What makes your spirit soar? What fills your heart with joy? Maybe it is something simple like a walk among redwood trees, a smile from a friend or a good meal. Sometimes, however, it is the urge to be a nomad and partake in a grand adventure. My biking trips around Florence fit into the latter category. These outings sparked gallons of joy. I am still flushed with happy endorphins every time I think about it.
Riding a bike around the city center of Florence is so much fun and very Italian. It is a perfect way to maneuver through throngs of tourists. However, there are two important rules that must be followed. Rule #1– you have to wear a skirt that will blow in the breeze as you ride. (it must be long enough to be decent). Rule #2– your bike must have a bell and a basket and you must ring the bell often and with an air of confidence.
Bike Rentals: There are several places in the city center of Florence to rent bikes by the hour or by the day. I like City Bike. They are very friendly and speak some English. You simply leave a deposit, they give you a lock, a map of the city and send you on your way.
I am seriously directionally challenged and have a fear of getting lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood. If someone says to head east on such-and-such a road, it means nothing; I have no internal compass. However, in Florence, the Duomo and Giotto’s Campanile are visible from everywhere, so you can always find your way back to the city center. This knowledge gave me the confidence and freedom to explore without fear.
So on my first biking adventure, I rode around the Duomo, the Baptistery and saw the Medieval architecture. Then, feeling more adventurous, I headed toward the Arno River and Ponte alle Grazie. Crossing the river on a bike was my first priority. I remember well my first glimpse. As I stood on the Ponte alle Grazie and gazed across the water, I was brought to tears. I let my teardrops fall into the water below allowing to form a deeper connection with Florence and all of the joys and sorrows of her inhabitants over the centuries. Tears in the Arno: Lacrime nel Arno Fiume: Every time I see this bridge, I feel the same rush of emotion. On the other side of river there are lazy neighborhoods with excellent restaurants. I made a mental note of places I might want to stop on the way back and headed up the steep streets. It was time to work off some of that pizza and wine.
Destination #1: San Miniato Church, ( About 1.3 miles -2.2 km- from Piazza del Duomo), is one of the oldest churches in Florence and provides panoramic views of the historic center. It was built from the 11th through 13th centuries and the green and white marble facade matches that of the Duomo, the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile below. When taking in this view of Florence, I can’t help but think about Botticelli’s famous painting, Primavera. In it, Zephyr, the wind, was portrayed as new knowledge coming to Florence in mid 15th century. Now that the citizens could read the classics such as Socrates, Homer, and Plato, the city was ready for a rebirth.
Destination #2: Rose Garden
Florence has its share of spectacular gardens such as the Medici’s Boboli Gardens or the wisteria-covered Bardini Gardens. However, during my biking adventure, I stumbled upon a lesser-known green oasis, Giardino delle Rose, the Rose Garden. It is directly east of Piazza Michelangelo and its 2.5 acres are filled with gentle stone paths and beautifully arranged garden spaces. In 1865 the city of Florence commissioned Giuseppe Poggi to create a French style city garden. It is best to visit in May and June when all of the roses are in bloom. In addition to the plethora of flowers and trees, there are 11 sculptures scattered throughout. These were donated by the widow of Belgian artist, Jean-Michel Folon in 2011. His wife wanted him to always be connected to Florence.
See you in Florence!