Jo’s Monday walk

Jo’s Monday walk : Almodôvar, and the red shoes

It can get very flower laden around here at this time of year, so today I’m going to take you on a stroll around Almodôvar, a little known village in the Alentejo.  Why?  Well, just because I can, and also because I was intrigued by these red shoes.  Seriously, don’t you ever want to go somewhere just to see what’s there?  I do it all the time.

It’s not the easiest place to get to, and after an hour and a half of rocking and rolling along switchback country roads, car sickness was beginning to threaten.  I knew that, once over the border from the Algarve, the land would begin to flatten out.  Still, it was a relief to step out of the car.  An elderly lady was pegging out her washing and regarded me with some curiosity. Visitors from out of town are obviously a rarity.

It’s an ordinary enough place, the likes of which you will find throughout Portugal.  The charm lies in wandering the quiet streets, simply observing life.  It was just before Easter and preparations were underway in Igreja Matriz de Santo Ildefonso, the imposing 16th century church which dominates the main square.

A map on a nearby wall points out places of interest in the village.  Just what’s needed!   Number 2 is the clock tower, or Torre do Relogio.  In the 8th century, Almodôvar (literally ‘place in the round’) was rebuilt by the Muslims, with a surrounding wall.  No trace of this exists today.  A clock tower, served by an outside staircase, would typically have been part of the ramparts from the 17th century.  The clock was housed in the right tower of Santo Ildefonso, but was removed in 1889 when the parish church was struck by lightning.

As so often in Portugal, the smartly modern sits alongside the shabby and forlorn.  A pedestrianised shopping street comes as something of a surprise, but I am no longer surprised by wall art.  Meet poet Fernando Pessoa, and friends!

Still loosely following the map I headed along Rua do Convento, the convent of Our Lady of Conception inviting me closer.

What to make of this?  I hunted high and low for an explanation of this fanfare of an art installation.  Why red shoes, I was at a loss to know.  No clues inside either, but the interior was a show stopper. All that glitters…

I did solve the mystery, though.  Close by the convent there’s a 6 metre high sculpture of a cobbler on a roundabout.   Marked ‘Aureliano, 2001’, in researching it I discovered that Almodôvar had a history of shoe making.  Between the years of 1940 and 1970 there were around 200 manual shoe makers working in the town, and selling their wares at fairs throughout the county.  This sculpture, made by Aureliano Aguiar of Coimbra, from cogs and recovered bits of metal, is in their honour.

I strolled back to the sleepy little square with a fountain, and found a cafe opposite the museum. In the shade of the trees, sensible villagers idled to pass the time of day.  This place would be like a furnace in full summer.  I was melting in March.  So when I was offered a half litre bottle of vinho verde (they didn’t sell it by the glass) there was nothing to do but sit and watch the world go by.  Of course, I needed a substantial amount of food.

Back in the car, we rolled down the N2 towards the coast, passing the village of Ameixal with its Thursday morning roadside market.  The stalls were all but empty.  A venue for another day?  I had been thrilled by the wild irises, dusting the kerbside, on our way north.  Worth a last quick leap!

And that was Almodôvar.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  I do like a wander.  Sorry about the lack of cake again.  I was too full after that enormous toastie.  Speaking of which, it must be time to put the kettle on.

Cuppa to hand, it’s time for this week’s wonderful shares.  Thank you all for your company and the great support I receive on here.  If you’d like to join in at any time, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  You’ll be made very welcome.

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Look where Lexi’s landed!  Doesn’t it look fine?  You just might be surprised :

Happy in Houston- Part 1

I love a sing-a-long, and where better than the charms of Paris? (and Drake) :

Unforgettable

From one magical city to another! So lucky to have Debbie show us the heights :

Views from Montjuic

There’s always something to be thankful for in the company of Lady Lee :

52 Weeks of Thankfulness- Week 43

Geoff’s lessons on life, ably assisted by Dog :

Brecon Beacons- a lesson in green living

Jackie’s not quite so exuberant this week, but then, look at the weather!

Day 2- So Cal, Monterey

It’s not every day that I’d go walking around a complex, but Sedona surely makes a stunning backdrop.  Thanks, Marsha!

