Florence and Volterra in two days

We have had a faaabulous weekend. It involved a huge amount of walking, which was tiring but well worth the effort. On Saturday, Stefano and I went into town to stretch our legs (this turned into a five-hour nonstop trek…ooofff, I thought my legs were going to fall off toward the end!), take some photos and check out the festive street decorations/lights as well as the cute Xmas market in piazza Santa Croce. [Note: on your first visit to Florence, make sure that the square and church of Santa Croce are on your not-to-be-missed list.]

Our trek began in Piazza Beccaria and continued through Piazza Sant’Ambrogio, Piazza Santa Croce, Piazza della Signoria, Piazza Duomo and finally through the market of San LorenIMG_3716zo where we hoped to grab a bite in one of our favourite eateries is (but by the time we arrived, there was at least an hour’s wait so we just ended up having a revolting slice of pizza elsewhere, yuck!). Then back to Piazza Beccaria where we had parked our car.

But it was when we reached Piazza Duomo, = Florence’s cathedral square, that my eyes almost popped out of my head. In late October, you see, Piazza Duomo became a traffic-free zone…but Stefano and I hadn’t yet been into town, so what we saw was new to us.

I used to hate to go into town, truth be told. Too much traffic, too much foul polluted air, too much noise from honking cars and so on. But now, without cars, scooters, taxis or buses…only people strolling about or riding their bikes right smack in the middle of the formerly traffic-congested streets…the square actually seems much larger. It was fantastic…hats off to the municipality of Florence for making such a brilliant decision. I took the above photo (baptistery in the foreground) standing in the middle of via de’Cerretani, which used to be a nightmarish street…from a pedestrian’s point of view, of course. Taking a photo from this angle would have been impossible just a couple of months ago…IMG_3786

Yesterday morning we woke up and decided to go to Volterra, a gorgeous ancient Tuscan city to the southwest of Florence, which was settled by the Etruscans in the 8th century BC and conquered by Rome about five centuries later, as I recall. I haven’t been to Volterra since I was a kid with an enormous interest in all things Etruscan, an interest that I still have.

This (above) is a photo I took of Volterra’s cathedral, built in the early 12th century. The façade is Romanesque, as you can see…the marble geometric frame around the main entrance was added in the 13th century.

IMG_3805This photo (left) gives you an intentionally distorted (by me) view of a couple of the buildings in Piazza dei Priori. The one on the right is the early 13th century Palazzo dei Priori studded with Della Robbia glazed terracotta coats of arms dating to the 15th and 16th centuries (I hope to make a blog banner out of them at some point, which should give you a better view of them). It looks familiar, doesn’t it? Well, in fact, I read that it was the inspiration for Florence’s own Palazzo Vecchio, built at the end of the 13th century. Curiosity: I read that some scenes from “New Moon” were filmed inside this ancient building. Not that I am a huge fan of the “Twilight” series…

When you are in Volterra, don’t forget to look down at the stone pavement. Yesterday the massive stones, IMG_3785some of which contain fossil shells, were slightly wet, thanks to a bit of light rain…ah, what amazing colours. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about posting a photo of the city’s pavement on the blog so this, unfortunately, is the best I can offer.

Okay, my time is up. I am on a brief break (so please forgive any typos or repetitions) from a day spent on overdue housecleaning activities. Ah, joy! (not…!) Ciao!

P.S. by the way, I forgot to mention that my current blog banner is a photo I took of a wall fresco fragment in Herculaneum more than two years ago.  


  1. Margaret,
    your description is better than any tour guide. I agree, the “new” “piazza del Duomo” without traffic and busses is marvelous, hopefully they will enlarge the “no traffic” area piece by piece.

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