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Finally make it to Fiesole

I got sidetracked on the way to Fiesole yesterday. I went by Santa Maria Novella...and realized that I have never been in this church before. This must be remedied! In I go. Wow! It is really lovely, especially the chancel (aka Tornabuoni Chapel, because it was the Tornabuoni's who commissioned it.) It is ablaze with Ghirlandaio fresoes. So colourful and wonderful. Unfortunately a large tour group is taking up most of the space behind the altar so I must go wander around and then come back to see it in peace. (And the guide was not speaking English, so no point in lingering and hoping for some enlightenment on the hidden messages in the frescoes either!) I think one of the reasons I love Ghirlandaio (aside from the colours and warm feel of his work) is that he does not paint scenes of gloom, which is nice. One of the panels, The Birth of the Virgin, seems curiously crisp and sharp compared to the others, and even the colour scheme seems less warm than his usual look...I must do some research and see if there is any reason for this.

There is a lot of other marvellous art in here too...Masaccio's Holy Trinity, which was one of the first Renaissance works with perspective. Apparently the citizens of the day lined up to get a look at this marvel that seemed to portray depth and "space" on a flat surface. Giotto's 13th century huge wooden crucifix is also amazing...a break from the static Byzantine look of his time, you can feel the weight and pain of Christ, although not the glorified suffering of some crucifiction scenes, this one feels painted with compassion. The Orcagna brothers' "Paradise" scene in the Strozzi of Mantua chapel is NOT my idea of paradise, I have to say! Rows and rows of figures stacked up with no room in between - sounds like hell to me! (Ok, the hell painting on the opposite wall is actually a whole lot worse looking, but still...) I liked Santi di Tito's Annunciation, although found it quite different from others of the day (1592)...perhaps a Flemish influence? I don't know...am not well versed in these things, it just looks different to me.

After spending a couple hours in Santa Maria Novella (once I get in these places, I find it hard to leave!), I was ready for gelato. I stopped at L'Angolo del Gelato and had mela verde (green apple) and dark chocolate-no milk...aha!! I have finally found a chocolate "dairy" product I can get into...wow, this was intensely chocolate and definitely not the normal chocolate ice cream flavour that I do not care for. Yum!

Then I "had" to stop into Santa Trinita...well I was going past and it was open, so really what choice did I have, seeing as this is perhaps my favourite church in Florence?! I only spent a short time admiring the Sassetti chapel (with the brilliant Ghirlandaio fresco cycle), because a group of students seemed to be holding class there. So I mostly wandered around looking at the side chapels. And discovered that I can light them up for free - each one (except the Sassetti chapel) has a box on the side and just press the button and voila! This is a marvel to me and I wonder if all the churches over here are like this and I have viewed a lot of art in the semi-darkness simply because I had no idea I could light the chapels. Well, now I know and will be looking for these light boxes in the future! Because of this "let there be light" discovery, I discover two Annunciation paintings in which the Angel has rainbow coloured wings, which is so unusual, at least I have not seen it before. One in particular was very beautiful...I wrote the name of the artists on a scrap of paper, which alas I do not have with me...I will try to add it another time though.

One the way back to the apartment, I stopped at a fruit/veggie shop and got some grapes, peaches and a bottle of red table wine. (Which was only 4 euro, but that hardly compares to the 69 cents box of red wine from the Billa in Venice!) How absolutely incredible to sit in the apartment eating candy-sweet grapes, drinking a glass of Toscana rossa, with the windows flung wide open and listening to the bells of Santo Spirito calling people to Mass. The warm breeze drifting in, the play of light in the clouds...this is a magical place. If I could somehow transport a handful of special people over here with me, I would never want to leave!! I did eventually rouse myself and went out for supper. I went to Caruso Jazz bar and was so hungry that I ate a whole pizza...oink! It was good though...Parma ham, artichokes, cheese, olives, corn, something else...so, so tasty. Also had a beer, an English best bitter, which was a nice change from all the wine (not that I am sick of the wine!) And then was going to see a concert of Mozart's Magic Flute...but when I got to the church, it was closed and no signs of life. I double checked my paper and had the right date, but something obviously changed since I got the pamphlet last week. Rats. I have another gelato to ease my pain and all is well...except for my tummy which complains about the overload of food today because it is more than I have had in one day for a long time!

Which brings me to today...and Fiesole.

I started out going to see chiesa Ognissanti...which I find is closed for cleaning today. And the Cenacolo is not open on Fridays in any case, but is on Saturday so I will try again tomorrow (if I don't get sidetracked...) While I am in the general vicinity, I go to the train station, which is where the bus to Fiesole can be found. And away I go up into the Florentine hills. It is very beautiful up here, really quite incredible.

