Travel Notes – Tuscany 01, Italy

Thursday, July 7th, 2005

We left for Charles De Gaulle real early on Tuesday, 6th of June. The Air France flight to Florence, or Firenze, as the Italians pronounce it, was to leave at 7.30am. We left the car at the airport and before we knew it, we were up in the air. One and a half hours later, our plane landed in Florence, the capital city of Tuscany. The weather was surprisingly hot and as we walked outside to catch a taxi, I smiled under my breath. My dream to see Tuscany, especially Cortona, has finally become a reality. The taxi ride from the airport somehow reminded me of the reckless driving in Jakarta. They sped in and out of the narrow cobbled streets like speeding bullets and several times I had to clutch my seat whenever we came too close to another vehicle. The city itself looked old and tired but overwhelmingly pretty.

It took a while for me to register in my head that I was in Italy. I-T-A-L-Y. The land where people were said to be flamboyant, romantic and extremely flirtatious. A country where food had exotic names and tastes as if they were made for the gods; pizza, spaghetti, calzone, lasagna, pannacotta and of course gelato.

The A Teatro Bed & Breakfast is located on an old street called Via Verdi. From the outside, it looked like a run-down shophouse and I remember feeling a bit nervous as I walked up the stairs to where it was situated on the third floor. You wouldn’t know this place was a B&B judging by its exterior, especially when after you go up, you end up in front of a door that looked like an entrance to a one-bedroom apartment! I silently hoped the inside will look better and not as dreary. But my fears were to be proven wrong. The place was beautiful with cream-coloured walls, its interior neat and wonderfully clean. The rooms all had different colours and the feeling was warm and cozy. My room overlooked the street, Via Verdi, and from the balcony I could see and hear speeding vehicles rush by until the wee hours of the night.

After a few minutes of rest, it was time to check out the area. The first place closest to where we stayed was Pizza di Santa Croce. Situated five minutes away by foot, Santa Croce, the name of the church in the middle of this square, resembled one of the finest examples of Italian Gothic architecture. Its construction began in 1294 and is thought to have been designed by Arnolfo di Cambio. The completion of this establishment was carried out in 1442. Many famous Italians are buried inside this church; Michelangelo and Galileo to name a few.

The piazza was packed with tourists when I was there and little kiosks selling Florentine souvenirs were found on all four sides of this square. With the sun blazing above my head, I walked from kiosk to kiosk to see what merchandise they were selling. On one side of the piazza there was a line of artists painting and selling their art. Most paintings were of the Tuscan countryside with its famous symbol, the cypress tree, standing somewhere in the background.

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