This past week has been packed with things to do, people to see, places to go, and even some unplanned surprises. On Saturday night we took our customary passeggiata and when we entered Piazza della Signoria, we noticed that there was a stage set up under the Loggia dei Lanzi. We walked past it to get a gelato on Via dei Neri, and when we returned, a larger audience had gathered and so we waited for the show to start. It was one of the free concerts happening around town for the Genio Fiorentino festival. After about 5 minutes a man came out and began playing traditional Florentine music on a fancy acoustic guitar-type instrument, as well as singing and reading poems. Later we headed home full of gelato and a lovely cultural experience. (Here are links to small videos I took...excuse the quality: VIDEO 1 & VIDEO 2.)
On Sunday evening, which was the last day of the Genio Fiorentino festival, we had made reservations for a free night boat trip down the Arno river with the company, Renaioli. This group has a couple barchetti (small boats), which are flat bottomed, and are powered by a man and a really long stick. There were about 12 of us in the boat plus the tourguide at the front and the rower at the back. He drops a small, very long, wooden pole down to the bottom of the river and then pushes us along. It's a very peaceful, quiet ride and every minute or so we'd see the long pole swing over our heads and drop back down again. (Small videos...VIDEO 1 to see a bit of the boat and row man & VIDEO 2 to go under the Ponte Vecchio.)
It was such an amazing experience to see the citta' (city) from the water. And since it was about 10:30 at night, the lights reflecting on the water made for an even more magical experience. We floated down past the Uffizi and Vasari Corridor, and under the Ponte Vecchio which was lively with music and river-gazers. The next bridge we passed underneath was the Ponte Santa Trinita', which I think is beautiful anyway with the darker stone construction and white sculptures on the archways and ends. I've taken many photos of this bridge since we've been here, but as soon as we rode under the center arch, I looked up and noticed that the white sculpted designs on the stone are actually rams looking down into the water. It's something you'd never know unless you were looking at it from the water. The guide told us that it was the zodiac sign (Capricorn) of Cosimo de’ Medici. About 30 minutes later we were walking back up the ramp to the street level, and it was another one of those emotional times for me. Sometimes the beauty and life here just makes me well up a little.
Yesterday, for our last full day in Florence, we decided to get up really early and make it to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunrise over the city. We were out the door a little after 5am, and were taken aback by how quiet and EMPTY the city was. We walked through Duomo square and we were the only people there...until I pulled my camera out to take a photo, then 2 more people came into view. All the way down the street, into Piazza della Signoria, along the river, across the bridge and up the stairs in San Niccolo, we barely passed 10 people and maybe 3 cars. The moon was still in clear view, but dawn had broken so it was already quite light...but we made it in time to see the sun come over the hillside over Fiesole and the clouds change from violet to orange to white. The sunlight on the rooftops was beautiful and we reveled in being the only people on this lookout point which is normally packed. We even noticed a stage set up and many trailers around...and only found out what it was later in the day as MTV Italia TRL was being filmed here this week. (VIDEO 1 empty streets & VIDEO 2 for view of the sunrise.)
To end our final (full) day here I met with my girlfriends on top of a wonderful hotel near the Ponte Vecchio. There is a modern terrace at the top with dozens of creme pillows lining the benches. We ordered tasty (and refreshing, as it was the hottest day yet) frozen fruit drinks and enjoyed the sunset over the city as we sat and chatted in the shade of a canvas canopy.
I actually got a good rest last night after waking up so early the following morning, and our day has been filled with last minute packing, cleaning, and all the other things that come with moving. We just got back from our last stop at a pasticceria for a bombolone to-go!