As I mentioned, Mary and I spent our Florence week in a charming apartment in Oltrarno – the “other” side of the Arno. It was located on a little street much like all the other little streets, with small touches here and there that made me want to turn everything into art.
We are a household of two people and seven bicycles, not one of which is covered in flowers. How is that possible?
Our Florence Untours guide, Helen, took us on an avant-garde tour one evening, lead by her friend Bernard. He pointed out details we might never have discovered on our own, from existing pieces made to look suddenly under water
to street signs altered by a well-known secret rebel
to small installations that really made me want to turn all the things into art. Even if I couldn’t help the Portlandia “Put A Bird on It” skit from going through my head, I was smitten.
As we walked past Machiavelli’s villa, we saw that the entry gate was open. The watchman let us into the entryway – a first for her, said Helen.
The tales that evening were full of Medicis, with murdered lovers, well-kept lovers, and stories of a tunnel that lead from Mr. Medici’s lover’s apartment straight to the Pitti Palace. Ah, romance!
I spent a certain amount of time photographing doorknobs and door knockers. My own suburban villa is outfitted with brassy fixtures from Home Depot I’ve never gotten around to replacing. Since they’re likely to remain that way until I stage the house for selling, I can merely daydream about what I’ll do with a cozy artistic hideaway in the hill country.
And doorknobs too!
Mary and I visited one piazza near our apartment just about every day. And just about every day there was a market of one kind or another.
On this trip I decided to bring home practical, non-breakable souvenirs like these dish towels designed and printed by a lovely woman named Cristina from a town in Tuscany whose name I can’t remember. Find her here.
Piazza Santo Spirito is anchored by its church, a very plain-looking little thing from the outside. You’re not allowed to photograph the interior, but I’m sure you can find some pictures somewhere. Or just go there.
One year there was talk about decorating its facade, and a caffe in the piazza has walls that are decorated with some of the design ideas submitted for consideration – serious and not so serious.
On another day we ventured across the Arno to The Big City and visited Santa Maria Novella. Here’s one description.
As we explored, a thunderstorm shook the world – just as you’d expect, with me inside a church. Fortunately all the decorative elements remained in place. This is not where you’d want to be standing in an earthquake.
On numerous interior walls and throughout a walled garden outside, marble slabs commemorate the dead. I don’t know if bodies were actually interred (inwalled?) here; we really should think about guided tours more often. Many of the commemorative stones are lovely, and touching.
As we left the church, we paused to gape at embroidered vestments and altar cloths. Remember that I was in search of images to use in my garden post art.
From the mind-bogglingly elaborate to the impressively simple, my images of Florence stay with me – as difficult as they are to look at from my current terrible distance. And just as I’ve been perfectly happy to vacation dozens of times in San Pedro, I’ll die happy if the only foreign country I will ever visit is Italy.
See? I’m easy to please.
I’ll close with a few images of a little shop near our apartment. Thinking about it now, I’m inspired to go around hunting down images in my own city.
There has to be beauty everywhere, right?
All we have to do is look.