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i swear I didn't realise this was a Kimye wedding florence walking tour

Day 51-52 - Rest day around the Oltrarno, a Rose Garden, graves, San Miniato, and a shut Medici tomb



After our intense three-day Firenze card marathon, Rob gets a sore throat and niggly cough. I jokingly accuse him of Stendhal Syndrome. We don't leave the apartment till 2 pm. When we do, it's only to collect provisions for our final days in Florence; bread, cheese, fennel, rocket, chocolate, crispy flatbread, more of these delicious oval shaped and slightly green tomatoes that you just don't get in New Zealand.






We're wandering around the Oltrarno, the non-touristy side of Florence and my now personal favourite after a few days spent previously mooching around Santo Spirito and the Porta Romana. By accident, we walk past the solid Brancacci Chapel with its sublime and grave Masaccio frescoes. My mother reminded me a few days ago that I "dragged" her and my brother to see the frescoes inside, particularly the ones by Masaccio. I pass it again and am only slightly tempted to go in. I spare Rob my slightly niche interests.


On the way home, everyone is freaking out over the sunset currently showing off over the Arno. We join the sunset freak out and whip out the camera for a pose or twenty. I curse that fact that I didn't put on makeup. Why didn't anyone tell me there'd be a stunning sunset to Blue Steel in front of? 


A brassy, blonde middle-aged woman on holiday with her daughter asks me to take a photo. I warn her, "You guys will be dark." She waves the tip away and says, "We'll lighten it later!". Her Iphone is dumped into my hands. I want to tell her that if she lightens for their faces, she'll lose the sunset but I shut up. No one wants a lesson on light and exposure right now, you idiot. So I take two. The daughter doesn't like her smile. I take one more. The daughter is happy. The woman offers to take our photo. Neither of us wants one but Rob makes sure the settings are ready to go. Once done, she hands the camera back and says sunnily, "You can lighten the photo later!" That's like her pro-tip. As we walk away, Rob starts to laugh. "She didn't take a single photo." 


And friends, that is why whenever we want our photo taken, we have to wait and wait and wait until someone who looks confident with a DSLR comes along. I'm surprised how long we wait sometimes. A lot of people are just using their phones, or even more obnoxiously, their Ipads to take their travel photos. 


On our last full day in Florence, Rob stays home. He's down for the count. I go it alone, dragging myself up the steps to San Miniato al Monte in 80% humidity. Along the way, I get distracted for far too long at the Giardano delle Rose. The landscape views of Florence is set against late-blooming roses and jaunty modern sculptures. It's late autumn so the garden has that overgrown, wilting, slightly shabby feel to it but there are enough roses left to give you an idea of how it's supposed to look. A cat finds me and we sit together on a park bench, by an olive tree, overlooking Florence.


I'm forced to leave this serene rose garden due to a completely rational fear that the Abbey will close at 12 pm. Closing and opening times in Florence are a patchwork quilt of randomness. At any given time of day, in the more local parts of town, half the shops will be closed. Come back two hours later, suddenly, the doors are all open and the shopkeepers are lounging on their stoops. The next day, you come back at the same time to, for example, pick up that musical score of Vivaldi's Sonata bound in Florentine marbled paper (because that's the sort of thing you see stores selling around here), and the entire street of shops are closed. The tourist areas aren't blessed with much more consistency either. For example, one ticket gets you into the Duomo, the Campanile, the Crypts, and the Baptistery. The ticket guy says to you, "Take a photo of the opening times." You look to your left and there is, literally, a matrix of when each thing will be open and they're all different. 


San Miniato is indeed open. So open that us tourists all get the embarrassment of wandering into the beautiful little church, straight into someone's wedding. I try to look nonchalant; even dip my finger into the font and make a sign of the cross. Then I hot foot it out of there. For next hour or so, I'm a lone lady, wandering like a crazy amongst ancient and modern graves. I go round and round and round and the dead surround me. One path looks like it promises an exit; oh no, there's just more graves, getting more and more ancient and moss-covered and creepy as I plunge further away from the abbey. It's like the dead won't let me go. 


The bells are ringing, I'm the only one in the compound, and everywhere I look there's dead people (thankfully, not the in the Sixth Sense kind of way). There's some suspiciously slap-dash statues and reliefs but also sad stories, long silent. An interracial couple; he's from Vietnam and dies in 1960 while his Italian wife lives till 2003. A beautiful blonde girl who died in her twenties two years ago. She's grinning out at me. Disturbing pictures of toddlers from the 1930s. A life-size statue of a couple on their wedding day, radiant smiles and held hands frozen, plopped on top of their grave. People just wishing and hoping to be remembered; confined instead to static photos, hard rocks, fake flowers, fake flames, and slowly fading chiselled writing on tombstones. 

I try to console myself, while trying to desperately get the hell out of there, at least the plastic flowers are pretty. I shake a gate that overlooks the courtyard of San Miniato. I can that the wedding party has emerged and a crowd of people are laughing, blue and white balloons floating in the air. The gate is locked tight. 


I retrace my steps to the exit. Also, the sign that informs me not to take photos. Too late. I hurry away from San Miniato with its graves and the glorious view of Florence it wears like a stately red and cream cape. Trust me to go from cats and roses one hour and lost in a graveyard the next; there's no middle ground.


I weave my way down the mountain, the opposite way I came. Here, there's Piazzale Michelangelo. It's the second copy of David and he's surveying Florence which is at his feet. The piazzale is basically a large carpark with souvenir stands and a view. An old lady reading a newspaper by the trashcan and I are the only two people alone. I take my selfies and my view pictures and leave. I think, just for a second, I wonder where that club from the Jersey Shore is? Oh yes. This girl knows where it is


I'm also shocked to be informed that Kimye's wedding guests stayed at the Westin just down the road from our apartment. Classic. In fact, as I pass the Belvedere Fort, I seem to have innocently stumbled into my own wee Kimye Florence wedding walking tour. They aren't here anymore obviously. Just frat guys laughing at the terrible, algae-ridden fountain near the Tower. Mosquitos are buzzing around the stagnant water. 


Then, to top it off, I unwittingly walk across the Ponte alle Grazie. At the time, I look down into the churning waters and think maybe this is where Lucy Honeychurch stood with George when he threw those bloodied postcards into the Arno? But no, people, this is where Kimye's wedding fireworks were launched from. I hope Florence had the good sense to take down the three cranes I can see from the bridge currently dominating the landscape.


I eat cheescake and dark chocolate gelato for lunch. I'm sitting, observing Santa Croce once again, licking my spoon and thinking, what can I do to top my alone day off. For some reason, see more dead people is the answer. My map reading fails me and I go in the complete opposite direction of San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapel for a good twenty minutes. Drat. During my first visit to Florence, I had a cool A5 size guidebook with a map that had a built-in compass and folded into itself like a little lotus-shaped flower. I never got lost with that thing. 


Finally, I march off in the right direction, peering into all the shop windows who, confusingly, are shut at 3 pm on a Saturday. During my week in Florence, I've taken great pleasure into sticking my nose into shop windows. This time there's butter-soft leather shoes and wooden hairbrushes with cats painting in miniature on the back. The cat hairbrush tempts me but of course the shop is closed.


I'm bustling through the streets, excited to pay homage to my favourite tyrants, the Medicis. I round the corner to the entrance of their stout, domed tomb. The door is shut. One man stands in front of it, at a loss, reading the sign. He frowns and even tests the door. Of course, it doesn't give. The Medici tomb closed around two hours ago, precisely at 2.15. Classic Florence.

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