Monday, July 6, 2009

Impressions of Florence

After numerous turns around a town square outside the walls of Florence, the GPS system leading us to the wrong building in a different section of town with the same address, and several phone calls to Donatella Mia, the proprietress, we finally arrived at Villa Malavolta B&B within walking distance of the city of Florence.

Rather than write about the city with its famous landmarks, I want to focus on my impressions of our stay there, memories that continue to enchant me six months later.

Impressions of our B&B: Donatella, tall and elegant and the exquisite walled villa that had been in her family for hundreds of years. Books piled on tables, on floors and nested in towering bookcases; walls rife with paintings; wooden floors supporting heavy antique furnishings; our blessed room – white and sun-washed, with its comfortable bed and little terrace overlooking an inner garden. On that terrace, accompanied by bird song and under the gaze of an ancient pine we ate chocolates and cheese and apples.

The city Florence with its narrow streets and darkened alleys, the frescoes and sporadic sunshine, people leaning backward to take photos of the wonders above them, students sprawled before the Chapel of St. Margaret, sketching the facade of the church whereDante was married and he first saw his beloved Beatrix. Bill is in his glory, his camera catching more than memorable buildings. He especially adores capturing the faces of the people, their gesticulations as they shop and talk, the arguments loud and often accompanied by laughter and gestures of apology. In Florence on our first night, we took the wrong bus and, at the insistence of a determined red-jacketed woman sitting in front of the bus – empty now of all riders save us – the bus driver turned the bus around and took us to a stop where we could catch the “correct” bus back to the Villa.

A plentiful breakfast of fresh pears and berries, coffee and brioche served in the 300-year-old kitchen launched our very long second day in the city where we visited the sites we missed the day before, sites our hostess said we shouldn’t miss. We walked to the artist’s quarter to dine where she told us the literati and artists ate – Trattoria Casalinga--and where we sat next to a portly, dark-eyed, dark-haired, boil-pocked man who slurped his food with immense gusto. We dined on Bistecca alla Fiorentina, served not in ounces but in pounds and we took the correct bus back to the villa late that night.

On our final morning, I was privileged to accompany the B&B proprietress Donatella – a well-known artist whose works have been exhibited worldwide -- to her artist's studio located on the other side of the garden where she not only paints but builds incredible three dimensional works with neon lights and Lucite. We left our car at the Villa and climbed the tree-lined Via del Monte delle Croce to catch the best views of the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo. We visited the starkly beautiful interior of the Basilica of San Miniato and walked through its terraced cemetery of family vaults and ornate tombs accompanied by music emanating from the basilica as a middle-aged monk drew beauty from the great organ within.

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