February 26, 2007: A Flat in Florence’s Centro Storico

                                                                                    February 26, 2007


A Flat in Florence’s Centro Storico 

Our apartment at 13 Via delle Terme, Florence, Italy, is on the mezzanine floor in the rear half of a mediaeval tower (the typical rich fifteenth century Florentine’s architecture) in the historic center (il centro storico) of Florence.  Open-beamed ceilings, with grand major beams, high ceilings, archways, emphasize age and solidity of the structure and a Mediterranean air.  

Our tower is on the (extended) list of Florence’s monuments and attractions!  The Blue Guide to Florence says:  “Via delle Terme, a pretty medieval street … takes its name from the Roman baths which were in this area.  The back of the medieval … Palazzo di Parte Guelfa and a number of medieval tower houses can be seen from here…The palace at no. 9 has a renaissance courtyard and there is a medieval tower at no. 13.” 

The centro storico is host to innumerable tourists.  At midday on our nearest main street, Via Porto Santa Maria leading to the Ponte Vecchio, English is the language most commonly spoken.  For an area so densely populated and intensely used, it is remarkably clean.  Trash is collected and the streets are washed daily.  

The flat commands a grand view of the wall across Chiasso Cornino, the cross street (alley? corridor?) at Via delle Terme.  For a 500-year old building, we’re doing remarkably well.  Plumbing and electricity work well.  The nerve center of the flat is a twenty-first-century high-speed internet ethernet hub.  The web, e-mail, and news of the world, all make their way there through the mediaeval walls.  The six-hour time difference from New York, nine- from California, creates some detachment.   By comparison to most Florentine apartments, ours is large:   Master bedroom, guest bedroom and a half, two (?) baths, large living room/dining area, kitchen. 

The centro storico is lively.  Every morning and every late afternoon at the flat is punctuated by rolling thunder: the sound of pushcarts moving over the rough stone streets to and from their daytime occupation in the Mercato Nuovo; their  nightly storage is in garages in the centro, some on Chiasso Cornino.   The centro storico is closed to private cars.  That leaves it free to police cars (of at least three independent police departments — municipale, carabinieri, finanzera), taxis, delivery vehicles, motor scooters, motorcycles.  We  walk on the narrow streets and step lively out of the way of  cops and taxis.  

The centro storico is an amazing location: 5 minutes walk to the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi; 2 minutes to the Ponte Vecchio; 4 to the Mercato Nuovo (home of the Porcellino statue and an uncountable number of souvenir and leather-goods vendors); 7 to the Duomo.  It takes from 20 seconds to 10 minutes to walk to several dozen ristorante and trattorie, whose dinners vary between very sound and remarkably good.




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