Today was Ed’s and my last day in Florence. The one thing on our list to do was to tool around the Uffizi. Kinda sorta underwhelmed after visiting the galleries on the top floor, we ordered espresso drinks and a fruit tart at the roof-top terrace cafe. As I sipped my espresso macchiato, I happened to notice that every couple of minutes a head or two or three would appear in the tower of the building next to the Uffizi. “Hey Ed,” I said. “Wonder what that place is?” (Note: I’m not sure how much time Ed spent reading the guide books for Florence, but I must admit, I never cracked one open. Winging it is fun.) Anyway, the nice man at the terrace cafe cash register told us the building is the Palazzo Vecchio. That yes, you can climb up to the top of the tower.
After we bought tickets at the Palazzo Vecchio, a nice ticket-taker gal assured me, that yes, I could make it to the top. “There’s only 454 steps.” I moaned. “Is the tower stairwell wide? Never narrows? Do people go up and down the same way,” I asked her. Yes on all accounts.
What is nice about the 400+ stairs (can’t find an accurate number on Google) going up to the tower, is that they aren’t all in the same place. It’s late so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about the building (Here’s a nice write up). Suffice it to say that there are numerous floors before you get to the tower steps. Ceiling frescos everywhere. (Makes the Duomo fresco really boring. But what do I know. I was so freaked out I couldn’t look up at it. Read my previous blog. Catwalk in the Duomo.) And the best room in the Palazzo Vecchio contains a seriously large globe, and all sorts of old maps. One of California, even. On the one of Germany I found Paderborn and Munster, cities near my German relatives in Westfalen.
Finally, we made it to “the tower steps.” After the unfortunate Duomo incident on Tuesday, I was skeptical. But I trusted the ticket-taker gal and followed the light. Light from an abundance of windows and landings. And as promised, the stairwell never narrowed. If it did, I didn’t notice. What I did notice was how I began to get emotional during the climb. Not the hyperventilating emotional like Tuesday. The kind of emotional like when you see something that reminds you of something you get weepy. And especially when Ed and I reached the battlement landing with the grated open-air windows everywhere that look out upon the terra-cotta roofs of Florence, the Arno river, and the hills surrounding the city, and the peaks of the alps capped in snow way off in the distance. I wanted to cry and felt excited all at the same time. I have to think that something in me remembered something from the summer of 1971 when I visited Florence with my family. If only I could remember what. Maybe the sound of the gleeful German brother and sister we followed up to the top of the tower reminded me of my brother and me? The little boy singing a tune, the girl talking to her mother about how she wasn’t afraid of the heights in this tower? I can’t say. Probably all of it. What I do know is that the view from the top of Torre di Arnolfo or Arnolfo’s tower is spectacular. Who needs to see the view from the Duomo? Surely, not me.