13-26 October – Final couple of weeks in Firenze
We decided to keep the last couple of weeks fairly low key, visiting some of our favourite places, catching up with people and dropping in on a couple of new finds. The first few days were fairly balmy – brisk in the mornings but sunny and warm in the afternoons – but strong winds heralded the start of a cold period. We thought that was the end of the warmth as rain was predicted, but as we write this, the temperatures are still OK and the rain is holding off.
Revisiting old haunts….
The first weekend was a repeat of so many, although we both managed a PB at Parkrun, which was a change.
We couldn’t resist a good steak and red wine at our favourite restaurant, L’Ortone – although with the cooler temperatures and shorter days, it was a very different vibe to normal as there we a lot more people there. Speaking of a lot of people – we chose to take a detour home via the main shopping strip and tourist area, only to be mobbed by crowds at 11pm on a Saturday evening. After all, Italians only start eating at 9pm (including children), so that should be expected!
Sunday morning church was a little unusual as we had a baby dedication. With a lot more Italians in the congregation, everything was translated. Needed a bit of extra concentration!
The previous time we had gone to the Royal & Imperial Apartments in Palazzo Pitti, they were so busy that it was difficult to stop and admire the artworks, frescoes and absolute enormity of the rooms. It was nice to take the time to read some of the narratives and take note of some of the details that most people don’t get to see in a single rushed visit. Much the same could be said of our visit to the Uffizi the following day, where we enjoyed some of the paintings we’ve already come to love and admired some that we’d missed.
Full size video @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzH3Tx5Bb-w
Our visits to the supermarket and food markets were largely uneventful, although we couldn’t resist taking a photo of the stall dedicated to all things mushroom and truffle. Whilst a large proportion of these were dried – Mercato Centrale caters largely to the tourists – there are now a lot of fresh mushrooms and truffles hitting the markets and restaurants as the season has arrived with a vengeance! Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio, the market where we shop for fresh food and produce – aimed more at the local community – has stalls that sell only mushrooms and truffles of all varieties, sizes and shapes.
A few new things….
Speaking of markets……whilst looking at a calendar of events for Florence in October, we saw a write up on a market we didn’t know about, in spite of it taking place every week and being huge!. Il Mercato delle Cascine is by far the biggest and cheapest open-air market in Florence, taking place every Tuesday morning from 8am to 2pm in the Parco delle Cascine that runs parallel to the Arno.
This market truly has everything from food to clothes (used and new) to household goods and practical necessities. We even saw solar panels! There is nothing you can’t find and the real question is what won’t you find? For this reason, it is mostly shopping for the locals – they can go to a single market once a week and get most of their necessities in one place. Someone had even bought a large suitcase and he was loading onto the back of his bicycle to transport it home. Hope he made it!
You may have read our previous post about the sandwich shop that was attracting so many patrons that the council had to pass a law stopping people from sitting in the street eating them. Up until now, we have laughed at the hundreds of people standing in queues to buy a schiacciata, hardly believing they can be that good. In fact, we’d been pretty anti getting caught up in the hype. We eventually succumbed to the temptation of buying one of their delicacies, venturing there one lunchtime to see if there was a queue. As there was absolutely no queue, not one person, we figured we had to do it. Was it that good? It was enormous, not as tasty as some others we’ve had, it was fresh. Would we go back – probably not and definitely not if there’s a queue!
We had walked past Ristorante Sant’ Ambrogio a few times on our way to do our market shopping, but had not taken much note. When we saw that it was one of the places we could redeem our loyalty points, we chose it for our Saturday night special dinner. The service was friendly and the food was good – but didn’t beat our favourite, L’Ortone.