Resort Walk Reveals 15 Top Things to Love

Woolly wins it for excitement this week.  Up, up and away!

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Amy goes hunting for wildflowers in Texas, and finds boots and saddles!

Texas Hill Country

But Dawn is more than happy with her finds :

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge : Surprised and Delighted 

I went looking for wood sprites or elves with Denzil, in Belgium :

The Valley of the Hoegne

And then I really struck lucky when Gilly found me a baby dragon!

A Forest walk

And finally, what did Carol find at the top of a hill?

Unrivalled Views

My English walk today has been rained off!  And it’s not even a Bank Holiday.  That’s next Monday, isn’t it?  See you then!

Jo’s Monday walk : Around Salir

You knew I’d end up back in the Algarve hills eventually, didn’t you?  I love to travel the scenic route up the N2 to Barranco do Velho.  When you look back down, the vivid blue of the sea has faded to a smokey distant haze.  This is cork territory and the ancient holm oaks enfold you as you turn off towards Salir, on the N124, in the foothills of the serra.

It’s a small village, notable for its loftily perched water tower, but one that is often bypassed in favour of prettier Alte or the mighty Rocha da Pena.

I didn’t have to worry too much about my route as I was following a walk leader.  What I did have to worry about was keeping up with the ‘Striders’. Not so easy to focus on the beauty all around whilst keeping half an eye on the walkers.  Blink, and they’d gone!  From the sports stadium at the back of the village we were quickly out onto a country lane, with views across to the Rocha, standing proud in the distance.

Oops!  Don’t miss that sign!  The trail leads steeply uphill (the Striders do seem to love hills!) to the left of the house.  Calla lilies caught my eye, and another of those precious water tanks, so vital for the hot summers.

There’s not a lot to tell about Salir.  It’s a sleepy place, with a benign 16th century church and a few castle ruins from the 12th century, keeping watch over the surrounding fields.  The softly curving Serra de Caldeirao forms a lovely backdrop.

It’s a lovely time of year.  The colours sing out, begging you to capture them.  So what, if I get left behind!

It would be well worthwhile, because look what I found, growing in the long, damp grass.  Wild orchids!  They are so exciting!

A quick scurry to catch up, but there are a couple of signposts.  This walk crosses the Via Algarviana, which spans the Algarve from Alcoutim in the east right across to Sagres in the west.  All around, the cistus are cheering me on, their crushed paper faces turned to the sun.

On this walk we’d been asked to bring a picnic, a bit of a disappointment to those of us who relish the usual restaurant stop at the end.  A couple of stone benches by a fonte made a good resting place, then we were striding off again.

I often remark to people that the Algarve is full of surprises.  Passing the cemetery at Palmeiros and an oddly colourful wall, we crossed over a bridge and made a right turn down a narrow country lane.  Expect the unexpected!

A battered drum kit in the garden told the unlikely tale.  The rest of the walk seemed almost anticlimactic after that, as we meandered back towards Salir.  The pace of the walk slowed after lunch, allowing more opportunity to chat.  Another water wheel or two and we were back where we started.

That’s the first of my recent Algarve walks completed.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Let’s put the kettle on now and see where everyone else has been.

Thanks so much everybody, for your company and kind comments each week.  I love walking with you.  If you’d like to share a walk, the details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  If not, just sit back and enjoy!

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I do like to introduce someone new on my walks, especially when the scenery is this good.  Meet Chandi  :

The Pathway of the Gods- Italy’s Most Stunning Hike

Versailles seems a long time ago to me, but Drake has brought it all back!

More glimpses of Paris

Lady Lee has been cavorting in water parks with the family :

Our Subic experience

Opulence personified from Jackie this week!

Hearst Castle

Richard has a crack at climbing the highest cliff in Cornwall :

Cracking Crackington Haven

While my Sunshine friend is making the most of the blossom in our capital :

London- A Walk in thePark 

And please, don’t anyone accuse Woolly of being full of hot air!

