the evening. My all time favorite gelateria or ice cream parlor is hidden behind the Palazzo Vecchio going toward Piazza Santa Croce. I always know when I’m close to Isola delle Stinche 7r because you can see the trail on the ground of ice cream cups displaying it’s name: Vivoli. You must try it when you’re there. So many flavors you wouldn’t have dreamed of!
When I’m in Florence I usually stay in a wonderful pensione called Hotel Villani that is way up on the 5th floor in via delle Oche. Its location can’t be rivaled, right in Piazza Duomo (Cathedral Square, Santa Maria dei Fiori/St. Mary if the Flowers). Its owner, Erminio, always gives me a room with a view so I can see Brunelleschi’s famous cupola (dome) and Giotto’s imposing Bell Tower.
It’s been a long time since my days in via del Romito and those scary oral exams to get my Master’s Degree, but I did it in the most amazing city in the world. These masterpieces in the Uffizi and the street paintings in via Calzaioli extend my respect for the wonderful artists at THASC.
I leave you with this room with a view, which beckons me back again…
Have a wonderful weekend.