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Visita il Mugello, culla dei Medici, a due passi da Firenze e le bellezze toscane

Travellers in Tuscany



Inside the Duomo

The queue moves quickly and before you realize it you are squeezing through a narrow door manned by a priest who is there to ensure the orderly and dignified entry into this holy place. You walk into a huge open space with floor to ceiling columns down each side about a quarter of the way in. This left a large area leading to the alter under the coupola. You walk in slowly and feel all those around you disappear into the shadows. It is not bright with windows letting in light but rather gloomy. The floor is heaved in places and the mosaic floor design has been warped by 700 years of existence. You see the 1966 flood line on the wall.It is easily 5 feet up from the floor. You come across a small tour group and the leader is giving some details about the construction and subsequent history of the church. Some people are listening, those standing right in front. Those further to the back are looking around in an trance like gaze as if unable to totally comprehend what it is they are feeling. They somehow know intuitively that no list of facts is going to explain this place and the best they can hope for is remembering this sense of awe they are feeling right now. The guide is talking too much, you think. She is wrongly the center of attention and you understand why no one is paying attention. You move on.
You walk under the coupola and look at the frescoes along the top and around it. You remember your Art History professor in college and you wish you had paid more attention to his slides. You turn in a complete circle as your neck strains back and your eyes follow the arc of the dome. Aside from the obvious aesthetics of the space you marvel at the human physical requirements needed to complete the job. That dome was a long way up and the lighting was poor and it was probably damp and cool. Not the most conduscive situation for artistic inspiration or technical perfection. Yet, there it is.

You see a group of people disappear through a doorway off to the left and then another four people go in. You go over and see it is a doorway to a stairwell and you see the sign that tells you they are the stairs that lead to the outer dome, all 463 of them. You look at your watch and you wonder if you have the energy. It is 330PM and your legs are tired and you wonder should you do this some other day. You are here now so you decide to make the effort and this will be the last thing you will do this afternoon.
You join the procession of stair climbers. The steps are narrow and made of stone. They are well worn and sag towards the center and there is an obvious indentation where millions of feet have stepped. The sound of the shuffle of feet on the stairs is hypnotic. You try not to keep track of the steps and go into a deliberate daze. After a few minutes you start to feel the strain on your lungs and heart. Your breath is getting a little short and you can hear the labored panting of someone ahead. You pass gingerly an older woman who is stepping heavily and she is being helped by a younger woman. They are both struggling and you wonder if they are going to make it. They stop for a moment creating a bottle neck in the tight surroundings. Other people squeeze by and you hear a series of excuse me's from behind. You feel the sweat start to break out on your forehead and you wonder how much further. Another couple of twists in the stairway and you come to a small opening and a door leading out to an observation deck on top of the dome.You open the door. Jesus! you say to yourself as a wind hits you and your eyes are temporarily blinded by the sun shining brightly. You squint and bring your hand up to your face to shield the sun from your eyes. Before you lies all of Firenze. You walk around the top of the dome and look out over the Tuscan hillsides to the north. The walkway is crowded and everyone is taking pictures. So you take pictures of everyone taking pictures.

As you are about to head back down you see the two women you had passed on the stairs. You are glad they made it and the sudden change in their expressions as they receive their visual reward, from utter fatigue to exhilaration, is noticeable.
You make your way down using another set of stairs. The piazza is still crowded and there is still a queue waiting to get in when you leave the Duomo. You had planned on taking a taxi home but now you realize that there is very little traffic in the old center and your chance of finding a cab is slim. So you decide to walk. Back to the river, west along its bank to via Magenta and then down that street to the Pensione Ariel. Shouldn't be too bad.



Text by Bryen Lebar
Picture by Sandro Santioli

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