Having an overseas visitor was such a good excuse to revisit some of the old classics in Tuscany, even in my hometown of Florence. To remember the stories told by friends and guides over the years and relate them to a first time visitor to Europe, bowled over by the beauty, was a very rewarding experience!
Here Neptune, impertinently nicknamed ‘the big white lump’ by locals, gazes across to the perfect body of David knowing he is but a poor imitation. The fountain has suffered a lot of damage over the centuries the last being in 2005 when local vandals broke off his hand.
Beautiful David keeps a forever watchful eye towards any possible enemy invasion from the river, ready to defend Florence at all costs. And to think David may never have eventuated! The block of marble was to be given to Leonardo Da Vinci which had Michelangelo racing back from Rome to claim it. The statue in front of the Palazzo Vecchio is only a copy as David was moved in 1873 to the Accademia and the real thing is even more stunning and hardly comparable.
The bronze Perseus, by Cellini, boasts what will happen to any enemy dare they risk to enter the city. The story goes that Cellini was forced to melt down his household pans and plates for the casting! Times were tough even then!
The Baptistery now sparkles after its recent clean and in the dusk the entire Cathedral complex glows. Pope Francesco was suitably impressed on his visit here early November.
Time to explain the Vasari corridor – the passageway between the Uffizi gallery, leading over the Ponte Vecchio and ending inside the Boboli gardens of the Pitti Palace. Built so Cosimo I Medici did not feel at risk walking amongst his populace.
And before leaving Florence a trip by the Porcellino market to touch the nose of the wild boar and let a coin drop to ensure a return visit to the city.
It was now time to explore some of the other classics of Tuscany and where better to start than the Mediaeval Manhattan of San Gimignano. The battle between families to build their tower higher than the other, thus showing their wealth and power gives San Gimignano a unique skyline in the midst of rolling Tuscan hills of vineyards and olive groves.
On to Siena to walk where horses race bareback at breakneck speed around the piazza Il Campo in the magnificent Palio. A piazza where all the locals hang out especially at aperitif time, so we head for a local café to join them.
And as night falls we circuit the Cathedral to see the unfinished walls still leaning precariously, that were to make the Cathedral bigger and better than that of Florence.
Unfortunately the plague hit at that time and the population was halved so together with the structural problems already evident the project was abandoned.
It was not the only monumental building to suffer from structural problems, and you may wonder if it would have become as famous as it has without the lean……where are we? The leaning tower of Pisa of course! The lean has now been brought back to that of 1838 after the foundations were strengthened and it spent many years drawn back by steel cables. The same innocent comment “I thought the tower stood by itself!? ” So many still have no idea that it is actually the bell tower of the Cathedral and are stunned by the, appropriately called, Piazza of Miracles.
The old classics cannot be beaten, still as awesome as ever to both old and new visitors.