Dienstag, 1. Mai 2018

April–Summer is coming

The Capodanno was the start to 7 days of traditions, feasts and trips to parcs. As easter approached, I just had an aperitivo with a woman from New Zeeland and finally visited the cloister of San Marco. There you can not just see a cloister, but also the cells of Girolamo Savonarola and Cosimo il Vecchio. The monastery itself is covered in multiple frescoes, as are the cells. They even found some under the floor! You start outside and after that enter a small floor where you can decide if you want to visit the second floor with the cells. After that you walk to the book shop and from there to the more “museum” part with objects from roman to medieval Florence and stunning wooden ceilings (unfortunately under restauration when I visited).

Just 7 days after the Capodanno, there was the magnificent Scoppio del Carro on easter Sunday. This is an event not to miss when visiting over easter! I got up really early and arrived nearly 3 hours early at the Piazza Duomo. I managed to get a front row place with a really nice view of the space between the Duomo and the Baptistery. First, there was again a big parade (with some guys I saw during the capodanno) with even more groups, guards on horses, flag throwers and anything you can imagine.
What this is all about? Well, this tradition dates back to the crusades and is linked to the Pazzi-Family. Four oxen pull a cart full of fireworks, firecrackers, etc. through the city to its final place between the church’s main door and the baptistery. During easter mass, the bishop uses flintstones (which are in some way linked to Jesus, I don’t remember everything) which were brought as a relict from the holy land by the Pazzi to start the journey of a dove on a thread that starts the explosion(s) of the cart and then returns to the altar. If this happens, it means the next year will be a good year (yes, it did not return).

So back to my experience. I was quiet happy with my spot and even helped an American couple by translating their question to one of the security guards and we talked even after that. The parade was awesome and I had a good view on it. Unfortunately –and even not understandable for the Florentines around me– the car of the fire brigade parked between the cart and my position although there were better places to park it within the same distance to the cart and not blocking the view. After that, I used most of the day to cook my own feast as there was nothing else to do.

On Pasquetta (or little easter) I made it to the Parco Pratolino. It was a Medici Parc and was bought by the Demidoff Family sometime in the 18th or 19th century. The most famous thing for sure is the Giant of the Appenines by Giambologna. The entrance is free and I arrived there early so I could enjoy it without the big crowds. These were expected for the early afternoon as traditionally the families or groups of friends go to parcs like that to have a picknick. I was happy to skip that crowd and edited my photos instead.

The following week was a short one with just one or two days of university and some sunshine. Typically for April, the days with sunshine and the days with rain changed in weird ways and there was no way to properly choose your clothing without being incredibly warm or too cold. I used the weekend (first one with over 25 degrees) to wander around the city and visited the magnificent Casa Martelli, a residence that actually was formed using multiple apartments by the Martelli Family.

And after that the Palazzo Davanzati, a medieval/renaissance palazzo perfectly showing the life during that time on 3 floors. I also visited the Boboli Gardens again as the weather was much better than the last time I visited. Now I understand why most “more local” people prefer the Bardini or rose gardens. But the lemons and oranges were finally visible and it smelled so damn nice!

There was again a small parade the next day. This time some kind of change of guards (Cambio della guardia) to remember the siege and the battles with/under Karl V. It was again awesome and interesting to witness the precision these men have while recreating these things. I mean, I know similar things from Germany, but this is a whole new category! It’s not just “I’m doing that some weekends a year and stay in one place for others to experience it”. It’s “I am celebrating the heritage of my city and I am PROUD of it. I participate not only in official state events, I am also an important part of the religious history and tradition of my city.”
When I see the plans for these events, I think it must be their lives. Meeting around 6 (or earlier) in the morning just to get ready and walk through the city for hours or standing in front of one of the main sights for an hour trying to stay in your role while tourist want to make pictures with you is serious, not just a normal hobby. I really appreciate this passion and have a lot of respect for these guys!

April also brought my first real trip out of the city. I needed a break from my roommates and decided to finally take the train (just 2 hours) to Venice and wander through the canals again after 13 years. I booked a “cheaper” accommodation a 15 minute walk from the Piazza San Marco and managed to not get really lost on my way there.

I enjoyed the city and it’s museums (especially the church of San Marco, as it reminded me of the sequence of Assassin’s Creed inside said building), but it is far too touristy for me, Everywhere I went I did not hear Italian, but German, French and English. I loved riding the boats that were the busses and enjoyed every minute of time on the water while most of the others did not like it (you could clearly see who is a tourist and who a local). I loved actually hearing the waves and seagulls at night, but I still prefer Florence (which is not that touristy).

Happy to be home again, I managed to get through the week without a)getting a sunburn and b)falling asleep everywhere I went because I still had to get over the lack of sleep from the weekend. It got hotter and hotter outside, so I tried to get the right mix of activities inside and outside for the coming weekend. On Friday, I went to Piazzale Michelangelo to participate in the Gelato Festival. You got the chance to taste 16 different flavours of artisanal Ice Cream and a nice look over the city without the crowds. I tasted crazy things like banana-ginger-lime an also really awesome things like ricotta-chocolate-pear and almond-pistachio-nocciola without cream or milk. It was a unique experience and I really enjoyed it! So if it comes to your city, make sure to give it a go!

