Rainy Days in Florence

It was nothing but wet, wet, wet for three days in Florence.

We have been extremely fortunate on our travels when it comes to the weather – up until last weekend, that is. Other than some cold and rain when we were in Normandy (which is to be expected) we have pretty much enjoyed sunny, blue skies and warm temperatures. In fact, I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get to wear any of the cold-weather things I had brought along.

All of that changed last weekend, when thunderstorms, loads of rain, and cold temperatures rolled into Florence, definitely not weather that invites one to get out and wander around. We spent all day Sunday huddled in the apartment, in our pajamas, reading, writing and trying to stay warm (heat can’t be turned on until after November 1). On the plus side, we didn’t spend anything!

Rain pouring in under the kitchen window/door. Usually the rain falls parallel to the building so not a problem but this time it came directly at the building. Our host said it had never happened before!

The weather was almost worse on Monday, but we dashed out for a few groceries and gelato in between storms. One of the storms that passed through was so intense that we had water coming in the kitchen window/door, flooding the floor. We grabbed up every towel we could find to mop up the water that had come in and prevent the flooding from getting any worse. It was crazy!

We had also been watching weather reports for the Cinque Terre as we were scheduled to visit there today and tomorrow, but things did not look any better. Yesterday morning our host strongly advised us not to go at this time, that conditions in the Cinque Terre were considered very dangerous as there had been flooding and more storms were expected.

This pretty view lasted less than five minutes before dark clouds and rain returned.

Looking for any excuse to get out of the apartment at that point, we decided to take our chances with the weather and walk to the train station to see if we could get the date changed on our already-purchased tickets. The weather yesterday morning had been bouncing between blue skies and rain (mostly rain), but we bundled up and grabbed our umbrellas, a good thing as it began raining hard within a couple of minutes of leaving the apartment.

We thankfully had no problem changing our tickets at the station. In fact, we were pulled out of a long line by a helpful TrenItalia employee and our tickets adjusted on the spot. We will be going up to the Cinque Terre week after next when things are supposed to have calmed down, weather-wise (we were also able to change our hotel reservation). After the tickets were taken care of we thought that since we were out we should walk around for a bit and see if we could find the 13th century house of the great Italian poet, Dante Alighieri. We’d heard it was not an easy place to find and thought a bit of a challenge might be fun.

My new warm slippers – so comfortable!

We decided to go by way of the back of the Duomo so I could buy a new pair of slippers, one of the purchases we had decided to make in Florence. We first stopped though for some gelato (to get out of the rain) before heading to the shoe store. My new slippers are wool clogs made in Italy by SuperGa (“People’s Shoes of Italy”) in a lovely spring green, my favorite color. I had seen them in the window when we were in the area the other day and both Brett and I thought the price was right and that they would make a nice souvenir.

Dante’s bust on the side of the house was our sign we were at the right place.

After buying the slippers we walked around and after a few turns eventually found Dante’s house, helped in part by the sight of a large tour group (all in rain ponchos) that had gotten there right ahead of us. After admiring the old house for a few minutes we walked a short distance intending to visit the Bargello Museum, but it was getting ready to close so we instead decided to return home. The streets were wet with puddles everywhere (some worse than others), and while the sky occasionally broke through the clouds the rain still was coming and going. We had a lovely walk though filled with beautiful views, and we also stopped at a bakery near our place and bought some apple coffee cake for today’s breakfast.

The Ponte Vecchio at dusk. The rain returned a few minutes after I took this picture.

Today’s weather looked like it was going to be better, and maybe not rain at all! Our host’s mother and father came over in the morning to bring us clean sheets, and they offered to clean the apartment for us (we declined – we clean every day). We were also able to finally get a load of our dirty clothes washed and hung out – the sun was shining! Then we set out to visit both the Basilica di Santa Croce and the Bargello Museum. Santa Croce literally took my breath away when we entered – it was an amazing space filled with amazing art. The tombs of Dante, Michelangelo and Galileo are located inside as well as other tombs for or memorials to famous people, and the cloister area outside was also beautiful. We spent nearly an hour there looking at everything.

The facade of Santa Croce.

Michelangelo’s tomb – I did not know that he had been 90 years old when he died, a very old man. He was supposed to have been interred in Rome, but citizens of Florence wanted their native son buried here and his body was smuggled to Florence. The three women at the bottom of the tomb represent Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture.

Before going on to the Bargello we stopped for lunch at a nearby osteria. I ordered a mozzerella, ricotta, and spinach calzone, and was served one that would have fed our entire family. I laughed when I saw it, like “are you kidding me?” but I was actually able to eat most of it (a glass of wine helped). Brett had focaccia with prosciutto, again absolutely huge but he also finished most of it.

