Tag Archives: tour

F- Florence…A-Z Challenge 2020.

Welcome back to my series on Places I’ve Been for the 2020 Blogging A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’ll be heading over to the magnificent city Florence – birthplace of the Renaissance.

Writing about any city is intimidating, especially when you’re writing to the scope of this challenge which is all about short snappy posts and moving onto the next one. It’s meant to be more that those flashes of passing scenery you see through the windows of a passing train, than a much more considered absorption of each monumental treasure along with that quixotic sounds and aromas unique to that place.

Of course, when it comes to summing up Florence’s grandeur and inimitable history, it’s an impossible task.

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How serene…An early morning perspective of Florence.

 

“Stand on a bridge over the Arno river several times in a day and the light, mood and view changes every time. Firenze is magnetic, romantic and busy. Its urban fabric has hardly changed since the Renaissance, its narrow streets evoke a thousand tales, and its food and wine are so wonderful the tag ‘Fiorentina’ has become an international label of quality assurance.”

– Lonely Planet

So, I’m doing what I can. Almost 30 years down the track, I’m trying to remember my Florence. The Florence I experienced in August 1992 as a 22 year old backpacker who was simply visiting for a weekend. It’s not much to go on but armed with a handful of photographs I will press on.

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Perched on the stairs outside Santa Croce. 

The very first thing I remember about Florence was the heat. I felt like I was inside an oven, when for an Australian quite accustomed to the heat, says a lot. I also remember seeing luscious gelato stores. Gelato in an entirely different league from the pre-packaged stuff you could buy from the local pizza place. The colours were so bright and the gelato so luscious, that even after all this time I’m still salivating and staring through the crowds with puppy dog eyes. Drats! The life of a backpacker living on the smell of an oil rag is pure torture, especially being immersed in such temptation.

My view of Florence is from the street. It’s hot. Crowded. I want gelato, but initially go without (although, of course, you know I later succumbed.) The other thing is that as a young, single woman, I was also an unwitting target for Italian men who clearly saw the pursuit of female tourists as a national sport. However, it made such a difference to have my own personal tour guide. If I can offer one piece of travel advice, it’s “go local”.

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My gut feel is that I didn’t rush to the Duomo, even though that’s where my heart flutters whenever I see an aerial perspective of Florence and the Duomo hovers overhead like a proud mama bear. Located in Piazza del Duomo, Florence Cathedral was formally the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction began in 1296 in the Gothic style to a design of Arnolfo di Cambio and was structurally completed by 1436, with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The magnificent dome, which dominates the exterior, was added in the 15th century on a design of Filippo Brunelleschi. If you’d like to read more about the architectural aspects of the Duomo: Click Here. This is also a good Link.

Birth of Venus

What always comes to mind when I reminisce about my trip to Florence, is seeing Bottacelli’s Birth of Venus for the very first time in person and it was electric, and even exceeded the gelato. I actually bought my very own print of the Birth of Venus, which says quite a lot on my backpacker budget.
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Michelangelo – The Statue of David

Michelangelo’s Statue of David housed at Florence’s Accademia Gallery is well-recognised as one of the greatest artistic masterpieces of all time and well described in the words of Giorgio Vasari:

“When all was finished, it cannot be denied that this work has carried off the palm from all other statues, modern or ancient, Greek or Latin; no other artwork is equal to it in any respect, with such just proportion, beauty and excellence did Michelagnolo finish it”.

Giorgio Vasari

I feel very privileged to have seen this statue in person and from right up close. How amazing. Of course, it’s not the same as meeting Michelangelo himself or seeing the artistic genius at work, but it is enough to walk amongst his shadows here in Florence and traverse the streets he trod hoping that one day I would find my own angel sealed inside my very own metaphorical slab of marble. After all, I was still so young with all the world at my feet and my dreams, weren’t perceived as dreams but imminent destinations and my ticket was there ready in my pocket. Many times, I’ve wanted to jump into my time machine and be that person again. My faith might have been blind but it was real.

