Week 4: 25-31 August
With the week having started in Lucca (previous post) and knowing that we would be completing it in Rome (next post), the few days in Florence were spent catching up on some chores like washing and grocery shopping. Walter cleaned the house whilst Glenda slacked off, going to lunch with our friend Malle. We also spent a lot of time organising and booking a trip to Vienna – need to take advantage of the cheap airfares in Europe.
Eating, drinking and walking….
Naturally, this did not mean that we didn’t still embark on our standard long walks– Glenda is currently averaging over 20,000 steps per day – enjoying the art and taking advantage of the good food and drink available in Italy.
One of the trips we made was to the studio of Clet Abraham. When wandering around the streets of Florence, we are constantly seeing street signs that have been “modified” – Clet adds removable adhesive stickers. It was amazing to see all his ideas in one place and to get more understanding – if one can – of what makes him tick.
We spent a morning exploring Oltrarno, something we’ve been wanting to do ever since our first trip to Florence seven years ago – last time we tried, all the little shops were closed for siesta. Oltrano, meaning other side of the Arno (River), is an old neighbourhood that houses some of Florence’s extraordinary historical treasures. However, being further from Florence’s busy central and eastern quarters, means it is a calmer, more authentic and professional area, full of artisan studios flaunting centuries-old traditions and crafts, not to mention the number of antiques stores and small, family-run restaurants.
The roads in Florence are largely cobblestone. Not the easiest to walk on and also not comfortable cycling. The do seem to be rather hard wearing and not require as much maintenance as our bitumen roads – might be wrong. It has been interesting watching them work on one of the roads on our walk into Florence.
One evening, we ventured to a small piazza not too far from home and found Small Bar, where we sat sipping on our Pinot Grigio and watching the world go by. Fortunately we managed to avoid being chewed by any of the enormous number of mosquitoes flying around Florence at the moment! On another occasion, whilst exploring one of the old markets, we got brave and joined the locals for lunch at a market “restaurant”.
Early one morning, we took a run up to Fiesole in the hills just behind out apartment – 5km of UP, UP, UP! Since the 14th century, Fiesole has been considered a getaway for the upper class of Florence and to this day it remains noted for its very expensive residential properties. It is considered to be the wealthiest and most affluent suburb of Florence and in 2016, had the highest median family income in the whole of Tuscany.
When Hollywood comes to town…..
Florence can already be challenging for the locals, being full of tourists night and day – a bit like Disneyland for adults. Now it has also been transformed into a movie set, full of 450+ crew, fast cars, and lots of shooting – where large areas of the city are cordoned off night and day (the entire police force is being kept very busy). Whilst it is exciting at first, seeing an old lady being prevented from walking home by a barricade and rude crewmember gives a glimpse of just one of the challenges being faced by people trying to get on with their daily lives.
One morning, on entering Piazza della Santissima Annunziata – a large square on our way into the main part of the historical centre of Florence – we knew they must be filming there that day as there was a crew of cleaners out giving everything a thorough hosing down.
A couple of days later, on venturing into Piazza del Duomo, probably the most well known and photographed part of the city, they had obviously just completed a scene involving a crazy car chase, shooting and who knows what else. There were tables set up nicely with glasses of wine and baskets of bread (even though it was early morning) and nearby, chairs, postcards and broken glass was strewn along the pavement. We did catch a glimpse of what appeared to be lead actor, Ryan Reynolds, sitting in one of the cars driving through the Piazza – which probably explained the giggly girls seen charging after the car.