Travel Notes – Tuscany 02, Italy

Sunday, July 24th, 2005

As I walked on, I marvelled at this city’s beauty with its brown and yellow dominant buildings. The streets were uneven and incredibly narrow. Cars whizzed by and on every corner you could find gelato cafes and pizzerias. Florence was packed with tourists at this time of year, with summer holidays beginning everywhere. There were quite a number of bicycles, too, and people were dressed in tanktops, summer dresses, and shorts. The one thing about Tuscany that I find most amazing is how you always seem to find surprises at the end of its streets. One good example is the breathtaking view that was to greet me at the end of the street you see below.

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It was already noon by the time I got here. I wasn’t expecting anything extraordinary and in fact my feet were already beginning to hurt again. I’ve never done so much walking in my entire life and thank god I brought my comfortable Puma walking shoes with me! Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, the street in the picture above. The narrowness of the streets made the surroundings shady but it also gave that dark suffocating feeling to it, too. I could see the light was brighter as I neared the end but nothing prepared me for the view that I was about to find. Suddenly, I was staring at the stretch of the River Arno. The sight completely took my breath away. I stood there for a good five minutes and acted like a child who had just found a chocolate tin at the back of a cupboard! On my left was this wonderful view of the Tuscan hills with its famous cypress trees spread out like mushrooms on a patch of green, while on my right I saw the famous street-bridge, Ponte Vecchio.

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Alongside the Arno were multi-story buildings that looked like flats, the colours mostly either brownish orange or bright yellow. I walked on and suddenly heard the chimes of a church bell coming from a building on my left. I remember stopping for a while to enjoy the music-like toll and I could feel my forehead wet with sweat. The sun was staring down at me and as I glanced to my right, I could see the Uffizi Museum across the river.

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When I arrived at Ponte Vecchio, the place was packed with people so I decided to walk on after taking pictures of some stone steps that led to a typical Firenze neighbourhood. My tummy began to rumble and I knew I had to find a place to eat soon. As I mentioned before, Florence is packed with caf├ęs and restaurants with outside tables shaded with pale yellow parasols, but I wanted to find a place that was a bit quiet, away from the hustle bustle of the tourist frenzy. Thank god such a place existed and it was here at Bordino that I had my first lunch in Tuscany. I settled for a pasta dish that came with a basket of bread and I quenched my thirst with a bottle of cool mineral water.

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The Bordino is situated on a quiet street that went upward if you continued to walk past it and after finishing my pasta and a little serving of tiramisu, I continued my journey. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t carry a map with me and just followed where my feet took me. I could never get lost here, I thought. How could I? I was a total stranger in this town and I can’t claim to be lost in a town that I’m not even familiar with, can I? So up and up I walked and once again I was enchanted by the architecture of this town. I was now exploring the neighbourhood and the cobblestone path I was on seem to go further up towards god-knows-where.

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Houses seem to be two or three stories high with no gardens or fences prior to the entry. But then again, who needs gardens if you’ve got beautiful scenic hills just outside your window?! The doors stand on the roadside and if I was naughty enough, I could literally knock on someone’s door as I passed by. For some reason, the Firenzes seem to love painting their houses yellow and the shutters green, for every five houses I come across, two or three of them seem to have yellow walls with green shutters.

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