Jo’s-Monday-Walk2017-Wk15-Hot-Air

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!  Or, in Paula’s case, take a wonderful shot…

Unbroken

Can you imagine being smothered in cherry blossom?  Cathy can!  She’s in Tokyo at sakura time :

Cherry blossoms in the rain at Shinjuku Gyoen

Denzil has begun a new undertaking which proves, yet again, that Belgium has quite a lot to offer :

GR121, Stage 1: Wavre to La Roche

Does this look familiar to you?  Yes- me too!

Walking in Florence

I even accept wordless walks!  Especially when shared with my lovely friend, Meg :

Wordless walks : Jemisons Beach and headland

Finally, some great hills for rolling your paste eggs down, with Kathryn :

My weekly ramble

Wonderful, aren’t they?  It’s been a bit cool and damp in my part of the UK this weekend, but then, it was a Bank Holiday.  I hope you’ve had a good Easter celebration, and maybe a bit of walking?

Jo’s Monday walk : A Spring jaunt on Anglesey

After the sophistication of Italy, where can I offer you next?  Still a little disoriented, with my head full of Algarve ramblings, I’m going to opt for the simple life and a lovely little stone cottage in the Welsh village of Cemaes, far flung on the island of Anglesey.

I had hoped to take you along the shoreline from Beaumaris, with the smoky blue of Snowdonia as a backdrop.  Thanks to the antics of a lovable but very skittish Border collie, that notion had to be abandoned.  Cars made her nervous, as did the scrunch of pebbles and the swoosh of waves.  It was high tide and hard to avoid any of these, as we walked by the roadside.  What was needed was a gentle expanse of rolling country.  The soft lap of the sea would be a welcome addition.  Moelfre seemed to have all that we needed.

A pretty little harbour offered a walk around the bay, and sweetly undulating coastline.  Golden gorse tipped the bushes and lambs frolicked in the fields.  Almost idyllic!  Islay’s instincts to give chase had to be curbed, of course.  Pools and dimples in the shoreline just begged to be explored.

A small cove invited too, but those nasty pebbles were ever present.  Islay tiptoed across to dip a paw.  Not to be thwarted, we pressed on.

Steady, Islay!  They’re just playing.  Beyond a well kept caravan park, the masts of a cluster of yachts urged me on.  And sure enough, there was a reward waiting.  The perfect place for a spot of dog training!

Delighted with my small success, I had an eye on a further headland.  A little up-ing and down-ing brought us to this.  At last the tide had turned.

In the cottage in Cemaes, the owner had thoughtfully provided a range of books on walking and the geology of the area.  Lynne was interested in a particular rock formation and, as Islay romped giddily to and fro, I thought I might have spotted it across the bay.

But my dog loving friends were wreathed in smiles at the unbridled joy of their pet.  Time to quit while you’re ahead!  The walk was intended to be circular, turning inland, but we opted to return along the coast.  The views were lovely, and reminiscent in places of my familiar Yorkshire cliffs.

I have to admit to a little indecent haste on the return trip.  It was now well past 3 o’clock and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  Back in Moelfre I had spotted highly promising Ann’s Pantry. We did stop to ponder over some wild flowers, and I made a half-hearted attempt to get to grips with the Welsh language.  What a mistake!  We arrived to be advised that they had stopped serving meals at 3pm.  The menu looked so tempting and we had the perfect garden setting, but lunch would just have to be cake.

I was impressed with my first visit to Anglesey.  With 130 miles of Coastal Path even someone as restless as me could be happy.  You can download my circular walk, from Moelfre to Pentraeth, on the Anglesey website.  Tish Farrell has written some beautiful, and informative, posts on the island.

It’s good to be back walking with you again, though I have to admit I dithered a lot before selecting this week’s walk.  Thanks to all of you who kept the walks rolling in my absence.  It is much appreciated.  No breaks planned in the immediate future so I’ll be delighted if you have a walk to share. And if not, I’ll just enjoy your company anyway.  Details are on my Jo’s Monday walks page.  Time for a cuppa and a good read!

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Nice to find a new friend.  Small Step Closer reminds me of good times in Southern Poland :

Mount St. Ursula (Slovenia) – Urslja Gora

From new friends to old, but young at heart- thanks Drake!