I stopped at the tourist information office to see if they have a map...they have only a vague walking itinerary kind of map, which I take. And proceed to walk the "red" route around the archaelogical site. I did not enter that site, because was not feeling like "sights" so much today as just strolling around. It is a gorgeous walk, the panoramic vista on the far side is breathtaking, and there are lots of benches on which to sit and admire this lovely view. I continue up to the Cimitero, where - relief!!! - I find a public washroom. And a quite nice one, by public restroom standards - perhaps this has to do with the sign on the wall: "It is prayed to leave a clean toilet"...this amuses me greatly, so much so that I took a photo! Of all the things to pray for...a clean toilet is a new one to me! The cemetery is unlike any I have ever seen...the graves are so close together, and all have a monument of some sort AND flowers. This is the most colourful cemetery I have ever encountered...if I was planning to be buried instead of cremated, this would be a good place to be. (not that I am planning to leave this world anytime soon!)

Then I decided to set out on the 2.5km "easy downward and uphill" walk to the spot of Leonardo da Vinci's flight. Ok, I am in pretty good shape and used to walking, but would hardly call this an "easy" walk! There are some REALLY steep streets in Fiesole, but the hard part is once you enter the Monte Ceceri park. WOW, one path especially is so steep that a group of Germans, with walking sticks, are coming down in a serpentine manner rather than walking straight down...my eyes gaze up and up and I think: am I crazy to be going UP this path??! Seems I should have approached this from the other direction! Not to be daunted, up I go. The dirt is loose so my footing is a tad iffy, not to mention that there are NO other people (aside from the long gone Germans) and I am not at all certain this is the right path to be on. I am having thoughts of getting lost in the woods with no trail of breadcrumbs to follow home! And now there is a tree down across the path...oh dear. No problem, I climb over and keep going. Phew, this Leonardo site had better be worth it! I come to the stone quarry, where I take some photos. And then the steps leading to the scene of the flight. When I reach the top, there is a large gravel area with a couple picnic tables and a fence. Yeah...right. I did not climb all this way to be kept away from the edge...I climb through the fence (shhh, don't tell anyone) and out to the edge. (I am very careful where I step, don't worry!) Hey, I am at the top of the quarry, cool! I take photos from the top, and then climb back down. I do not retrace my steps through the park but carry on in the same direction. I eventually make it out to the road, and find my way back to Fiesole centre. I tried to see the Etruscan spring as a side step, but all I could do was take a photo through the mesh in the door barring the way. Argh, I climbed all the way down this staircase off Via de Medici just to look through wire?! Frustrating. Oh well, it is so breathtakingly gorgeous walking these streets that look down over the hills around Florence, that nothing dampens my spirits. And as usual, I took SO many photos that my family and friends will be running away screaming in horror when I ask "who wants to look at my trip pictures?" Oh well, if nothing else, I have fodder for enough blog entries to last until my next trip!

It was wonderful to be surrounded by nature and trees for a couple hours. The only building I went in was the Chiesa di Santa Maria Primerana. A church which existed in the 10th century and is thought to be the first Christian church in Fiesole. It is tiny, dark and OH so peaceful to sit in complete silence, absolutely alone...I prayed for a while just because I felt connected in this place. Then I looked around and was surprised to find a large glazed terra cotta crucifix on the wall. That looks very della Robbia, I thought...and on the way out, saw some postcards and sure enough, this was by Andrea della Robbia and made in 15xx (I forget the exact date). You never know what you will find in these little churches.

After all this, I was exhausted so I caught the bus back to Florence. I will leave the Fiesole Duomo, San Domenica, Badia Fiesolina and many other sights for a future visit. BAck in Florence, I grabbed a couple slices of takeaway pizza and eat at the apartment...too tired to eat out. The slices were good though, one was potato and sausage, the other was red and yellow peppers and cheese. And now I think I will have a gelato and go sit somewhere for an hour or so, then head to bed.

Comments (4)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Anne, what a great post! I really enjoy your descriptions of what you see and do ... the Angel with rainbow coloured wings, climbing through a fence, tackling a steep hill, admiring beautiful art in wonderful churches ... its all so good! I'm kind of interested in seeing that public restroom sign! :)

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and I hope you have a good night's rest.


Wow, what wonderful days. I'm envious that you were able to visit Santa Maria Novella, I wasn't able to get in when I was there last month.

Your apartment sounds so nice, I'd love to just sit and eat grapes and listen to the church bells!

Your post today was like a breath of fresh air in a dark and stale day.

I visited Santa Maria Novella but it wasn't open, so I'm glad you were able to get inside.

"fodder for enough blog entries to last until my next trip!"

I can relate to this since I am still blogging about and posting photos from my trip last December! I'll look forward to seeing yours.

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