Michelangelo’s Tomb

Memory tells me very poignantly, that I also visited Michelangelo’s tomb. Even 30 years later, I still remember standing by his tomb as clear as day and having my photo taken by my local tour guide. That’s monumental. Over the years, I’d forgotten the name of the place or that Michelangelo wasn’t the only incredible mind buried here. Michelangelo is buried in Santa Croce, as are RossiniMachiavelli, and the Pisan-born Galileo Galilei, who was tried by the Inquisition and was not allowed a Christian burial until 1737, 95 years after his death. There is also a memorial to Dante, but his sarcophagus is empty (he is actually buried in Ravenna as he was exiled from Florence). However, I’ve just scanned in my photos and when you read the inscription, you’ll see it’s actually Dante’s tomb! So, my memory isn’t so good after all.

By the way, if you’ve like to read the gripping story of Michelangelo’s Tomb, click here.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Veccio

“Among the four old bridges that span the river, the Ponte Vecchio, that bridge which is covered with the shops of jewelers and goldsmiths, is a most enchanting feature in the scene. The space of one house, in the center, being left open, the view beyond, is shown as in a frame; and that precious glimpse of sky, and water, and rich buildings, shining so quietly among the huddled roofs and gables on the bridge, is exquisite”.

– Charles Dickens

As our tour continues, it’s still stinking hot and full of bodies. I also remember walking across Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River. It was in these shops and markets that all reservations about spending money blew up in smoke and I blame my maths. Back in 1992, we still had the lire and I’ve forgotten what the formula was but I certainly mucked it up and goodness knows how much the leather wallet purse I bought actually cost. In the long run, it didn’t really matter. It was pickpocketing in Thailand on my way home.

These memories comes in no particular order, or perhaps they do. I’m not sure. I’m just finding my way back along the corridoors of memory the best way I can and perhaps I should Google a map of Florence and put things in their rightful place and in a neat little sequence. However, that isn’t me and doesn’t evoke that same sense of travelling by feel and intuition (along with the assistance of my local guide).

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It is my local tour guide who took me out to a local monastery which, much to my amazement, produced Ouzo. I haven’t remembered the name that monastery, even though I sort of remember driving there and more clearly remember having a small glass of clear liquor, which had been made on location by the monks still living in the monastery. It was visiting this monastery which felt incredibly authentic and a window into another world and indeed the reason why we travel…to see and experience something beyond our own backyard and way of life.

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However, I was a 23 year old when I visited the monastry and I experienced this incredible place through those eyes and it was here that possibly my favourite photo of myself on my European travels was taken. I’d spotted this sign on the end of a high stone wall and pulled myself along the top to get into position grateful for my many years of climbing trees as a kid preparing me for the job.

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This photo shows me for how I saw myself…a traveller. I was an Australian over in Europe exploring Italy and I was miles and miles away from home and living the life of a bird.

Doing a Google search from my lounge room back in Australia in 2020, it looks like this monastry was the Certosa of Galluzzo. It would be wonderful to go back and retrace my steps and experience this incredible historica place through more mature eyes.

Florence in April 2020…

Then, I was brutally brought back to the present where Florence and all of Italy is embroiled in the deepest depths of the coronavirus and Florence is closed.

All the world is thinking of you and praying for release, a flattening of the curve an end to this blight. I send you my love and the outstretched arms of a friend. We hope you’ll be okay and we look forward to catching up in person on the other side.

Have you ever been to Florence? Have some memories or posts to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Elizabeth Bay, Sydney – Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

As an Australian in a country with relatively modern architecture, it’s all too easy to feel a sense of inferiority when you’re trying to find even one interesting door to stand tall and proud alongside its foreign rivals. However, after a trip to Elizabeth Bay on Sydney Harbour, I’ve come through with the goods. Indeed, upon reflection, you could say that the doors of Elizabeth Bay know how to make an entrance.

