Italy 2023 – A rest day in Florence and a travel day in Tuscany

Rest days are always challenging when on long through hikes. You’re often in unique places that call out loudly for attention. Florence is no different. We did our best to stay off our feet, recovering from the Via Degli Dei, but still managed to get out and explore a few of the famous sites of this magical city. Here are some pics and videos from the day, plus a few from our travel day to the start of our next journey on the Via di Francesco.

Rest Day: Firenze (Florence)

Today was a return visit to Florence for Joanie and my first time in the city. Through many trips to Italy over 45 years, I was pleased finally to have an introduction to the city’s treasures. We strolled through the streets and along the Arno River to take in the architecture, then visited the big draws: David, the Duomo, and Brunelleschi‘s remarkable Dome (the largest brick dome in the world). We climbed to the top for a close look at the dramatic interior artwork and the incredible views.

I look forward to seeing more of the city in the future!

After our stroll, we went to the Galleria dell’Accademia, to see Michaelangelo’s sculpture of David.

Then to the Duomo di Firenze.

The colorful and dramatic interior of the dome, “The Last Judgement,” was designed by Giorgio Vasari and painted by him and his student, Federico Zuccari. We only had a little time to study it while climbing up and down, so I’m happy to have taken a lot of photos to look at all that’s going on!

Part of Brunelleschi’s genius in designing this dome was to place one inside another, within which he built a passage to the top.

In our 360° view of the city, we paid particular attention to the hills over which we’d recently walked.

“We were there!”

What goes up must come down…

After our visit to the Duomo, my talented friend, Jürgen Henrich, shared his painting from 2018 made with the resources at hand: espresso, cola and iced coffee!

Speaking of talent, we love seeing the street performers, and were particularly impressed with the abilities and confidence of these young amateur pianists who shared their gifts with an ad hoc audience of many dozen people in a resonant setting.

Joanie joined in the local tradition of rubbing the snout of the famous Il Porcellino in Palazzo Mozzi. This has been done for centuries, keeping the boar’s nose in a state of polished sheen while the rest of its body has patinated to a dull brownish-green.

As always… we ate well.

Travel Day: From Florence to La Verna

To get from the terminus of our Via Degli Dei in Florence to the trailhead of the Via di Francesco in Chisui della Verna, we spent most of today traveling the 125 km on foot, a national train, a regional train, and a local bus. It was not a particularly easy journey, nor a direct route, and I’m grateful that we didn’t need to rely on a local taxi as a backup. Unlike the Camino Francés (and even the Via Degli Dei), there simply aren’t any taxis around here to help people travel from point to point.

On the way, we spent some time in the city of Arezzo, with its own lovely cathedral.

Hoping to complete our last stage of the day, we now await a local bus. As the local shopkeeper told me, “Hopefully, it will come.”

When it finally arrived, it took us for a slow climb up a narrow, steep, and winding road to the beautiful mountain town of Chiusi della Verna, home of the Sanctuary of La Verna and the “official” starting point of the northern route of the Via di Francesco to Assisi. As this Via is older and allegedly more popular than the Via Degli Dei, I had in mind someplace like Saint Jean Pied de Port, the historical starting point of the Camino Francés, which is crowded much of the year with pilgrims preparing to set out on that camino. I expected a lot of hikers, backpacks and hiking poles; crowded cafés, bars, and restaurants; and a cacophony of languages (ok, mostly Italian…). But we saw nothing like that.

Instead, we found a sleepy mountain village (think old time Big Bear or Lake Tahoe in California) with absolutely no other visitors in sight. The town has two small hotels: one is closed, the other is open but serving dinner only for its four guests (not for “non-residents” like us). A local bar took pity on our hunger and made two nice paninis for us but we were otherwise lacking in food options and wonder what we’ll do for breakfast in the morning. When we asked where everyone was, the bartender and a local merchant both explained in broken English, “Oh yes, there are many Via walkers here in the summertime…” It’s almost July, and we thought, “Isn’t this summer?”

Our only explanation (and this is just a guess) is that this Via sees mostly Italians and they have an easier time working around the current hot weather – they might just be staying at home until the conditions are more bearable. I think that anyone with the chance to wait until this heat wave passes would opt to do just that. For our part, we are already changing our mindset and thinking more like turisti than pellegrini in the decisions we make. I’m anxious to start our walk tomorrow and curious about how we’ll do.

Our apartment doesn’t have a kitchen for fixing a meal, but at least it has this refreshing pool at our disposal.

The local bartender apologized for being unable to prepare a “proper” dinner for us, but we certainly didn’t lack for sustenance. Grazie mille!

Author: Chris

Until 2019, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia focused on Community Economic Development. Before that, I was a high-tech executive, small business owner, consultant and business broker.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.