The International Writers Magazine: Travel in Italy
|My heart is full with having seen David!
Marianne de Nazareth
Firenze, or as we know it as Florence, was the city where Michaelangelo the famous Italian artist, sculptor was born. The city which was the driving centre of cultural rebirth, better known as the Renaissance holds some of the treasures and master pieces which are veritable icons in the art world.
For me Firenze was where ‘David’ the beautiful statue sculpted by Michaelanglo was on display and I wanted to see it again after 20 years! So from Rome we jumped into the last Trenitalia high speed train we would take on this five day ‘pseudo back- packing’ trip we enjoyed, which took us into the Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station. I say pseudo because the we carried only a back pack as luggage for the trip, that was as far as we would go! The real back packers we saw sleeping on the station on mats and washing up in rest rooms were the real McCoy. At the end of a long day of sight- seeing in the blazing Italian noon day sun, we most definitely needed a good shower, change of clothes and flop into bed after a hot slice of pizza and a gelato thank- you ! The internet has revolutionalized travel so we booked reasonably priced hotels from India months in advance, which gave both bed and breakfast deals and which were walking distance from the railway station.
Reaching Florence, we homed in straight for the information desk. We had a whole day devoted to walking about in Florence, taking in the beauty of this city the capital of Tuscany. Here, the information desk was in a building opposite the station and not in the station itself. It was very well organized, akin to the information desks in Denmark and immediately we were given a map and told that we could walk to all the UNESCO heritage spots across the city.
So we set off to the Piazza della Signoria through the little lanes and by lanes of Florence looking for my ‘David’ At an intersection we asked the way forward and yet again a proud and obliging resident walked us towards the lane which would take us to the Piazza della Signoria. Bistros and cafes abounded on the way with brightly flowering geraniums and I wondered why the heck my geraniums back home in Bangalore, did not flower like those did. Then suddenly, like they always do in Europe – the piazza opened out before us and then - there was my statue of David among the milling tourists.
For a minute I slipped my guard and out came my camera, after all I wanted pictures for posterity to take back home. I felt and then saw this tiny gypsy child brush past my back pack and prickles of alarm caused me to check my bag, which thankfully was untouched. The presence of the police everywhere is not really reassuring as the gypsies seem to have free reign across Italy, melting in between the hordes of tourists who are mesmerized by the cities beauty and get robbed of money and passports even if they are as careful as we were. This was the copy of the statue, but the actual sculpture is found in the Galleria dell' Accademia which is the home of Michelanglo's David – the actual 17 ft tall statue where you can revel in its perfection and amazing beauty and admire the luster of pure white marble. David is the true focal point of this gallery at the end of the first and main hallway, in a small dome all to himself. Apparently Michealangelo sculpted David when he was just 30 years old. It was meant to symbolize Florence a small city being threatened by giant rivals at the time.
In the same piazza stands the Neptune Fountain, a huge intricate piece of art and the sound of its splashing water permeated the whole piazza. To the right is the Palazzo Vecchio which is a stunningly beautiful building with a courtyard enclosed with intricately carved inner pillars. This was the historic centre of Florence, over run with tourists dressed in minimal clothing, to combat the hot Italian sunshine.
||This was my last day in Italy as I was flying out to India the next day from Turin. I needed to encash a Euro travelers cheque so on the way to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, I popped into one of the many money changers on the way. Would you believe, but I got 80 Euros for the 100 Euros travelers cheque I needed to change? That’s highway robbery, so never, ever carry travelers cheques in Italy.
But let me hasten to add that it has never happened to me anywhere else in Europe. The max anyone could lose was about 5 Euros.
Dating back to the 13th century Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or the Duomo (cathedral) of Florence is built in the Gothic style and a must see in Florence. The exterior of the frontage is decorated intricately with marble panels in green and pink. The stunning cupola or dome is featured extensively in all the water colours and postcards from Florence. We later sat on the steps, in the shadow of the duormo, near vendors selling tourist trinkets and ate our peaches and plums which we had carried in our packs from Rome.
All the way back to the station we passed shops selling wonderful leather bags in all the colours of the rainbow. Florence is famous for genuine leather products but I had to look away, because back packing does not allow one the luxury of shopping. But men’s wallets and belts were light enough to go into the bag so I splurged there! They also sold colourful leather braids which I just had to buy in a beautiful sky blue for 3 Euros a piece.
“ I am buying two belts,” I said to the vendor, “so what discount will you give me?”
“Ah! you Indian Madam?” he said, with a genuine smile and look of enquiry on his face - but he did give me a discount like any clever salesman would do.
© Marianne de Nazareth August 2010
Fellow with UNFCCC, UNEP & Robert Bosch Stiftung
Former Asst Editor- The Deccan Herald
Adjunct faculty St. Joseph's College & COMMITS