Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

13 September 2009

Florence and The Arno River

I want to go to Florence for one photograph which I missed in 1992 and 1995, a view of the city and the Ponte Vecchio from across the Arno River. From the map it appears that at late morning, with the sun very slightly east of south, the best vantage point will be the Piazzale Michelangelo.

For once in our lives the traffic jam is on the other side of the autostrada - all Florence is heading for the beaches. It’s marvelous to be able to travel at 130 km/h without having a speed camera hidden in the bushes; the wonder of it is that even at that speed we are constantly overtaken by smart machinery doing well over the ton (160 km/h) - big Mercedeses, Alfas, Lancias, the occasional Jaguar, Ferrari, Lamborghini or even the odd Saab 9000 like mine. Fat chance I’d have of doing 160 kays in New Zealand. Italian motorway discipline is superb, everybody stays to the ‘slower’ right hand lanes except when overtaking, and if there is somebody in your way they move over if you flash your lights to let them know you’re behind them. At home that would induce road rage!

We arrive at the north bank of the Arno River and cross on the Ponte della Vittoria to wind our way up the leafy avenue of the Viale Michelangelo near the Boboli Gardens. For some strange reason the Viale Michelangelo becomes the Viale Galileo only to revert once it leaves the Piazzale Michelangelo - our destination. (I think the Italians like changing all these names because they like saying them. This is the most treasured language I’ve ever heard and everybody seems to luxuriate in its pronunciation; it’s the language of people born to poetry).

Piazzale Michelangelo is one damned great car park with hundreds of people milling about. A monster replica of Michelangelo’s David glares at peasants licking ice creams and wearing stupid hats. I get the feeling that it wouldn’t take much for him to suddenly come to life and piddle all over the crowd. Souvenir stands abound selling maps of the city, guide books in Italian, French, English, German, Japanese; straw hats, cotton hats, plastic hats; tee-shirts; ‘David’ pencil sharpeners; paperweights of Brunelleschi’s cathedral dome in snowstorms; brass or plastic ashtrays; buttons, badges and patches. Tired looking stallholders with cancerous suntans have the shifty, narrow-faced eyes of old shafters. Every race under the sun is here with point-and-shoot cameras, flashes going off in all directions in direct competition with the sun; videotape recorders… I hate the place instinctively and, what’s more, the shot I want isn’t here, there’s too much foreground, I want to get over it all and see the Arno, the bridge and the city without a cluttered foreground.

On a terrace below the piazzalle we find an open air café. I walk to the edge of the wide viewing parapet. There is The Shot - it’s got everything, good foreground with a gorgeous jumble of terra-cotta tiled roofs, deep angle into the river, bridge and city all in excellent light. I set up the camera interchanging telephoto and wide angle zoom lenses to take a series of pictures; happy that I’ve got what I came for.

From ‘Antipasto’ random samplings from various writings made over a few years of visits to a ‘New Zealander’s Italy’


No comments:

Post a Comment


Blog Archive

Hits Counter


Loaded Web

Blog Directory for Albany, New Zealand


Blog This Here

Blog Flux

Commentary blogs
Blog Directory


  • <$BlogCommentAuthor$> // <$BlogCommentDateTime$>


By Don Donovan