This sculpture of a drunken Bacchus was Michelangelo’s first major work. The circular piece to the left, of the Virgin with child, is also by Michelangelo (the Tondo Pitti).

We spent nearly two hours in the Bargello Museum because there was so much to see, from statuary to paintings to pottery to all sorts of Renaissance artifacts of daily life. I was especially interested in the busts – compared to “generic” statuary, the faces on the busts actually looked like people you would see walking down the street today, that all they needed was a spark to reanimate.

When we finally stepped outside it was – sigh – raining again! We figured there was no point in hurrying home because the clothes we had left outside were probably soaked, and neither of us wanted dinner either, so we made stops at the produce market, the grocery store and our neighborhood gelateria before finally going to the apartment. Thankfully the clothes were only slightly wet – apparently it hadn’t rained all that much in our neighborhood.

Special Halloween flavors and designs at our neighborhood gelateria included pumpkin pie, “night” (vanilla colored pitch black), stratiacella with a spider’s web, cinnamon cookie crunch, and other fall favorites.

P.S. Today is Halloween, and we’ve seen a few kids in costumes, and some came into the shops we were in for a “treat” from the shop owner, maybe a cookie or small piece of chocolate. Our neighborhood gelateria had all sorts of Halloween flavors and colors going on! Tomorrow, All Saints Day, is a national holiday so we’ve decided to stay home for the day once again.

8 thoughts on “Rainy Days in Florence

    • Laura says:

      The weather here has been awful, and worse than we imagined in many places. The flooding in Venice is tragic – I read that in many places the flood waters aged a building the equivalent of 20 years in day. We also learned that winds in the Cinque Terre had reached speeds of 112 MPH (Category 1 hurricane), so we were very appreciative of our host’s and others warnings not to go. Hopefully things will have calmed down in a few days, although it’s still cold and overcast here today (11/1). Florence is thankfully not too difficult a city to get around in in the rain, but we did learn there have been terrible floods here as well.

      We’ll go out for gelato later this afternoon, and maybe to the bakery, but that’s it today for us. I’m hoping the sun comes out tomorrow – we have more laundry to do!

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  1. Vivian says:

    I was worried about you and your husband after reading the newspaper and all the flooding in Italy. Glad you are o.k.
    That cathedral is beautiful. It’s weird because the facade looks more modern than medieval. I am really enjoying your pictures.

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    • Laura says:

      Florence has gotten some heavy rain and strong winds at times (like that micro-storm that blew water into our apartment), but the city has thankfully not suffered like other areas. I sort of feel sorry though for businesses here – not a lot of people out these past few days.

      Santa Croce has a very beautiful facade, but the rest of the church (sides, back and cloister) are very medieval looking, and just plain stone.

      I took a lot of pictures yesterday, too many to post, but there are so many things I want to remember!

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  2. Laurel Hill says:

    Wow…the rain/wind are crazy. We watched footage of Venice where we stood last year at this time. The stores on St. Mark’s Square, the flooded floor of the basilica. So hard to watch. And we’re so grateful we’re not there THIS year. Sounds like Florence is bearable even if the weather isn’t ideal.

    Cute slippers! Your search for Dante’s home reminded me of another souvenir I loved…a felt Christmas ornament of Dante himself. 🙂 I love little things with great memories.

    Just before we visited Florence last year, a tourist was killed by a falling stone in Santa Croce, and it was closed for inspection. Very disappointing, but understandable and tragic. So glad you were able to see it and share some pictures.

    Your laundry story made me smile. One of my favorites things in traveling around Italy was seeing all the colorful laundry hanging outdoors.

    Here’s hoping for better weather for you soon!

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    • Laura says:

      The weather has been unpleasant, to put it mildly, the past few days. It’s cold and overcast (and was raining this morning) so we’re staying indoors again today, just to rest up after yesterday’s outings. We thought about going out for gelato, but have some vanilla in the freezer and will top with limoncello cream for our fix today.

      Santa Croce was literally stop-your-breath beautiful, and all the tombs and memorials inside were fascinating. We did see some scaffolding inside but thought they were maybe restoring frescoes. I know there is quite a bit of scaffolding up in Santa Lorenzo to keep bits of marble from falling on visitors.

      Tomorrow we’re heading out to buy some gloves, and to pick up the second item we want to take with us from Italy (will show later). We’ll make a stop for gelato and at the bakery, and then mostly rest again on Saturday as we gear up for four intensive days of museum viewing: L’Accademia, Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens and the Uffizi. Wish us luck!

      We try to be discreet with our laundry, and thankfully it hangs out back versus out on the street. We did another load this morning but it’s all hanging around the house to day as it’s too wet outside to hang there.

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