A little bit wild

Masquerade in the streets

And talking of old friends, there’s a certain lady at Potato Point :

A daybreak walk by Coila Lake

Meanwhile, Lady Lee is still very much at home in the Philippines :

Batanes Trip, Day 3 – Batan Southern Tour

Woolly is another gentleman who often makes me smile :

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Jo’s-Monday-Walk2017-Wk14-Salzburg-1

And what can you say about Jackie in La-La Land?

Day1 So Cal- La-La Land

Hmm… Cornwall… now who do I know in that part of the world?

Meander around Mevagissey harbour

Much closer to home, Becky reminds me why I love the Algarve so :

What a difference a few weeks makes

While Susan shares the natural beauty of her native California :

Walking with the Spring Bloom

And funnily enough, Kathryn does the same!

Wildflower Hike

Eunice rounds me off with some wonderfully English moorland :

A walk in two parts and some more local history

Hope that Spring is being kind to you or, if you’re Down Under, that Autumn does the same. Happy walking and see you soon!

Jo’s Monday walk : Dizzying heights!

Did you wonder why we deserted lovely Lucca so early to catch a train?  And did you spot those Medici balls again?  Hard to miss them in this part of the world.  When we landed at Pisa airport I was immediately smitten with the soft light, over the backdrop of mountains that I somehow had not expected.  The sun was sliding down in the sky, bathing even the unromantic Ryanair flight in opalescence.  I knew that I could not come this near to one of the wonders of our world without taking at least a fleeting look.  So Lucca was left behind, and that man Garibaldi took centre stage.

I think that faded grandeur best describes Pisa, though it was obvious that modernity was making a comeback.  I found it a ‘gritty’ kind of place, on brief acquaintance, but I’m sure that there are many more treasures to discover.  It’s an easy walk from Pisa Centrale station, crossing over the River Arno and heading up medieval Borgo Stretto, with its straggle of cafes and shops.

Very soon I was back in the company of Giorgio Vasari.  As well as Palazzo Vecchio and the Vasari Corridor in Florence, he was responsible for Piazza dei Cavalieri, the magnificent  Knight’s Square in Pisa.  In front of Palazzo della Carovana stands his former master, Cosimo 1 de Medici.

Following Via Santa Maria, a familiar sight soon appears.  “Look!  It does!  It leans!’

And then, ‘Are you going up?’  It’s a quarter to 4 in the afternoon and there is no queue.  What am I waiting for?  Of course I’m going up!

It’s a bright blue day, but with a brisk, cold wind.  The marble steps inside the tower are well worn and there’s no hand rail.  As expected, the ‘lean’ has a slightly disorienting feeling, but there is plenty of time to negotiate them.  At the top the wind is blowing fiercely and I step into the space between the bells for a brief respite, 55 metres up in the air.

The views are wonderful and I notice, almost for the first time, the sturdy walls of the city.  Still, it’s a relief to be back in the stairwell, making my way cautiously down the steps.  ‘Did you wave?’ I ask.  No, he didn’t.  Apparently at that moment the chief of police had appeared in a shiny new Lamborghini in the piazza below, thrilling the crowd.  It’s Italy, after all!

Piazza dei Miracoli, the Square of Miracles, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which lives up to its reputation.  I wandered around the huge green (albeit with a slight ‘list’ in my step) and was grateful that this beautiful tribute to the maritime might of Pisa had survived.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Baptistry complete the miracle.  The doors alone, resplendent with Pisan history, are worthy of a visit.

Youngsters sprawled on the grass- it almost seemed sacrilege to me!  Out beyond the walls, life goes on.  I smile and shake my head at the traders, and head back along the outside of the walls, through Knight’s Square, for a tired return to the station.

What I could have done with a little more time, but that’s the story of my life!  This itinerary with Discover Tuscany would have been perfect.  They also have suggestions for 5 Days in Tuscany that might be of interest, Gilly and Jude.  You don’t need to drive to see most of it.

This completes my rambling in Italy, though there are many photos as yet unshared.  What a time I had!  As many of you will know, I’m in the Algarve when this hopefully appears.  My WiFi access is limited, and deliberately so, as it’s my ‘chill’ place.  I will attempt to keep up with you, but apologies in advance for anyone I miss.

I hope to return to walk with you on Monday, 10th April.  Many thanks for your company on Jo’s Monday walks.  Kettle on, it’s sharing time!

