The left bank is considerably greener. I wander pathways that could lead anywhere, attempting to retrace my steps as little as possible. I indulge one of my photographic obsessions, taking pictures of steps.
I find my way into a stone courtyard of upended flower pots. Soon, however, a man approaches me and ushers me out. Apparently it belongs to a convent.
Of course, there is no escaping attempts to make a buck off of tourists. Lots are filled with vendors selling souvenirs. Almost every one has at least one of two very popular items: T-shirts that read “Ciao Bella” in Coca Cola lettering, and David boxer shorts, featuring what is doubtlessly the most famous penis in all of Italy. Classy. I’m trying to imagine who would buy these, or better yet, who would wear them.
In addition to steps (and doors, more on that later), another affinity I have is for cemeteries, and the Cimitero delle Porte Sante is incredible. It’s as much a sculpture garden as it is a cemetery, filled with elaborate headstones and intricate mausoleums.
Some of the dead are buried within walls, names of generations etched on flat plaques. Some have copies of photographs emblazoned on the stone. Many have receptacles drilled into the wall. Two women bring fresh flowers to one of the graves. A man urges a little girl up the steps. Her nose is severely scarred, likely burned. She looks innocent and somehow beautiful and ugly at the same time. I want to take her picture, but I’m afraid I’ll scare her, so I don’t.
The views are beautiful, green and lush, dotted by cypress trees, terracotta roofs, and the Duomo in the distance. I walk downhill along a walled in pathway that leads to a maze of stone streets, and I don’t want to get completely lost, so eventually I head back up and find my way to a park — Remembrance Park, I think it’s called.
View from along the left bank of the Arno
Eventually, my feet hurt so much that I have to stop and sit down. I sit on a rock, take off my boots and massage my feet by rolling them on top of a ridged water bottle. Have I mentioned the importance of stopping for breaks and actually not walking for eight hours in a row? Yeah. Stop for breaks. Don’t walk eight hours in a row. It hurts.
So I head back toward the right bank, and it’s a completely different scene at 4 p.m. than it was at 7 a.m.
The Ponte Vecchio is filled with jewelry merchants and swarming with people. The piazzas are crowded with tourists and people selling art replications. There are street performers near the Uffizi.
One would think that this creepy live cherub statue person thing would be the oddest thing I spot during this hour, but no. That honor goes to French fry pizza.
By the time I get back toward the Galleria dell’Academia, it’s 30 minutes until closing and the line is down the block, but I’m not overly bothered. I’m exhausted, and to be honest, I’m not hugely inclined toward major sights simply for the sake of seeing them. I grew up in New York and never visited the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. I never went to Navy Pier or the Sears Tower when I lived in Chicago. So I’m not overly devastated to miss David. Apparently I’ve already seen pictorial depictions of his finest attribute on aprons and undergarments.
Tomorrow, I am scheduled to take a bike tour through Chianti and then catch a night train to Assisi. My plans, I am quite certain, are going to change. Jet lag + hours upon hours of walking = a very tired, cranky lady.
After a quick rest, it’s back out for dinner, where I am denied a table at a small restaurant because I am solo, alone. I end up being ripped off at a tourist trap restaurant, where I listen to the American family behind me discuss how they managed to somehow lose (please don’t ask) one of their daughters in Florence.
The night is shaping up to be a bust, but I encounter a very enthusiastic group of what I assume are students, based on their median age, cheering and chanting their way down the street. When they spot me with my camera,* some of them wave and grin. It brightens up my evening, and I am grateful.
*I took video but it costs money to post those.