Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 8: Chianti Region & a Florence Evening

From Assisi we head the next morning towards the region of Chianti, a major centre of the Italian wine industry.
 During our drive we start to see the typical Tuscan views that are familiar around the world.
 Vineyards are everywhere and it is dry and hot like the Okanagan (western Canada's wine growing region).
 There are a number of routes through small wine making villages in the Chianti region that one can drive while wine tasting and relaxing in the Tuscan hills that stretch from Sienna all the way up to Florence. We take the main route and stop at one of the small towns called Castellina.
A beautiful wine shop greets us almost immediately.
We wander.

 The main church in town. I am always surprised to find that many small villages have multiple churches.
 Beneath the town's eastern defence wall is Via dell Volte, an arched passageway that was used "originally for ancient sacred rites and later enclosed with a roof and incorporated into the Florentine defensive structure." (Lonely Planet's, Florence & Tuscany)
 We happen upon a solo show of a Tuscan artist from Sienna. Her husband is holding down the fort and we have a nice chat with him. I like her take on the Tuscan hills. Her website is which has totally different work.
and now for a taste of the Tuscan countryside...

 We arrive in Florence in the evening to the only camp ground in they city, Camping Michelangelo, which is located beside Piazzale Michelangelo on the northern hill. We quickly cook dinner and head to the Piazzale to catch the sun setting over the city of Firenze. Like Assisi, I am excited to be back and eager to see as much as I can of my old haunts.
 The River Arno is visible from the view point of the city which is also well known for being a couple's destination in the evenings.

  I am also excited as San Miniato, the monastery on a hill over looking the city, is only a couple minutes walk from the camp site. It is a Benediction church and monastery set on a hill outside of the original walls of Florence. The Benediction monks were traditionally cloistered and the windows inside are small and high looking up to the sky to keep thoughts on heavenly things.
I discovered the church when I lived in Florence. On my first visit I walked in to hear the small order of monks singing their evening mass. It moved me so much that I went back several times a week throughout the year. Behind the church is a cemetery with some of the most beautiful sculptures half entwined in flowers and vines. Unfortunately tonight it is closed until 10am the following morning. I have spent a lot of time there writing and thinking.
It was here at San Miniato that I had the idea for my monks painting as I watched the evening chants with the few monks sitting in their secluded cell yet singing and living together as a community.
 The Farmacia on the church grounds has some beautiful saint images. San Miniato will also be part of my Assisi pilgrimage I decide.
 We head into Florence and head to the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in the city, known for its gold merchants.
 The houses hang over the bridge on either side and as you walk over it is lined with little shops.
 Jewellry shops.
 We head over to Palazzo Vecchio, the Medici's home (along with the Pitti Palace on the other side of the Arno River). The square is bustling.
 We happen to be in the city during a big one night event throughout all the streets of Florenc: Vogue's Fashion Night Out. It seems the whole city is in on the party. I get behind the Paparazzi and paparazz!
 Florence is full of artists and art students. Here one draws in chalk.
 There is so much to do and see in Florence and I am only interested in trying to get around to all the places I know. We also have the next morning in Florence but the forecast is for heavy rain. I take Nigel to Piazza Santa Maria Novella with its church of the same name. I lived around the corner from here.
 What interests me about the piazza is the L'Angolo Del Gelato Gelateria on the corner. It was the cheapest and largest amount of gelato I could find in Florence when I was a student. It didn't disappoint tonight either.
 For nostalgia's sake I head to Via del Melaranchio where I lived and look up at the top floor where myself and 6 other artists lived. Sigh. It was such a nice memory and I am curious how present day Florence will hold up to my great memory of it. I noticed some differences already. A good one being that no cars can drive in the city centre anymore. Old buildings were shifting from the vibration of the autos.
My old street at night.
 Over on the next street is Via Nazionale where my studio was along with 35 other artists. I can't find the door  plate and wonder if the school has moved locations now.
 Next we head to the Duomo in the heart of the city where tomorrow morning we plan to walk up to the top of the dome (the white lit bit in the background).
 The bell tower.
The Dome.
 And the Baptisty. 
 I can't help feeling strange being back in this city. I wish all my roommates and classmates could be here with me as it was them that I shared my time here with and I link strongly with that time.
  I get into the spirit of the Vogue night as I am handed a mask to put on.
 A replica of Michaelangelo's David outside Palazzo Vecchio.
We pop inside just to get a feel for the magnificence of the palace.
 With a long walk back up the hill we head back to the river via the Uffizi Gallery.
 We pass the Ponte Vecchio all lit up at night.
 A quick glimpse back at the city centre.
 Along the river's edge.
From the top of the Piazziale Michelangelo we look down on Florence and some jazz singers. I am going to be back here as well. I can feel it in my bones.

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