Sunday, July 12, 2009
Florence and Rome
So, just so you guys wouldn't think that I've only ever traveled to Vancouver, Kelowna, Toronto and Florida, I figured that I'd share a few pictures of my trip to Florence and Rome with you, I visited these two amazing cities in June of 2006 and it was one of the most amazing, eye-opening, independence forming and confidence building experiences in my entire life. It was an absolute dream for me to go and on that trip since I was in my second to last year in McGill's art and architectural history program and it was also quite the feat of courage for me because I was travelling the furthest I'd ever been all by myself. I bought my ticket myself, got on the plane myself and navigated my way through the biggest train station I had ever seen in my entire life, Rome's Termini station, all by myself. I booked my own bed and breakfast in Florence and spent five amazing wandering the city and then got back on the train to Rome and spent a day and a half on my own there before meeting up with my much-loved boyfriend who had been to Rome before and made sure he showed me all the most beautiful places in the city and allowed me to eat like the locals did and thereby taste some of the most amazing food I have ever had. We drank water straight from the thousand year-old aqueducts and it was some of the best water I have ever tasted and we walked all over the city. I actually spent so much time walking during that ten-day period that when I finally rode in a car again it felt strange and I got so used to the higher rate of traffic in Rome and the more condensed populace, that the streets of Montreal, which always seemed busy to me before, seemed oddly quiet. It was amazing to me that when traffic stopped at the traffic light on Queen Mary Road in front of the Oratory, you actually couldn't hear any noise anymore. No horns honking, sirens blaring or people talking because there was usually no one walking by and gosh, ambulances didn't go by every five minutes nor did people honk just because the light was red! I found myself missing Rome and for months afterwards trying to find any way possible to go back there. I truly found it to be one of the most vibrant, stimulant cities I had ever visited, along with New York but in a deeper, more passionate way.
As for Florence, it had a much more laid back feel to than Rome did, there was more pedestrian traffic than anything else, because the city essentially stopped building up int he 17th century. The streets have therefore remained narrow, you won't see any huge boulevards like the one in the above picture of Rome there. The picture below is an example of what the most cluttered street in Florence is like, and by that I mean the most motor-vehicle cluttered.
Yup, Vespas and hatchbacks! Anything bigger than that had a heck of a time fitting through Florence's streets. I saw one poor guy with a Volvo station wagon have to make a three point turn to get out of his villa in the old sector of Florence, it took him at least five minutes to pull it off. I figured he had to be a tourist who had no clue what he was getting into when he rented that car... The best way by far to visit Florence is by foot though, or maybe by bike, but riding a bike takes a lot of guts because, as I mentioned, the streets are incredibly narrow and Italian drivers go incredibly fast and in Florence there are pretty much no traffic signals!!! I kid you not, I walked through the entire city and saw all of two places with traffic signals, Piazza di San Giovanni and Piazza di San Marco. Florence did, at one time, try painting stop signs onto the streets, but most of them are made of cobblestones and the stop signs and lines kept wearing off, so they gave up on it. As for actual signs and stoplights, most of the streets are too narrow to accommodate them, so yeah people stop and go by obeying the 'first arrived, first to go' principal. Astonishingly enough, it works out pretty well there, drivers are pretty civilized and I didn't see a single car or Vespa crash the whole time I was there and I didn't see anyone get hit by a car or Vespa either.
But on to other things! Florence is the most beautiful city I have ever visited. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori, the city's famed Duomo, is a marvel of Gothic architecture capped with a beautiful Renaissance dome. It is truly awe inspiring in its beauty, tears came to my eyes when I saw it for the first time, I actually walked to the piazza my first night in Florence, despite being in a jet-lagged daze because I was simply too impatient to see it. Here are some shots of its facade during the day, just imagine that all of this beautiful pink, white and green marble was carved by hand. It just blew me away, it was so much more striking to me than I ever imagine it would be, even though I had studied it so thoroughly in my classes.
Here's a picture I took of the frescoes on the interior of the dome while I was climbing up to the observatory at the top of it:The other place that truly struck me in Florence were the Bardini Gardens. These gardens are truly a hidden treasure, often overshadowed by the more widely publicised Boboli Gardens of the Pitti Palace next door. After having seen both, I can assure you that the Bardini gardens are the more breath-taking of the two, at least in my opinion. I love the fact that they were less manicured and thereby had a more intimate feeling to them, they were also delightfully shady. One of the best features of the gardens was this beautiful little artificial stream, it seemed to come right out of the fairy-tale books I read when I was little.
So there you have it, a tiny glimpse into my vacation to Florence and Rome. There's so much more I would share with you about it, pictures, info about the city and anecdotes alike, but if I tried to fit all of it into the blog, it probably wouldn't contain much else! To give you a bit of an idea, I took over 1000 pictures during the entire trip and could have taken much more if time and memory card size had allowed for it. I walked an average of six hours a day in Florence and eight in Rome and was so busy taking everything in that I didn't even feel tired while doing it and despite the fact that I spent the six first days of my vacation alone, I never once felt home-sick or lonely. It was the first time I truly realized that I could handle myself on my own, solve problems for myself, think for myself and truly fend for myself. I came out of that trip feeling that if I could get myself an ocean away from home and back on my own and not get lost, hurt, or be robbed then I could handle pretty much anything ;o)
I hope you all had a great weekend and hope that you all some day get to experience something that leaves as much of a mark on you as this one spectacular vacation did on me :o)