This man surely knows the way to my heart!  Many thanks, Drake :

Glimpses of Paris

Staying close to home, Eunice takes us on a fact finding mission in the West Pennines :

A walk up Winter Hill and some interesting facts

Anabel meets a very friendly chipmunk this week.  Maybe a touch too friendly!

Deer Mountain

Lady Lee extends her Philippines visit to the island of Sabtang :

Batanes Trip, Day 2 – Sabtang Tour

Still in Mexico, Jackie’s moved up the coast a little :

La Noria

Meet the Lucerne Lion this week, with Woolly :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk2017-Wk 12

Couldn’t miss this one out!  Viveka is always so colourful and I love the donkey photo!

Walkabouts in Marrakech

Vertigo sufferers beware!  Becky’s ‘on top of the world’ :

Walking across the ‘tallest’ stone arch in the world

Just one more of those places I’d like to see for myself, Jaspa :

Sam’s Ses Challenge#13 Water 

So lovely to have Lisa around again, though her life is anything but smooth sailing!

Singapore and Beyond

And isn’t it wonderful to have chirpy friends?  Thanks so much, Paula!

How green is my home!

Many thanks to all who have shared, walked or just read.  Please take care till the next time!

Jo’s Monday walk : the walled city of Lucca

Shall I quote Henry James?  Lucca is a city “overflowing with everything that makes for ease, for plenty, for beauty”.  With a recommendation like that, how could I fail to try to squeeze it into our precious few days in Tuscany?

There was an ulterior motive , of course.  The city lies in a flat plain at the foot of the Apuan Alps, an hour or more’s train ride from our base in Florence.  I would have an opportunity to see a little of the Tuscan landscape, and the other half would get to rest the weary legs after the dizzying heights of Florence .  He would need this in preparation for the 4km walk around the city walls.  Not too far, is it?

No matter that you’ve seen photos, the reality is always a little different.  I knew that the city walls had been turned into a boulevard for that much-loved Italian pastime, passegiata, but still I didn’t comprehend the scale.  I found myself grinning as I strode across the grass towards the nearest bastion, one of eleven positioned around these 16th century walls.

Over a narrow moat, through a tunnel and up some steps, and there I was, looking down on Lucca.  A friendly lion gave me a silly smile, and I began to stroll.  Far in the distance, the snowcapped Alps.  Near at hand, elderly couples enjoying the gentle sunlight, cyclists whizzing by, toddlers tottering on 2 or 3 wheels or pushing dolls prams, and students sauntering off to lectures. All of life, it seemed to me.

Looking down from the walls provides views of the botanic gardens and wonderful snippets of the life of the Lucchesi.  A pedalo comes towards me, a dog perched haughtily in the basket up front.  I’m so busy smiling, I miss the shot!

At intervals I’ve glimpsed the bell tower of the Duomo di San Martino, the cathedral.  Time to descend, beneath nodding magnolia, and seek it out.

Construction of this striking cathedral began in 1063, the great apse and campanile remaining, still, from the original.  The nave and transepts were rebuilt in Gothic style in the 14th century, one of many reconstructions.  Entering, my eyes are immediately drawn to the ceiling.

I first learned the story of Ilaria del Carretto through a blogging friend, Ventisqueras.  Born in Pisa, and loving her native Tuscany with a passion, she impressed me with the magnificence of this tomb.  Wife of Paolo Guinigi, an influential politician, Ilaria died very early in childbirth. Jacopo della Quercia, of Siena, was commissioned to keep her beauty alive.

Leaving the cathedral, I go wandering in search of food and a place to sit awhile.  I’m heading in what I think is the direction of Piazza Antifeatro but before too long I’m lost in the maze of streets.  Lucca has her share of lovely squares and exceptional architecture.  Eventually I settle in Piazza San Michele, the site of a Roman forum, with San Michele in Foro towering over me.

