You know that feeling of not knowing whether to giggle with excitement or to cry with full emotion? Kind of like when the roller coaster first climbs to the top of a steep drop or when you see your child take her first step. These moments take your breath away. Full on emotion. That was today.
We arrived in Florence after driving through what seemed like a hundred tunnels cut through the mountains. The speeds of the autostrada combined with these lightly lit tunnels and the realization that the Italians believe that the car lane’s lines are just a mere “suggestion”, evident by their constant lane straddling, made for a rather non relaxing drive. Thus, the reason for no pictures of our drive. Beauty, nonetheless. Tiny villages with terra cotta and white colored houses and the obligatory church steeple were scattered about the steep, rugged mountainsides. Mountains turned to green rolling hills and cypress trees and I knew we had finally reached Tuscany.
With a street map of Florence, handwritten directions that I retrieved off the internet and patient teamwork, we found our hotel. This was the sort of teamwork that could have ended in a huge argument had we not found it by such luck! My husband even had his “parking fairy” and he found a parking spot directly in front of the hotel. Our hotel was on the second floor of an historic building (they’re all historic buildings here). I was all prepared with my limited Italian-buongiorno and la stanza per due, per favore (a room for two, please)- only to find out that our proprietor spoke fluent English. Marco was a delight. He brought our bags to our room, poured us a glass of water, gave us a map of the city and we were off into this Italian city that I have read and dreamt about for years!
The narrow streets were filled with tall palazzos, buildings and the occasional marble statue. One could only see the skies looking straight up. We still weren’t completely certain of where we were, but we continued down this ancient, but pedestrian friendly street. Then, in front of us we saw a colorful building- the Santa Maria del Fiore-the famous Duomo. This is the moment my breath was truly taken away. The green, pink and white marbled cathedral (1436) with its large red tiled dome was truly incredible.
The dome was the largest of its time and built without scaffolding. We climbed each and every one of the 463 steps to the top where we had a bird’s eye view of this medieval city-Firenze.
The Campanile (1359) and Baptistry (dating back to the 4th century) were equally splendid. The ceiling of the Baptistry had intricately laid mosaics that illustrated the Last Judgement, yet had is believed to have its beginnings as a Pagan temple. Bronze doors, marble sculptures, stained glass…everything so quintessential Italian.
Here I stood… where Dante was baptized, Brunelleschi designed the Pantheon-like dome and the Medici family roamed. I was in historical heaven.
The day was coming to an end and the skies were clouding up. We quickly found a delightful ristorante, where we sipped a glass of Chianti Ruffina, ate some freshly made pasta and a shared tiramisu and little glasses of dessert wine. Ottimo! Excellent! We made our way back to our room under our umbrella and a perfect Florentine rain. Many beautiful photos could have been taken, but sometimes the moment is best remembered in our minds only. This night is cherished.
Today made me feel like I was young again. That sense of awe and wonder! The excitement! All of this, combined with an understanding and knowledge that many years ago I might not have appreciated. And this was only my first day.