Florence begins to grumble as my stomach does the same. Rain sprinkles down, but not in a pouring fashion. Perhaps this is not the best time for exploration, but my feet have a mind of their own.
Usually, if you have lived in a place or have visited before, you can remember your way around. You delight in being able to show your travel companions that you have roamed these streets before and don’t need a map. Even at home, we often take the same streets because we know where they will lead. Erring on being overly cautious, I choose the known, beaten path. Not in the sense that I don’t take risks, but if I know a city, I tend to get more of a thrill when I look like I know where I am going.
To reach one of the best views of Florence at Piazzale Michelangelo, I always took the path I knew, the safe route that lined with others seeking out that captivating vantage point. I could almost get there with my eyes closed I know it too well. Today, I am deciding to be adventurous and take a road never traveled by this redhead.
As I fumble with my apartment keys, still having trouble remembering which key opens which door, an act of heavenly greatness reminds me I have forgotten my umbrella. I rush inside to grab my saving grace. Now, I can be on my way.
Heading up Viale Niccolo Machiavelli, just past Porta Romana in Florence, the wide avenue lines in trees and no one else. I am completely and utterly alone in the drizzling rain. I opted to not bring a map for I hate being a map person. The joke is usually on me, but today I enjoy not knowing if I am headed in the right direction.
For me, appropriately named Viale Niccolo Machiavelli begins to incline up a hill. The path snakes around corners as pushy Italians cruise on by, anxious to get to a TV for the Italians are playing in the World Cup this late afternoon. Eventually, Machiavelli takes me to Giardino del Bobolino. Not to be confused with Giardino di Boboli, the more famous gardens with a hefty entrance fee, these gardens are free of charge. Quiet benches scatter about fountains and footpaths. Tree branches lazily hang down from their foundations, almost like kids in elementary school that use two arms to raise their hands, with one arm used merely to hold the other in the air.
The rain kicks up. I open up my umbrella in the most ridiculous of fashion. It’s time to pass the peaceful and serene Giardino Del Bobolino. Large villas and old hotels decorate the sides of the street that lead to the top of a hill overlooking Florence. As I reach the top, I am met with a cheesy, take your breath away moment. Tall and skinny trees, the supermodels of the natural world, dot the landscape as Florence peaks through in the distance. Both country and city are within my view.
Machiavelli leads me to Galileo. Curving at Piazzale Galileo, the avenue turns into Viale Galileo. Seeing this sign, I breathe a sigh of relief. I am not lost. The rain beats down harder and harder, but for some reason I don’t care. My jeans feel like I have attached giant weights to the bottom, drenched and covered in my unprompted journey.
Galileo introduces me to Basilica San Miniato di Monte. The church rests at the top of a grand staircase. A lone couple braves the elements, as the husband helps the wife up the stairs. The scene is a cliché, but it only helps me forget the pouring rain.
Overzealous Italian soccer announcers blare throughout the rain in the not so distant distance. I have at last reached Piazzale Michelangelo. One of the David replicas takes in the game with a few handfuls of cars. Like a drive-in movie, locals are parked here to watch the game on the big screen.
As I gaze at the wondrous view of Florence from this vantage point, I can’t help but think my view at the top of the hill, the secret way I like to think, was better. Despite the rain, despite not knowing where I was going, this exploration was worth the bad hair and drenched jeans. However, I did have an umbrella, shading me somewhat from the elements, which could be why Florence grumbled at me in thunder when I left, scoffing that I’m just an amateur.
If you know a city and decide to revisit, I encourage you to take the roads off of your previously beaten paths. You may find yourself alone in the pouring rain, gazing at marvelous sights, reminding you, there is always more to see.
Have you ever headed down an unknown road and found a surprise at the other end?