I feel sure that Lucca has much more to offer to offer me, but my companion has had enough. Reluctantly I return to the station, dawdling where I can.  The exterior of Basilica di San Frediano, founded by an Irish bishop in the 6th century, invites.  The square in front of it, idle with newspaper readers and peaceful observers of life, a serious temptation.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this charming city, whose wealth was founded on silk and lingerie.  I wanted to show you Torre Guinigi and climb to the roof garden, symbol of the rebirth of the city under the Guinigi family.  Instead I must ask you to read the links throughout the post for a much fuller picture of Lucca than I can give you here.  I hope you enjoyed it.

It’s been a busy week for me.  Three days on the Isle of Anglesey and a walk through Farndale’s daffodils seem to have eaten up most of it.  I’m sorry if I’ve fallen behind with my visits but very grateful for your continued support.  I’ll be playing catch up this week because next Sunday I’m off to the Algarve for 2 weeks.  I will continue to welcome walks but won’t be posting while I’m there.  Details as always are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Let’s put the kettle on now, and settle in for a good read!

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So much more than a walk, I really enjoyed Annika’s visit to Framingham.  I simply had to share this one :

‘Perfume of the Mountain Grass’

I love Debs to bits but I needed a big coat, scarf and gloves for this one!

Wintry Central Park

Much warmer in Lady Lee’s homeland, the Philippines :

Batanes Day Trip 1

I read this one with great interest, as I was Anglesey bound.  Thanks, Eunice!

A walk round Parys Mountain

On the beach at Barnes?  Only with Geoff (and Dog!)

Barnes by the Sea #walking#london

So nice to see my part of the world through fresh eyes. Especially such observant ones as Jude’s :

An amble around Durham’s Cathedral

Where’s Woolly this week?  Why Lucerne, of course!

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Jackie is still hanging around Mazatlan, and it’s easy to see why!

Just Another Day…

Ever wanted to volunteer on a kibbutz?  This is a good year.  Do read Lisa’s post!

Pura Nature Reserve

Bringing back such wonderful memories of my time in Paris!  Thanks, Drake :

Home away from home

Miriam is a joy to be with, especially when she’s feeling light-hearted :

Whimsical Walkabout Wednesday

While Carol knows how to appreciate a good hill or two.  I seem to remember that from our meeting :

Up to the Top

Please give a big welcome to Cadyluck Leedy for her wonderfully original introduction to Cairo :

Jo’s Monday Walk : Me, You and Agatha Christie

And that’s it for another week!  Brilliant, aren’t they?  I may be scheduling a walk for next Monday, but it rather depends how the week goes.  I’ll keep you posted.  Meantime, take care of yourselves and enjoy your walking!

Jo’s Monday walk : A garden extravaganza

Where do you think we might be for today’s walk?  I can tell you that we have passed by the Pitti Palace and are standing on the threshold of the magnificent Boboli Gardens, in Florence.  For me, this was somewhere I was always going to go, even if it bounced with rain.

Of course, blue skies would be preferable and, on our first full day, after crossing Ponte Vecchio we beelined to the gardens, bathed in luxuriant azure.   Alas, it was a Monday, and the gardens were firmly closed.  Undaunted, we carried on up to Piazzale Michelangelo and the city walls for a feast of views.  Tweaking our plans a little, next day found us back at the palace gardens.  The skies were somewhat leaden, but there was always hope of better.  And there were grottos and sculpture to explore, while we waited for the sun’s appearance.

The gardens were designed for Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo 1 de Medici, and have been in existence since the 16th century.  Extremely lavish for gardens intended for the sole use of the Medici family, such was Cosimo’s power and prestige in those days. Highlights include an Amphitheatre, staggering in its scale.  Stone was excavated from the hillside for their Pitti Palace home, creating the perfect arena.  Neptune with his trident sits centre stage as you climb the steps. For most of our visit he had the company of a heron, out for a day’s sightseeing.

Isolotto, a pond surrounded by romantic greenery, is crowned by Giambologna’s fountain, ‘Ocean’, on the central island.  For a twist of modern, see the ‘face’ sculpture by Polish Igor Mitoraj.  The gardens reach a crescendo with the Grotta del Buontalenti, or ‘Grotta Grande’.

Sometimes your expectations can be too high.  Or maybe it was those heavy skies, and the quantity of steps.  This bank of the River Arno can certainly be a bit of a workout.  Nor is this the best time of year for gardens.  But, as sometimes happens, there was a surprise in store.  The garden ticket included admission to the Costume Museum.  Curiosity had me pull the door ajar.

