Florence!

Finding one’s way.
Florence is beautiful, one can wander around staring at the many buildings each of which is an architectural delight besides being a historical monument. The number of churches, basilicas, museums, squares and parks is enormous. Every hotel seems to be located in a former palazzo, palace. The various epochs blend and merge into one continuous wonderful tapestry of human achievement, and yet each one remains unique. Somehow the city manages to create one harmonious image, to preserve its own inimitable style. I set off in the morning having consulted all manner of maps both real and virtual, determined to find Casa di Dante and pay my respects to the first poet of the Renaissance whose main opus La Commedia Divina is almost eight hundred years old. I walked miles it seems enjoying the sights, snapping pictures. I saw plenty of statues, fountains, parks, lovely historical buildings, domes, churches, palaces, museums and of course crowds of tourists everywhere. In spite of the heat huge lines wound around the cathedral, the Uffizzi Gallery, Palazzo Vecchio, Capella Medici, Palazzo Pitti… This is Florence, one probably needs a lifetime to study all it has to offer. Incidentally I found lots of supermarkets which eluded me the day before. I saw via Guibellini and Via Guelfi which I know from my university history course were the two main warring factions in Florence in Dante’s time. This showed me that his house was nearby, but I could not seem to find it. Finally I did the one sensible thing: I turned my mind off and just floated along. Et voila, as the French would say, I suddenly saw the sign which said clearly “Casa di Dante”. I followed the arrow and then the ubiquitous large group of Japanese tourists to the house, took some photos, saw an announcement that the little church nearby was closed for repairs, made a mental bow to Beatrice and her family, and walked back, or rather strolled along looking for either the dome or the bell-tower, or some other landmark which was to help me get back. I finally found one: it’s a large sign on top of a building which says MARTINI. I walked towards it and from there to my hotel.
Aha, but that wasn’t the end of my adventurous day. While the morning is best spent at trying to enrich one’s cultural awareness, the evening usually brings about the more mundane cares. I needed to find a good food supermarket. The thing is, I perfectly remember the one I liked, I know it’s somewhere nearby, but where? Blessed and cursed with zero topographic ability I can never find anything again. I walked along Via Giglio looking to my left, reached Via Mallarancio and luckily saw the sign CONAD very close. The entrance is really small and it’s easy to miss it unless you are looking for it. It’s a good supermarket with a nice selection of fruits and veggies, cheeses, hams and dairy products. Then I walked in the direction of the train station, towards Via Nazionale directly opposite the station, studied various menus in cafes and pizzerias, found a few supermarkets. Then I walked back, towards the cathedral. Rather than walking along the street which hosts Merkato Centrale, the street goods market and the large farmer’s market, I turned into a parallel street, saw the well-known baptistery ahead of me, strolled along – and wonder of wonders, I found that store I was looking for these three days! I realized that I must have passed it many times and never noticed it because I was walking from the cathedral. The entrance to the shop is small and it is easy to miss it. Coming from the opposite direction however I clearly saw the familiar CONAD sign. Inside the shop is huge, the food choice is really great, and there is a nice large counter where you can buy hot freshly made meats and chicken. Yay! I carefully memorized the location: if you have the Baptistery on your right, you have to take the first street to your left and walk along the left hand side. There is a store called Tiger, than one called Cover Me which sells all kinds of phone covers and more. CONAD is right next to it. I sincerely hope it will still be there today and I will be able to find it at lunch time.

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