July 07, 2007


Although Florence is a city in a flat valley, took a leisurely stroll uphill across the river enjoying a sunset over the Arno River; Ponte Veccio Bridge leading into the heart of the city, tower of the Plaza Vecchio, and the dome of the "Duomo", (or Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral) still visible at the end of the day.

View from our "third floor" pensione (privately-owned boarding house), within a block of the Duomo, less than a block from a large art supply store ("heaven"), a block from Plaza della Repubblica (a large open pedestrian square), and within a block in any direction of probably 5-6 gellato locations. (In Europe, when something is advertised as "third floor", it usually means fourth floor in reality...in this case our room was up 69 steps for a "third floor" location...)
A few observed differences between French and Italians: The French residents we have observed seem very aware of dressing formally when in public, but in a sensible/frugal way, they are quiet and polite, and it is expected to acknowledge shopkeepers when coming or going from their establishment. The Italians we observed are also hyper-aware of being formally attired - but in this large city, the styles were flashier, more skin was exposed, and the conversations were more animated; definite hand and body gestures. Florence has also been struggling with pollution from a huge population and huge tourist numbers, so the majority of Florence residents ride motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles (in that order), and there are specific parking lots for only two-wheeled vehicles throughout the city. What was enjoyable was watching formally dressed Italian women in sheer flowery dresses and high heels on motorcycles and scooters, flying around cars and pedestrians. (Please note; the shoes in the photo below are not the most extreme length observed - she was just one of the few stopped at a stop light long enough for a photo-op!)

John met a young man from Ohio who is an art student at a Florence academy. In Florence, artists are encouraged to apply for daily permits to create "one-day works of art" - in this case, utilizing pastel chalk in the street, in areas specifically designed for short term works of art. The artists use existing famous paintings for their creations, and usually start on the piece in the morning, after taping the edges of the "frame", and in some cases, blocking out a grid to establish a template. Creations can take 8 hours or more to finish, and tip baskets are near the work during the process, for support from the pedestrians. They are allowed to work on these masterpieces until midnight, when final piece must then be erased/washed from the pavement, for the new artist on the next day. At this area, three artists were preparing different works of art of about 6'x4', and one mentioned that some artists can be employed in this manner full time, making between 200-300 Euros/day ($270-$400 US). The subject here, is by Sir John Everett Millais, La Demoiselle d'honneur
(The Bridesmaid), 1851.

Italy has a whole different "feel" to the people, and yes, the gellato, (ice cream) was probably slightly better in Italy than any glace I have had in France. We checked daily....
Final photo was from Pitti (pronounced "pete-e"), Palace, in the open plaza within the palace. A friendly little gray and white cat was encouraged over from the cafe there, and agreed to a gentle massage - I think his name was Pitti.
<><><> Well, enough for now - more Italy photos will be forthcoming within the next few days.
Buonasera! (Good night!) M