And gasp!  That morning I had been at the Uffizi, and thought my eyes had had their fill of beauty.  This was totally unexpected.  The only museum in Italy dedicated entirely to fashion, it occupies several rooms in the Palazzina della Meridiana (the small palace of the sundial).  A private residence of the ruling families of Tuscany until 1946, the ornate ceilings had me spellbound.

The funeral garments of Eleonora di Toledo are dramatically displayed within the collection, but for me the decor outshone the content.  I couldn’t help but wonder at the rest of the Pitti Palace, seeing all this grandeur before me.

Stepping out into sunshine altered my perspective entirely.  It was time to head steadily uphill again, in search of a gate.  Did I tell you this walk would be strenuous?  I’d read that it was possible to slip from the expansive Boboli Gardens into the much more intimate space of Giardino Bardini.

Not quite so simple, but we did find the gate and emerged alongside Forte di Belvedere.  The lower part of the Giardino Bardini belonged to the Mozzi family back in the 13th century, when a wall with mosaic alcoves protected the garden from prevailing winds.  In the 18th century the estate was extended up the hill to the walls of the city and a Baroque staircase was added.  In 1913 art collector Stefano Bardini bought the hillside villa, extending and adding yet more changes.  Renovation began again in 2005 and the gardens are now open to the public.

It felt like a triumph to finally reach Giardino Bardini, perched high above the city.

The lower part of the garden is still in a poor state of repair, but there is a lovely old worldly feel to the place, suspended there in the clouds.  My main regret, not being a few weeks later to see the wisteria walk in all its glory.  I had to content myself with the views down over this lovely city.

The lower entrance brings you out on Via Bardi, close by the river, and your mission is complete.  I limped home, tired but happy.  I suggest that you take it at a slower pace and sit awhile.  There are many places to admire the beauty, including a cafe on the terrace at Giardino Bardini.

Jude, I think you might like this link.  Visit Florence is an excellent website which will give you all the details you need, including ticketing information.  Do note that the Palace and gardens are closed on the first and last Monday of each month.

Thanks, everyone for reading and participating in my walks.  It wouldn’t be the same without you.  Details of how to join in are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Do come along!  Let’s pop the kettle on now and settle in for a good read :

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Becky reminds me of just what I’m missing in the Algarve.  I’ll be back soon!

Exploring the hamlets of the Guadiana

I’ve been bombarded with walls lately!  But in a good way.  Thanks, Jude!

Lincoln Castle : Medieval Wall Walk

A flashback to a beautiful Autumn with Eunice :

An autumn walk round Bolton Abbey

And where would we be without him?  Cheers, Woolly!

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Nobody can meander quite like Jackie!

Mazatlan Meanderings

Rosemay has been garden wandering.  I think you’ll find she’s a wonderful companion :

Strolling round the Neuer Garten – Potsdam

Susan has many interesting walks in her home city, New York.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one :

A Winter Walk through Riverside Park

And I’m delighted to be joined again by Tobias, where there might be cake!

Strolling

That’s it for another week!  I seem to have tempted the sun out in my part of the world.  See you soon!

 

Jo’s Monday walk : Ponte Vecchio

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I’m going to be very gentle with you this week.  We’re going to stroll along the banks of the River Arno.  Can there be anybody who thinks of Florence and not immediately of the Ponte Vecchio?  It’s the iconic image, and I couldn’t wait to see it for myself.

A stone bridge has existed here, at the narrowest point of the entire Arno river, since 972.  In that time the bridge has twice been destroyed by flood, in 1177 and 1333.  The current bridge has been in place since 1345 and is a bit of a survivor.  It was the only one of the city’s bridges left standing when the Germans retreated in 1944, having bombed all of the others.  You shouldn’t be too disappointed to find that, up close, it has a slightly ramshackle appearance.  Hitler may have declined to destroy the bridge, but in 1966 nature did her very best to sweep it away.  The floods that year were catastrophic, damaging buildings and destroying artworks.  But the bridge held.

