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In Florence with Sister Debbie

Art, History & Food: What More Do We Need?


Thursday 27 June

We had stayed up late to pack, and had an early reveille to get to the Roma Termini in time for our high speed train to Florence. As it turned out, we were able to hail a taxi one block from the flat and were there in plenty of time. The train zipped us to Florence in about 1’ 20”, at speeds up 187MPH, but in absolute steadiness and comfort.

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Our convent where we were staying was less than one kilometer away, and we elected to walk the short distance. But we found ourselves wandering round and round the Cathedral, looking for the right street. We finally found the convent, and were treated with gracious hospitality, amidst some confusion as to what to do with us. They are French speaking nuns in Italy, and Debbie’s rudimentary French helped them to understand that though we had the same surname, we were brother and sister, and thus really did need two rooms.

We were shown to our rooms; mine was en suite (Debbie’s shower and toilet were down the hall, as is very common in Europe)! We had a late lunch at a touristy pizzeria nearby, and fell into some conversation with an Australian couple that are on a world-wide holiday of six month; he retired from the Australian Air Force.

What I really liked about our location was that we were only a 5” walk to the central Piazza, and that when we walked to the end of our alley and looked to the right, there was the dome of the Duomo, big as life, and staring at us!

Due to a short night, we each took a lie down, and met again for our Twilight Walking Tour. With a map and some sense of where we were, we went to our meeting place at the Piazza Republica, and met with Regina our Guide, and a young couple also on the tour, originally from Chicago, but stationed in London. It was a wonderful introduction to Florence. Dinner was at a little place on the way home, where we had a corner table overlooking the street. It was a very late supper, so we both ate lightly; in my case, a p ham that was hot, topped with melons and a yogurt sauce. It is a traditional antipasto, but a twist that showed some great creativity.

Friday 28 June

Unfortunately, neither of us slept well; in my case because the room was hot and stuffy, and I was situated on a street with loud scooters and conversations on the street below, for which the buildings on the narrow street provided excellent amplification

We had purchased the Fierenza Pass: one pass that lets you into most museums and all public transport for a set fee. We met our tour guide Paula, and were off to see Florence. This bridge reminds me of London Bridge, and was spared both by German and Allied forces during WWII.


After some quiet time at the Convent, we were on our way to an early dinner (7PM), when we happened upon the Church we had seen that has free concerts. There was a surpliced Anglican Choir from America queuing up for the processional. We had seen the posters and intended to attend, but had forgotten even what day of the week it was! The Choir was from Richmond, Virginia: S. James’ Church. We enjoyed an hour of a cappela music; primarily mediaeval music by Palestrina and Gabrieli, but closing off with three American spirituals. Debbie, who sings in her church choir, was in 7th heaven, and straining mightily not to join in. The acoustics were outstanding.

Frommers had this to say about the Church:
Church Concerts -- Many Florentine churches fill the autumn with organ, choir, and chamber orchestra concerts, mainly of classical music. The tiny Santa Maria de' Ricci (tel. 055-215-044) on Via del Corso seems always to have music wafting out of it; slipping inside to occupy a pew is occasionally free, but sometimes there's a small charge. Around the corner at Santa Margherita 7, the Chiesa di Dante (tel. 055-289-367) puts on quality concerts of music for, and often played by, youths and children (tickets required). The Florentine Chamber Orchestra, Via E. Poggi 6 (tel. 055-783-374), also runs an autumn season in the Orsanmichele; tickets are available at Box Office or at the door an hour before the 9pm shows.

Dinner was at a steak house, which made very, very good steak.

Saturday 29 June

This was a free day to roam on our own, based upon the tours we had dome. Debbie was determined to climb to top of dome of the Duomo, which is doable and has 400+ steps. My knees vetoed this for me, and instead I went stayed feet firmly on the ground with my camera. Whilst there, I found a religious goods store which had a good set of crystal cruets, which I purchased for Low Masses at S. Bride’s.


In the afternoon, it was off to the Pitti Palace, used by Florentine royal families. Briefly it was occupied by Napoleon. The opulence and beauty were overwhelming, and we eventually headed to the gardens behind the palace.



After some downtime at the Convent, we set off for our final dinner at a restaurant recommended to us by Fr Michael & Elizabeth and their friends at the USO and wine merchants Mike & Mary. The fish was wonderful, the wine bottled specifically for the restaurant, and the tieramassou delicious. Then it was back to the Convent to pack and travel to Venice.

On the way home, we again heard music filling the street. We followed the sound, and came to the House of Dante where there was a cello concert going on. We had looked for this house earlier, having been introduced to it by one of our guides; but we could never find it. In the end, we simply had to follow our ears.

Here’s what I liked about Florence: it was the place where the Renaissance started; a place where art, humanistic thinking, faith, renewal of intellectual life, commerce & lots of money, all came together; all together and all at the same time. As Paula, our guide, observed: it was a gift from God to the city of Florence that all these came together at the same time. What will God do again; not just for Florence, but in our own towns and families and lives? Good questions indeed!

Posted by stbrides 08:27 Archived in Italy

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