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Hayes Theatre

This trip to Elizabeth Bay wasn’t a purpose-built Doorscursion. Rather, I went over to check out the block of flats my grandparents lived in when they first got married… Caversham Court at 25 Billyard Avenue, a street back from the harbour and across the road from one of Sydney’s most expensive and prestigious homes, Boomerang. I also wanted to simply walk around the area and get a feel for where they lived as well. The plethora of stunning doors was an unexpected bonus.

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Elizabeth Bay Cafe on Greenknowe Ave

This doorscursion starts walking down Greenknowe Ave,  past the Elizabeth Bay Cafe. I’d spotted the magnificent red doors at Kelburn Hall from the bus and was salivating like a dog glaring through a butcher shop window. Even before I’d discovered Thursday Doors, unlocking the door into an entire community of door enthusiasts, I couldn’t walk past a red door without taking a photo and wishing it was mine.

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Quite an entrance!A stunning red double door complete with Ionic columns.

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By the way, although the linear progression of these photos creates a sense of direction, it’s an illusion. Rather, I was completely lost and struggling to connect what I’d seen on Google maps with what I was experiencing on the ground. You see, I’d been looking at Elizabeth Bay from the harbour, where I’d arrived via Kings Cross from behind. While for many this wouldn’t pose a problem, and they’d automatically re calibrate their inner compass, this doesn’t happen for me and I couldn’t orientate myself, which is a fancy way of saying, I was lost. Moreover, I didn’t have a map. While that wouldn’t be a problem for the modern babe,  I’m more of a hard copy girl. Indeed, my sense of direction is so bad, that I need to hold that piece of paper in my hands and turn it round to face the direction I’m going, even if it is”upside down”. Only then, do I have a snowflakes chance in an Australian summer, of finding my way to my intended destination. Indeed, that’s why I’m often left to muse over John Lennon’s words of wisdom:

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

 

Above: My apologies for the leaning columns of Scotforth. I tend to take photos at a slight angle, which look really obvious in photos with such strong lines.

Just to add to my overall state of lostness, my phone hadn’t charged the night before and was as flat as a tack. I not only had no access to Google maps, but I also had no access to my husband. Yes, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I have been known to ring him at work in a serious state of panicked distress when I’ve had no other hope of reaching my intended destination. Talk about humiliating, especially when I’m struggling to ay where I am!

Anyway, I’ve already confessed all in a previous post. No need to rehash!

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After a bit of assistance, I’m now heading down Ithaca Road and soon spot the harbour peeking through the huge touring Moreton Bay fig trees leaning over the road. Phew! Billyard Avenue is on the left and I soon spot Caversham Court. It’s rather distinctive.

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Caversham Court, 25 Billyard Ave, Elizabeth Bay.

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Front Doors, Caversham Court.

Of course, I was looking forward to photographing the front door for Thursday Doors. However, what I couldn’t see on Google Earth, was that the front foyers and the block of flats next door are currently being renovated and my shot of the front door would be obscured by scaffolding. I guess that provides something a bit different for Thursday Doors.

By the way, my grandparents kept good company in Billyard Avenue. One of Sydney’s most prestigious and expensive mansions, Boomerang, is just across the road. Of course, I had no chance of ever getting inside there, although I did manage to photograph the front door and also around the corner, the “Trademen’s Entrance”. Naturally, I was rather chuffed with these finds.

Around the corner, I wandered into Beare Park, which is right on the waterfront at Elizabeth Bay with views across to Island. That’s where I spotted this garage door:

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A lock up garage with harbour views stood out among the flats.

If you are interested in going for a walk in the area, you might like to consult The Map.

Lastly, I thought I’d leave you with a photo of a much more humble door found on Ithaca Road:

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This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: I wasn’t the only one who was lost and having trouble finding Billyard Avenue.

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I hope Zozo the gender unspecified cat found its way home.