I’m starting my stroll at pretty, arched Ponte Santa Trinita, with it’s four statues. Here Via de Tornabuoni joins Lungoarno at the riverside.

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It’s a peaceful sight on this early Spring morning, but down on the river bank a team of workers are clearing debris.  This is not a river to turn your back on.  Heavy rain the previous day had caused it to rise.

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The deep shadows herald our very special bridge.  In 1593, Ferdinando de Medici commanded that the rather smelly butcher’s shops, used to discharging unwanted produce into the Arno, be replaced by sartorially more elegant jewellers.  And there they remain, to this day.

Above the jewellery shops, on the eastern side of the bridge, runs part of the Vasari Corridor. This amazing secret passageway was built in 1565 for Cosimo de Medici.  Connecting the Palazzo Vecchio with the Pitti Palace, about 1km away on the opposite side of the river, it assured privacy and protection in those times of intrigue.  During WWII the treasures of the Uffizi were stored in this corridor, for preservation.  Art resides there still. You can clearly see the grilled windows, over the shops, in the photo below.

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Crossing over the bridge to Oltrarno, literally the other side of the Arno, continue along the river bank.  It’s hard not to stop to look back.

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Across the river rises the delicate spire of Basilica di Santa Croce.  With just a short detour you could admire it’s magnificent facade.  Recross the river by graceful Ponte alle Grazie.  In the far distance, snow kissed mountains brush the sky.

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Via de Benci will take you directly to Piazza di Santa Croce.  In Savonarolo’s day, this was a place of execution, and violence is still enacted here in the 3rd week of June each year, when calcio storico takes place.  Roughly combining football and rugby, it is not for the faint hearted.  Headbutting, punching and choking are all allowed.

Basilica de Santa Croce is an altogether more peaceful place, where you will find the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli, among others. The cloisters are renowned for their wonderful frescoes by Giotto.

Retrace your steps to the river, or choose to linger in the maze of streets that lead to the Uffizi. There are too many distractions by far.

Me, I’m drawn back to the spectacle of the bridge.  Spanning the river for all those years, it’s beaten gold resisting all the forces that nature can summon.  But powerless against the lovelocks.

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I hope you enjoyed my first venture into Florence by daylight.  Next week’s walk will be far more strenuous.  There are heights to scale!

In my absence the walks continued to tumble in.  Please take some time to read and enjoy them. Many thanks to all of you for your patience, and continued support.  Now, let’s get the kettle on! I’m sure I saw cake somewhere.

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I hope you’ll join me for more of alluring Florence next week.  Details of how to contribute a walk are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  I’d love to have your company.

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First up we have Eunice with a wonderfully unspoiled bit of Wales :

A discovery walk on the Llyn Peninsula

Closely followed by Jude, with more delicious shots of Lincoln and the cathedral :

Lincoln’s Minster Yard

And there’s also a stunner of a garden walk from my Queen of the Gardens :

Garden Portrait : Trebah in Winter (or A Walk to Alice’s Seat)

Woolly’s still travelling.  It’s like that game…’Where’s Woolly?’

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Jackie’s all ready to party, and when better than Carnaval?

Carnaval and more- Mazatlan, Mexico

What do you know about the Israeli countryside?  Why not let Lisa show you around?

Givat Barfilia

Becky had to get the waders out for this walk!  Well, clean socks and a towel, anyway.  Cute pigs, though!

A three river adventure in the Algarvian hills

And environmental changes are a constant concern on the Algarve’s beaches :

The sands of the Ria Formosa are forever changing

Drake brings a lovely soft palette to our world :

Less colourless

While Jaspa has us climbing a volcano!

The Views from Mount Vesuvius

Do join Nicole and her lovely family in the desert!  You have choices :

Hiking Saguaro National Park

Sabino Canyon : A Hike along the Phone Line Trail

I never can resist the Azores!  I’ll get there one day!  Please say hello to Uncover Travel :

Hike up Ponta dos Capelinhos, Faial 

Beautiful and individual images for you from Jesh :

A Morning Walk

Finally, I’m very familiar with the city walls at York, but not with these in Chester, so thank you, Carol!

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Another wonderful selection, you have to agree.  Wishing you all a good week, with lots of healthy walking.