Sunday morning and I was back on the train for the one-hour trip to Firenze (Florence.) I arrived at the station at Santa Maria Novella, and took a cab through the town to a small adjoining town up on a hill.
I was last in Firenze ten years ago, and while here, I spent a few nights at hotel Pensione Bencista. It’s an old hotel in the town of Fiesole in the hills above Firenze. The hotel is a fantastic place to stay. Part of it, the part my room was in, was built in the 13th century. Over the years, it has had a couple of additions added on, and finally took its current configuration in the 1800’s. It’s a small farm, with olive trees, and a vegetable and herb garden, which the restaurant incorporates in the meals. There is a panoramic view across the Arno Valley and the Firenze skyline, with Brunelleschi’s Duomo in the center of it. The view from the back terrace is accented by an enormous old blooming wisteria hanging canopy over the upper terrace of the patio area.
The hotel is a labyrinth of irregular rooms with old, but very well-kept furniture and antiques. One of the nicest features is that dinner is served in a large room with many tables, and they seat you for dinner with other guests. It makes the small crowd feel more like a dinner party than a hotel.
On Monday morning, I walked up the hill from the hotel a short way, and caught the #7 bus for the ride down into Firenze. I stepped off the bus in Piazza San Marco, and walked through the narrow medieval streets to the Mercato San Lorenzo.
It’s a city landmark, with both tourists and locals visiting to see all the varieties of foods. In the market, I had an Espresso, and then wandered through the stalls taking pictures of all the colorful displays.
I wandered around the Centro Storico section of Firenze, the town that was the epicenter of what we consider the modern age. The old town is now crawling with tourists, and people selling tourist kitsch. It’s still fun to walk through, and see all the famous places, and sites of historical events, imagining what life might have been like as the forces of science battled with the forces of Christian doctrine. Like any good tourist, my shutter was flicking all afternoon long. There are so many interesting things to see, or perhaps they’re interesting to me because I live in a place where a hundred years is a long time.
I returned to the hotel in the evening, had dinner, and went through the rituals of living out of a suitcase. Fortunately, my Netflix subscription works in Italy, and the hotel has a good fast connection.
On Tuesday, I spent most of the morning getting busses to make my way to the airport, where I had a car rented for the next four days. I got a Volkswagen Golf, and took a circuitous route back to Fiesole for a pizza lunch. Fiesole has the ruins of an ancient Roman amphitheater on the hillside, next to the cathedral. The Romans seemed to appreciate a grand view for the backdrop of their entertainment.
I then returned to the Pensione Bencista to enjoy the atmosphere and view at the hotel. There was a wonderful lightning and thunderstorm in the late afternoon.