I left Florence and returned to Rome yesterday. Today I am in Madrid, arrived a few hours ago, spent almost an hour in the metro trying to find my way to Atocha train station. I thought my hostel was near there but it was not. So from Atocha train station I had to take a taxi. So here I am relaxing at my dorm bed in the hostel after having gone downstairs for some sangria and ham! Its raining and is quite cold. The last day in Rome was quite cold too after the rain. I'll be in Madrid only for a few days before I leave again, this time for Lisbon where I'll spend 10 days.
This is Ponte Vecchio over the Arno river in Florence. I took a free walking tour yesterday. I do recommend a walking tour from any organization because these local guides are full of information. I managed to go visit the church of Santa Croce which is a wonderful church, with not too many visitors. This is the place where people like Michelangelo, Leonardo and Dante are buried among other important historical figures. Florence like Rome is packed with visitors. Most people are eating the obligatory gelato. Gelato shops are everywhere. I still managed to enjoy myself and looking forward to returning here in the near future. The high speed trains makes train travel between Rome and Florence so easy and comfortable. What an improvement from when I was last here, over a decade ago.
La dolce vita or the sweet life indeed. Here in Siena is the home of panforte. Mmmmmmm or one can prefer 'la dolce far niente' which is less calorific. I think I'll take 'la dolce far niente.' or the sweet idleness!
My favorite after St Peter Basilica. It is contracted completely of black and white marble, the floors are tiled with biblical narrative, though parts are covered for protection, there are areas where they can viewed. I spent a good part of the day just visiting all areas of the cathedral and at the end had art overload. It was heavy going. I was in Siena some 20 years ago but this time I came specifically to see Siena Cathedral. Siena is an easy one and half hours by bus away from Florence. Its not as busy as Florence and I prefer it to Florence. Florence is one crazy city.
Situated next to the train station of the same name is very beautiful. I prefer this church to the cathedral. Its colonnaded cloisters and cemetery is completely frescoed. The frescoes are mostly intact. Few people visit this gorgeous church, the crowds and lines are mainly at the cathedral.
The lines for everything was super long. I waited for over an hour to get into the Duomo. I was very disappointed with the stark interior. The exterior looks so sumptuous but its interior didn't match its exterior.
I arrived in Rome yesterday. I went to the garden at Ninfa today and have just arrived back in Rome. I took the train to Latina, from there a taxi took me to the garden. Ninfa was an ancient village which fell into ruins. The Caetani family purchased the whole village which wasn't very big and later descendants built a garden among the ruins. Ninfa is touted as the world's most romantic garden. There's no formal planting, it just follows the slope of the land and its numerous springs and streams making it one of the most unusual garden in the world.
Jackpot! This was the motherlode. Cricklade has 80% of Britain's snakehead fritillaries, in 40 acres of wet fields. Snakehead fritillaries love wet soil and the purple ones are more abundant. Every year in April a purple haze covers over North meadow in Cricklade. Cricklade is a little village with one main street and no traffic lights. I took the train from London to Swindon, then a bus from Swindon to Cricklade. It was a 15-20 minute walk from downtown Cricklade to North meadow and there they were. What a spectacle. I was in Oxford yesterday and there were some there but the area was closed off. Here at Cricklade I could walk among them and it was so wonderful.