Firenze's bridges
 
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Strada - Impruneta - Pozzolatico - Firenze

-- click on thumbnails for larger image --

Plenty of signs ... but not much action Wisteria threatening to take over everything

It was 25th April ... or Liberation Day. Strada was very quiet so my main worry was would any cafés be open ... Florence was only 25 kilometres away ... surely there would be some open there?

On the other hand I didn't have to worry too much about hills ... Florence, sited on the Arno, was some 200 metres lower than my starting point in Strada.

Waiting for the Liberation Day Parade Clock tower ... time for a second breakfast

After cycling for about five kilometres I arrived at the town of Impruneta.

Able to keep an eye on the time whilst in the cafe

In the main square a small market was well underway ...

... and much to my delight there were several bars and cafés around the square ... all of which were open.

Marching band

Clearly ... as the opportunity had presented itself ... it was wise to have a second breakfast ... and to see how the town celebrates Liberation Day.

After some while a band assembled in one corner of Piazza Buondelmonti and then marched across accompanied by the town's flags.

Parading Italian and Communist flags Vote Communist President Bush's War was not popular

Halfway across the Piazza they had finished their first tune ... and they stopped to have a discussion about what to play next. After some debate they ended up playing the same tune again as they marched out of the Piazza.

Final isolated villa on its own hilltop ...
... and more hills disappearing into the haze

After all this excitement I climbed back on my bike and headed north again.

I climbed up to the small village of Monte Oruilo and then turned into a quiet lane called Via Riboia.

The first ... faint ... views of Florence
Lane passes brightly coloured houses Plant pots

Via Riboia descends along a ridge ... and presents the first views of Florence ahead.

Unfortunately the haze partially obscured the view .. but it was still possible to make out the characteristic shape of il Duomo.

It's amazing to find such a quiet lane so close to the centre of Florence.

Via Riboia Is that an ostrich ... what country am I in? One reason that the lane is so quiet ... almost a squeeze for a bike!
Roadside flowers Last views of open countryside as the A1 Autostrada is crossed

The reason became clear a little further on ... where the lane squeezed between two houses ... so that only the smallest of cars could get through.

The lane also passed an ostrich farm ... maybe they were descended from ones brought back from Abyssinia.

I was pleased to be travelling on this quiet lane ... rather than on then grid-locked A1 Autostrada More wayside flowers

The lane descends through the hamlet of Riboia and then descends more steeply towards the A1 Autostrada.

In one direction the traffic on the Autostrada was completely stationary ... one advantage of travelling by bike.

After crossing the Autostrada I wound my way through the outskirts of Florence to reach the Villa di Poggio Imperiale.

 ... bearing the troubles of the World on your shoulders Villa di Poggio Imperiale

The Villa dates back to the sixteenth Century but has been spoilt by a series of insensitive additions ... the latest of which was a Neoclassical facade.

Beyond the Villa I navigated the increasingly busy streets to reach San Minato al Monte.

The Church of San Minato al Monte

Other than the Baptistery, this church is the oldest in Florence ... dating back to the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.

View from San Minato

San Minato's facade is covered in marble .. where different colours are laid out in bold geometrical shapes.

During the 1630 siege of Florence the church came under attack ... and Michelangelo ordered that the church be protected from cannonballs by wrapping it in woolen mattresses. Presumably a lot of Florentines slept uncomfortably during the siege.

Detail of San Minato's facade View of the facade from the side Lamp bracket
Textures around San Minato al Monte Textures around San Minato al Monte Textures around San Minato al Monte Textures around San Minato al Monte

From San Donato it was only a short distance to Piazzale Michelangelo.

The Piazzale provides panoramic views over Florence ... round from the Ponte Vecchio, along the Arno, past the Palazzo Vecchio's tower to the Baptistery, the Campanile, and the Duomo.

Less attractively it provides a car and bus park ... and very expensive ice cream.

View over Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
'But, how much beauty of another kind is here, when, on a fair clear morning, we look, from the summit of a hill, on Florence! See where it lies before us in a sun-lighted valley, bright with the winding Arno, and shut in by swelling hills; its domes, and towers, and palaces, rising from the rich country in a glittering heap, and shining in the sun like gold'. - 'Pictures from Italy', Charles Dickens, 1846.
Ponte Vecchio
Il Duomo Via della Ninna

From Piazzale Michelangelo the road sweeps down through a series of broad curves to the banks of the Arno.

From there I just had to cross one of the bridges to reach the centre of Florence.

After having spent six days travelling along quiet back roads across the Chianti Region the contrast couldn't have been more dramatic.

Piazzale degli Uffizi The copy of Michelangelo's David out side the Palazzo Vecchio

The centre of Florence was heaving.

Fortunately most people seemed to be more interested in the street stalls ... selling football shirts, handbags, leather belts, and silk scarves ... than in any of the art on offer.

I found out later that I wasn't the first to have complained about how busy Florence is ...

'... but the omnibus place of call being in front of the door of the tower, renders it impossible to stand for a moment near it, to look at the sculptures either of the eastern or southern side; ... not a soul in Florence ever caring now for sight of any piece of its old artists' work ... Deluge of profanity, drowning dome and tower in Stygian pool of vilest thought, -- nothing now left sacred, in the places where once -- nothing was profane.' Ruskin, 1872.
Palazzo Vecchio's tower Il Duomo Football shirts competing with the Medici
Brunelleschi's Dome The cathedral's facade The Baptistery, il Duomo and the Campanile
Ponte Vecchio
'Among the four old bridges that span the river, the Ponte Vecchio - that bridge which is covered with the shops of Jewelers and Goldsmiths - is a most enchanting feature in the Scene'. - 'Pictures from Italy', Charles Dickens, 1846.
Lines of bikes Lines of scooters

Much of the centre of Florence is pedestrianised so is ideal for cycling ... the main problem being the number of pedestrians.

The other problem is bike security ... most of the Florentine cyclists use old or less desirable machines to thwart bike thieves.

I secured my bike at the hotel ... and wandered off to have a coffee ... or two.

Incidentally that reminds me ... Italy has twice as many cafés and restaurants per head of the population than Britain ... 257 inhabltants per establishment in Italy against 451 in Britain, 558 in Germany, 795 in France and, surprisingly, 778 in Spain.

Florentine cyclist Florentine cyclist Florentine cyclist Florentine cyclist
Florentine cyclist Florentine cyclist Florentine cyclist Florentine cyclist
Peace in San Lorenzo's cloisters
 

Kirby James

 
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