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Diana Jansen (@hockeytwin2) am

Saturday should be the hottest day of the year so far and I thought a long time about staying in my cool room or going outside. I decided to at least visit the Giardino Bardini and see the wisteria everyone is crazy about myself. After walking the 2.7 km (last part a really steep hill), I wanted to get the free entrance I always get as an archeology student, but the woman at the ticket office did not accept my student card (which is always accepted at every entrance the Boboli gardens have and they belong together), so I had to pay. A bit angry about that I made my way through the garden and park and enjoyed the magnificent view over the city.

Other as the Boboli Gardens or Piazzale Michelangelo, the Bardini Gardens are not really crowded. At least I experienced them not crowded. You could see the Pergola full of wisteria from nearly every point in the garden, but sometimes the plan you got at the ticket office was a bit confusing. It is sometimes not clear if you already saw a thing or not and the names could confuse you if you do not look carefully at the pictures which were obviously taken in summer, so everything looks really different.

Sunday was not a day to relax but a really hard day. I got up at 6.15 in order to be at a meeting point close to the station to participate in a trip to Pitigliano and Saturnia. The bus company was late so the meeting time was changed from 7.10 to 7.40. Ok, I can live with that, but then the organizers decided to wait for people who were 30 minutes late. Everything was later and the “tour” through Pitigliano was so badly organised that we just had 25 minutes of free time to explore by ourselves. Not nice if you wanted to visit the museum inside the Palazzo Orsini. Don’t get me wrong, the city was awesome and picturesque and you had a really awesome view over the landscape but…yeah.
The next stop was the thermal Baths of Saturnia, which were of course totally crowded. I have to say I was not that impressed. Sure it was beautiful, but nothing I could relax at. Because of the crowd I just took detail pictures of the cascades and basins and spend the rest of my day sitting on gravel in the sun as there was nearly no shadow and tried to write something while ignoring the screaming of an Indian family which used it as a fun-swimming pool for their children.
But that was not the worst part of the day. We were told to be at the bus stop at 17.40, but of course many of the people arrived late and the buses arrived around 18.05. We were stuck in a traffic jam in a bus smelling of foul eggs (because why should you shower or even change to clean clothes after spending two hours in sulfuric water) and arrived just in time at a gas station with a bar to be able to use the bathrooms before they closed. Even after that the organizers wanted to play games and sing or listen to really awful Italian radio. Of course I had a headache by that time and just wanted to go home. After 4 hours in that bus, we finally reached Florence, but the buses stopped somewhere in the middle of the street and of course, we did not find the bus stop to take us home so we walked. And for the first time since I am here, my other room mates used the boiler the right way so that there was no warm water. Great day.

The last days of April were more like a holiday than everyday life. On wendsday (25th) was a national holiday for the liberation of Italy from fashism. For me, this did not just mean that I was able to sleep in after returnin late from hockey practice, but also that I would be able to visit the Giardino dell'Iris from that day on until 20th May. The entrance is on the right side of the Piazzale Michelangelo (overlooking the city).

This garden is a real gem. It is not that big (at least it seems not that big), there are really just Irises in all colors and form imaginable and some olive trees overlooking the city. It is free to visit and run by volunteers, but you can buy books, products or just make a donation at the emtrance where the volunteers also answer questions. But you are not forced to buy or donate something! 
It is the home of more than 200 species of the symbol flower of Florence and was founded in the 50s. From 1954 on, a competition is run every year for new creations and you can still see the flowers from that time.
The garden offers some benches and it is allowed to sit on the gras at the last of the terraces where there is also a small pond for water versions of the Iris. It is also allowed to walk on the grass between the flowerbeds, but strictly forbidden to touch the plants.

As not many flowers were blooming yet, it took me about an hour to walk through the garden and take some nice pictures. It was really crowded and sometimes not possible to walk and look properly as some tourist groups (the kind with 30 people and more) decided to visit. As I could not find the bus stop to go back I decided to walk as it would just be downhill and not uphill. 
Worst decision of the day. 
The way led me to the Ponte delle Grazie, and when I almost reached the end, I managed to twist my ancle again as I was watching for a tourist group to be able to chose another way early instead of walking directly through them. I do not even know how it happend. Just that I used my hands just in time to not get bleeding knews from the ground as I was falling. So after crossing the street and sitting in front of an old Palazzo for some minutes, I slowly went back home. Luckily, one of my roommates helped me out with some lotion to control the swelling at least a bit.

So I spent the last few days at home while waiting for my ancle to get better. At least I managed to see the new Avengers movie at the Odeon Cinema in Florence. It is a nice cinema located inside of an old theater and the prices are ok (8.50). They screen in english with italian subtitles (I still don't like subtitles!) and you can choose whichever seat pleases you. I went for the 18.45 screening on a saturday and it was not crowded. The crowds came for the next screening at 21.15.

With the next national holiday (1st of May) just around the corner, the next month will start again with an historical event in Piazza della Signoria and a weather forecast that reminds me of a stormy autumn in Germany. 

These days mark two months in Florence (Time flies o.O and I start to feel more like not just being a tourist. I can understand far more italian than when I arrived back in February (thanks to a good language school and watching my favourite TV-Series in Italian) and are finally able to integrate myself in the everyday life of the Renaissance city. I don't care anymore if lessons start late or do not end in time and am happy to stay longer at university. I am still early to my appointments (I guess I am not able to get rid of that) and want to see as much as possible, but also appreciate a lazy sunday sleeping in (ok, I slept way longer than I expected when I woke up this morning), making some fresh lemonade and just writing some postcards or working on my laptop.
The only bad thing is that I start missing certain foods (why don't italians have "Spätzle" as pasta?) and can't wait to eat simple, cooked in salted water potatoes every now and then.

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