Surely just a coincidence
29.07.2017 - 09.08.2017 106 °F
We traveled from Cinque Terre to Firenze (Florence) without incident, thankfully, a short, comfortable train ride. We met a very nice mother and daughter from the States who were also traveling Europe for the summer, making the trip even more enjoyable. Then we arrived in Firenze...
We stayed ten days in a lovely Airbnb that looked directly across the Piazza del Duomo at the cathedral's dome - the famous one built by Brunelleschi. Of all the places we've stayed, except the villa in Granada, this apartment was probably the most spacious and best laid out; two large bedrooms, an even larger living room, a good sized dining room, separate kitchen, laundry area, and bathroom. Only the latter was small.
When we arrived, a copy of Dan Brown's "Inferno" was on the coffee table, the fourth adventure of Robert Langdon. If you are unfamiliar with the book, Langdon wakes up in Firenze with no memory of how he got there or what he was doing. He proceeds to visit many of the most interesting and famous places in the city while being chased by almost everyone in authority. As he proceeds, the glue that holds the story together is references to Dante's Divine Comedy, particularly the Inferno.
I had not read his book before, though I did study Dante for a full year back in college, so I read it while during our stay; for two reasons: turned out to be a decent read, and we could visit all the places he mentions in the novel. And we did - all of them, except those he made up. We also, as it turned out, had our own version of the Inferno. Firenze had the hottest days on record in the last 20 years, and not just one. The temperature rose above 100 for the first seven days we were there and was above 95 the last three.
On one of our outings, Debbie and I visited Giardino di Boboli, but not before traversing our way through the south side of the city and climbing the steep paths of Giardino Bardini. Altogether, my fitbit recorded over 16,000 steps and 52 flights of stairs, all in the blazing heat. When we returned to the apartment (climbing those last three flights of stairs almost did me in), I drank three glasses of water and one of Coke in the first five minutes. I collapsed on the couch and didn't move for at least half an hour.
After a few days, Chesirae and I became very careful about when we went out and for how long. Debbie, always the adventurous one, did not slow down until a few days later when, after walking about all one afternoon, she too returned exhausted and close to heatstroke.
As a consequence, we did not walk around Firenze nearly as much as we did other cities nor as much as I would have liked to. Instead of feeling like one of locals living in the middle of the city, I felt like a shut in. This is not to say we didn't see and do things. Take a look at the pictures as they get posted. We climbed the cupola of the Duomo, we went to the gardens, saw a reasonable number of the famous sites, took a Segway tour, and altogether saw much more than the average person who visits for three or four days. Still, our time was not the complete experience we had in Paris or Seville nor like the one we are wrapping up now in Venice.
A couple of observations: whether Dan Brown's book has made it more aware or I just noticed more, Firenze seems to be paying more attention to Dante - as they should. Besides Shakespeare, no author I am aware of had as great an impact on his culture as Dante, and of course he was born and lived in Firenze until he was banished at age 37.
Also, Firenze has been more than discovered. The entire city center is either historically important or is shops and restaurants. High-end stores are everywhere, going on for blocks, and the crowds fill the streets. Highly recommend avoiding Firenze in the summer, even if it were not so hot. And by the way, you cannot trust the information on "average monthly temperatures." I am not sure how many years they are using to determine those averages, but we did some checking and the last five summers have each averaged about ten degrees warmer than what they say. While we were there, Firenze was 20 degrees above the supposed average!
When you do go, book ahead as much as possible, especially if you are only staying a few days. We got tickets to what we wanted to see but in some cases only because we could book eight or nine days out. Had we been staying less than a week, some of what we saw would have been sold out. We talked to more than one family who didn't get to do everything they wanted.
Lastly, more than most cities, to understand what you are looking at and its significance, a little history of Firenze is a must. Whether you come to see Michelangelo, or follow in Dante's footsteps, or walk the streets Galileo and Machiavelli walked, understanding the families that ruled Firenze, the brief but brilliant period of republic, and the role the city played in moving Europe from the Middle Ages to Renaissance will enrich and deepen your experience of this extraordinary place, even if it was hot as hell.