In Tuscany we have been having some warm and benign weather after the chills of February; indeed we are here in Florence on Palm Sunday. Here, there is a quietly joyous feel about the city in the balmy sunshine, everyone seems intoxicated and dreamy in the breezy spring weather, anticipating Easter (or Pasqua). In front of the Pitti Palace there is a Palm Sunday parade, a priest leads a procession through the streets of choirboys and parishioners each carrying either a palm frond or a sprig of olive branch. There is a sense of calm and peaceful solemnity among the crowds. There are the tourists now beginning to throng the piazzas and museums. There are locals carrying newly bought Easter eggs, great chocolate ovals wrapped in colourful shiny paper. There are people carrying picnic lunches to eat by the Arno, watching their children play on the swings. There are lovers kissing on the Ponte Vecchio or having their photographs with the Doumo in the background. No rushing or shouting, no anxiety or strain just a quiet anticipation of summer.
We visited the Boboli gardens today. The entrance fee is only 7 euros (pay at the gate) and it is well worth the price. The gardens are one of the oldest of it’s type in the world and spread over 11 acres at the rear of the imposing and stark home of the Medicis’ Pitti Palace. They were laid out between 1550 and 1630 by a variety of creators including Vasari. There are long wide avenues with planted hedges that open into circular spaces with spectacular fountains and statues dedicated to roman gods (the essence of the renaissance). More intimate, sheltered walkways climb through the woods. Boxed hedges and evergreens mean that the gardens are always fantastic at all seasons of the year. There is an amphitheatre with an ancient obelisk and other wide spaces where people lay on the grass and take in the glittering views of the city below. These people of leisure and relaxation have been coming here for this kind of peace for many generations and when you are here in spring you feel part of a wonderful, graceful and very Italian tradition.