One of my favorite things to do in visiting any place is to find some sweet spot for a bird’s eye view of the city below. Here in Florence, that magical place is the Piazzale Michelangelo, a square high on top of the left bank of the Arno River. The piazza is dedicated to Michelangelo and there is a bronze reproduction of the marble David here on the hill:
But to get here, you do need to be prepared for the uphill hike, through this gate…
up some steep steps, where you can then take a breather at the Giardino delle Rose
and enjoy a permanent exhibit of works by the Belgian sculptor Folon:
More about this in a bit. Anyway, this vantage point is where you want to position yourself for a Tuscan sunset…
but I know the square is waiting for me at the top of the hill, so I hustle up the steps to try to beat the sun to its slumber and catch the last moments of natural light over Florence:
If running up a jagged hill till I am almost wheezing can lead me to this experience of seeing Florence through rose tinted glasses (or lenses), then I would do it again, and again…
Look at the beautiful Ponte Vechio over the water:
Before I know it, it is dark. But I there is still yet another spot above this square for nighttime viewing of the city lights. To get there, there are more steps uphill. In the dark. Could this be it, I wonder?
Nope! That’s the Chiesa di San Salvatore al Monte, a Franciscan church:
Everything feels pitch dark right now, inside and outside, even if these pictures look like there’s still some light. I hastily follow the path outside till the grassy steps lead me to my final destination, the San Miniato al Monte, a Romanesque church, that is adjoined with an Olivetan monestary:
At the base of the steps there is a cemetery (supposedly the author of Pinocchio is buried here but I am not searching tombstones at night!), and from here, there is a beautiful view of the city lit up below:
I’m both frustrated by my camera–or I should say by my own lack of knowledge of how to work this new camera in limited light–and the biting cold so I duck inside the basilica for cover…
and this is when magic happened. As I’m feeling my way through the very dark church toward its dimly lit sections,
Gregorian music begins to pipe over me. I’d heard that at San Miniato you could hear the monks chant at vespers, but this haunting music in almost complete darkness, echoing inside a very cold church, is beyond description. Like a moth drawn to flame I keep walking toward the sounds until I find the musicians:
Lots of people ask me why I travel. In moments like these I find the answer. I wish you had been here.