On 4 November 1966, the Arno River broke its banks and Florence was totally flooded. Over a hundred people were killed and it damaged or destroyed millions of masterpieces of art and rare books. It is considered the worst flood in the city’s history since 1557. With the combined effort of Italian and foreign volunteers alike, – they called them angeli del fango (“Mud Angels”) – many of these fine works have been restored. New methods in conservation were devised and restoration laboratories established. However, even decades later, there is still work being done and to be done. In a number of places across the city, there are plaques showing the flood marks. We have seen them previously at places like Piazza Sante Croce and the Duomo and been astounded at how far and high the water had come. But just recently, we spotted one of these plaques near home, just on the other sides of the ring road, being close to 2km from the river.
….and generally hanging out….
It has been nice to catch up with Dannielle and Cody, the church pastors, for coffee a couple of times. They live just around the corner and their daughters go to the school across from our terrace, so it’s easy to meet at the local bar. Pity we’re going to have to say goodbye soon – we’ll miss them!!
Piazza Santa Croce continues to be our much-loved go to spot – before or after going elsewhere, we often find ourselves there. From the first time we saw the church façade and the large piazza in front of it, we liked it. It is particularly nice at night when the lights shine on the façade, the tour groups have gone, and children are running around playing games.
We knew that it was coming up for full moon and at the same time we were being blessed with clear skies.
So we chose to take a walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo – Florence’s most popular sunset destination – to watch the sun go down and the moon come up. And we certainly were not disappointed! Whilst the sun has moved much further south and we could no longer enjoy the spectacular reflections when it sets over the Arno, it made for a pretty picture over the surrounding hills. But the star attraction this time (no pun intended), was definitely the moon rising on the opposite side – like a huge bright ball in the sky.
More of a let down was our trip up to the hills of Fiesole where we thought we’d be able to enjoy another sunset and moonrise. The walk up was pleasant and it was good to get out of the city. Sadly, there was soooo much smoke in the air that we couldn’t see much and it was not very pleasant being there. We are definitely not going to miss the pollution in the air here!! Our decision to catch the bus down instead of walking gave us an experience to remember! With a bus that’s probably licensed to take less than 30 people having more than 50 on board, we had an interesting trip down. We were very glad to get off!!
We are living in street called Pier Capponi. We now know what he looks like.
Pier Capponi was at first intended for a business career, but Lorenzo de’ Medici, appreciating his ability, sent him as ambassador to various courts, where he acquitted himself with distinction. On the death of Lorenzo (1492), who was succeeded by his son, Piero, Capponi became one of the leaders of the anti-Medicean faction which two years later succeeded in expelling Piero de’ Medici from Florence. Capponi was then made chief of the republic and conducted public affairs with great skill, notably in the difficult negotiations with Charles VIII of France, who had invaded Italy in 1494 and in whose camp the exiled Medici had taken refuge.
In November Charles, on his way to Naples, entered Florence with his army, and immediately began to behave as though he were the conqueror of the city, because he had entered it lance in rest. The Florentine’s were anxious to be on good terms with him, but when he spoke in favour of the Medici their temper changed at once, and the citizens were ordered to arm and be prepared for all emergencies. Tumults broke out between French soldiers and Florentine citizens, barricades were erected and stones began to fly from the windows. This alarmed Charles, who lowered his tone and said nothing more about conquered cities or the Medici.
The Florentines were willing to pay him a large sum of money, but in settling the amount further disagreements arose. Charles, who was full the Medici’s promises, made exorbitant demands, and finally presented an ultimatum to the Florentine’s, who rejected it. “Then we shall sound our trumpets,” said the king, to which Capponi replied “And we shall toll our bells,” and tore up the ultimatum in the king’s face. Charles, who did not relish the idea of house-to-house fighting, was forced to moderate his claim and concluded a more equitable treaty with the republic.
On November 28 he departed, and Capponi was appointed to reform the government of Florence. But being more at home in the camp than in the council chamber, he was glad of the opportunity of leading the armies of the republic against the Pisan rebels. He proved a most capable general, but while besieging the castle of Soiana, he was killed on the 25 September 1496. His death was greatly regretted, for the Florentines recognized in him their ablest statesman and warrior.