Saturday, 26 April 2014

First Day in Florence - a Lookback to April 2013

It was around a year ago that we arrived in Florence by train, for a few days exploring this most beautiful city, the flower of Renaissance Tuscany.

We arrived in the dark and walked narrow streets to find our hotel in the Piazza de Santa Maria Novella.
The following morning, we walked between high houses, through medieval city lanes, towards the great city church of Il Duomo.

Relieved of the care of our ponies at home, it was still second nature to find one eating breakfast from his nosebag........

....and two more in elaborate Renaissance tomb paintings inside Il Duomo. These show the development of equine art, of perspective and the three dimensional feeling of movement in the lower painting. It almost looked as though the horse was turning its head and body, ready to step out of the picture.

These are not brilliant photographs, but are a record of the inside of Brunelleschi`s amazing and innovative Dome which was completed in 1436.  The inside painted frescoes are by Vasari, who wrote The Lives of the Artists and who also designed the Medici`s private corridor above the Ponto Vecchio.

In the crypt below Il Duomo, is the final resting place of Brunelleschi.

Outside, is Giotto`s  tall bell tower, the Campanile.

In the Piazza del Duomo, the sun reflected on the hand crafted marble tiles, in greens, reds and white,  that form the fine outer carapace of the church.

Street artists in the Piazza. We watched this grey haired lady`s portrait skillfully taking shape into a very good likeness.

Details of carvings on the Baptistry doors. 

The Baptistry

.....and more carriage horses, enjoying hay while they waited for business.

We made our way to San Lorenzo, the Renaissance family chapel of the Medici`s, who were the ruling family of Florence for centuries.

The green, peaceful cloisters with geometric pathways and an orange tree.

The unfinished facade of San Lorenzo. The fine interior was designed by Brunelleschi.

Along the lanes around San Lorenzo are the market stalls and the central market of Florence. A feast of colour and always thronged with people, tourists and locals alike.

From our hotel bedroom, we truly had "A Room With A View", across the Piazza to the beautiful Gothic church of Santa Maria Novella.

In the afternoon, we crossed the Piazza to the church and entered through the old monastic buildings and gardens. This church is the one that made me want to stay. A smaller, quieter building but filled with works of art to wonder at. Built by the Dominican Order between 1279 and 1357, Santa Maria Novella is one of the oldest and finest churches in Florence.

The Campanile of Santa Maria Novella.

We headed into the centre of Florence again, walking past the Baptistry and the magnificent tiled front of Il Duomo.

Through narrow streets again until we reached a quiet piazza and the Spedale degli Innocenti , the old Foundling Hospital, where unwanted babies could be brought to be cared for in past centuries.

The poignant story of this Admissions Window is below. The spaces between the bars were just small enough to pass a new born infant through, onto a soft cushion inside.

We walked on, through the streets around the Art School and the Botanic gardens. Turning back towards the centre, we passed modern sculpture........

....the Campanile towering over the streets below........

......through the Piazza della Signoria and past the Palazzo Vecchio.....

....past Roman statues......

and a reproduction of Michelangelo`s David, where the original ( now in the Accademia) once stood.

Weary now, we found our way down to the River Arno..... the Ponto Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence. Built in 1345, it still houses the goldsmiths and jewellers of the city and has Vasari`s Corridor stretching above the workshops. The Corridor, lined with paintings, was a private walkway for the Medici family as they travelled between the Uffizzi Palace on one side of the River, to the Pitti Palace on the opposite hillside. It is still not open to the public.

We stood on the Ponto Vecchio and watched the sun sink behind Tuscan hills. Swallows and swifts swooped low over the water and the sun set on a memorable, wonderful day.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Bluebells and Swallows` Nests

The garden looked fresh and alive after two rainy days. I walked around in late afternoon sun and there were clumps and patches of bluebells everywhere.

The heady scent of Viburnum burkwoodii mixed with the soft perfume of bluebells.

The recent rain has been welcomed by those busy building their nests. Wet, muddy puddles in the fields 
saw swallows collecting mud in their beaks, to repair and rebuild last year`s nests in readiness for this summer`s brood of chicks.

So far, only one pair of swallows has arrived home. It is so good to listen to their chittering chatter again, as they perch on the fence rails together and put the world to rights. The rain has encouraged clouds of midges and flies to hatch. The swallows swoop and dip over fields and muck heaps to catch their dinner on the wing.

Three more nests await their owners. Hopefully they will be with us again in the coming weeks.

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Cherry Now.....

"Loveliest of trees, the cherry now"

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now,
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodland I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.