Wednesday, March 8 I arrived in Florence at 11:30am. The weather was much as it had been in San Diego — 40’s – 50’s at night and 50’s – 60’s during the day. Clear skies and comfortable weather. This time I rented an apartment in the Frediano. I am told this is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Florence. My apartment is situated here, less than a mile from Ponte Vecchio (which is to the southeast), and about the same distance, across the Arno, from the Duomo. From my terrace on the fourth floor of the apartment building I can see the dome of San Frediano in Cestello, The Duomo, and a number of other structures I have not yet identified.
My apartment is called ”octopus” because the layout is all over the place. The pictures did not really explain what I was to encounter. I inquired before I booked whether there was a working lift (elevator) to the apartment and I was assured that there was, as well as a walk-in shower. OK, that’s better than Reggello, I thought. Then, I arrived by taxi with two large bags and my hostess, Maddalena was there to meet me. How fortunate that was.
After entering the large wooden door from the street, there was an inner security gate, then we walked the few yards to the lift. So far, so good. There is a code for the lift, so I was feeling very good about security. We reached the 3rd floor where the elevator ended its journey. Maddalena opened the door to the apartment. (It is a traditional double door, about 18″ wide for each door.) She could only open the right side door, but we managed to squeeze through onto a narrow landing to behold . . .
15 stone steps with no handrail. 🙁 Cara mia. Maddalena said she would handle the bags and I started painfully up the stairs with my computer and handbag, trying to think positive, happy thoughts. At the top of the stairs was a long hallway with windows looking out over the roof, then an open door at the end. The main bedroom was straight ahead and I went through and put down my bags, helping her bring my luggage into the room. She proceeded to give me a tour. Just outside my door were six stairs leading up and then a second door with one step leading up. The second door is a second bedroom. The six stairs are to the living space: living room/dining room, kitchen, bathroom with shower and washing machine. There is a nice terrace just outside the dining room area.
Maddalena had a bottle of chianti, crackers, fresh oranges, flowers, a map of the area (hand drawn) with suggestions of where to eat, shop, visit. She is a charming and considerate hostess. She gave me instructions for lighting the stove, working the thermostat and television and the WiFi log-in. Then she was gone and I was left to consider how best I could use the space.
I went back down the stairs to the bedroom and began unpacking my bags. Plenty of storage and space. Nice firm mattress on the bed. Finding an electrical outlet was a bit more challenging. I finally found a lamp unplugged that appeared to be the only open socket for use. That could be a problem. Then I went back upstairs and decided to lie down on the couch for a quick nap after my 22-hour journey (San Diego – Atlanta – Paris – Florence).
Refreshed and ready to set out to find food and water, I went very carefully down the stairs and out to the street. The location is wonderful. There is a wine shop two doors down, a bar on the corner, a pizzeria on the other corner and a small grocery store five minutes walk from the apartment. I wasn’t sure how I was going to carry too much back up the stairs, so I settled for finding something for dinner and some bottled water. Easily done and I headed back to the apartment. The second trip up the stairs was grueling. Swollen ankles and sore knees made the undertaking arduous. But, by the time I reached the top, I had a plan.
The couch was a comfortable place to sleep. It’s on the same floor as the bathroom and kitchen. It has a great view and outlets for my computer and phone. Done! After a rest, I went down to the bedroom and packed everything I would need for the night in a large cotton Brighton bag (thank you, Aunt Rachel) and went upstairs. That was Wednesday.
Today is Saturday and I have gotten into a comfortable routine. The swelling in my ankles has gone and it is more comfortable to walk around. I’m still very careful and cautious on the stairs, but I don’t dread them as I did when I arrived. When I woke up this morning, I used a macchinetta (stove-top espresso pot) to make by latte and sat on the terrace to enjoy the start of a new day. Chocolate biscotti and an orange and I was ready for Italian practice. After about an hour of learning/refreshing, I set out to explore the area around the apartment. I visited Chiesa die Santa Maria del Carmine and the famous Cappella Brancacci, known for its Masaccio frescos and sometimes referred to as “the Sistine Chapel of the Early Renaissance.” There were probably only 20 people, in total, there visiting — too early for tourists.
Then I headed toward the Arno (see picture) and walked along enjoying the view, the amazing architecture, the interesting people, and the wonderful life of Florence. It is no wonder that so much creativity and ingenuity fills each church, museum and historical structure. After 3600 steps (my Fitbit tells me), I was ready for some food and decided on pizza and beer. It was delicious, with plenty left over for dinner. I had a fiordilatte-based (white sauce) pizza with prosciutto crudo, stracciatella, and olio all’arancia. The lightly sprinkled orange oil was a surprising, subtle compliment to the other ingredients.
Now, I am back in the apartment (stairs were easier today, but I am still being careful) and catching up on work, preparing for the meeting in Germany on the 22nd. I’m so happy to be here. Tomorrow I will walk in the opposite direction and visit the Giardino di Villa Strozzi; supposed to be a lovely park, with beautiful views; it should be a good day for it. And, as always in Italy, on the lookout for unexpected treasures along the way.
Ciao for now,