Someone once told me that I move sideways. Perhaps she was right. And perhaps that’s why I enjoy small alleys..to keep me walking in the straight and narrow.
Rome, Tuscany and Florence are filled with small spaces. Narrow alleys sandwiched by ancient stone residences, boutiques, cafes or restaurants. Some also house the most famous works of art, from Boticelli, Davinci, Michaelangelo and Lippi.
One must be alert while walking aimlessly through these alleys as they could be two way streets. Some of which, are only wide enough to fit two small fiats, is a winding road with a blind spot and a truck speeding down from behind.
Tucked in these quaint alleys are shops with beautiful handmade plates of Tuscan design, wine shops, hand-sewn aprons or table cloths and handmade mosaics. The Tuscans are very passionate about everything they do and it is reflected in their craftsmanship.
What captivated me the most about these alleys were the renaissance architecture and old stone with fading brick facade and charming antiquated doors; which could be as high as 12 feet and as low as five feet and perfect for someone my height. On some days, you can spot an elderly woman sitting with the door ajar while knitting a blanket for a loved one. It is very endearing. Other times you may be intrigued by what is behind these antiquated doors and decide to venture up the narrow staircase only find another little alley which leads to a beautiful hilltop view.
In Pienza, the alleys are named with love in mind, such as Via del Bacio, Via del Amore and Via Bella Fortuna; a pretty Tuscan town with a no vehicle policy. Atop some of the balconies in this picturesque town known for it’s Pecorino cheese, are beautiful potted geraniums and petunias in vibrant colors. Bikes abound in this little town which are parked in a corner off the alley with no lock and key. You can also find the summer home of the late Pope Pius II. Pienza was declared a World Heritage site in 1996 and in 2004, the entire district of Val d’Orcia including Pienza was included onUNESCO’s list of World Cultural Landscapes.
While in Orvieto, the narrow alleys lead you to one of the world’s most magnificent Duomo (cathedral). Or it can lead you to the caves and tunnels that are still very prevalent in this little tourist town.
In Rome, one can get lost looking for the Fontana Trevi, Fontana Novana and some other tourist spots. These alleys cut through one another or are filled with vehicular mayhem from motorcycles, vespas, fiats and trucks. We found it rather difficult to navigate through the alleys and main roads in the vicinity of the Vatican and Rome where parking is also limited.
Aside from Florence’s most magnificent Duomo and Medici museums are busy alleys with pizza and gelato shops, cafes, jewelry stores and boutiques. Florence’s alleys were incredibly crowded with tourists and students. From the Duomo, take a long walk through Via Roma, which will lead you towards the famous”old bridge” Ponte Vecchio”. It was the first bridge built to cross the Arno River; and is the only medieval bridge in Florence. The bridge once housed butchers but now it’s multi-storied shops now house jewelry shops and art dealers. The bridge is narrow, very crowded and the shops offer only a few bargains.
There you have it…antique alleys that either lead to artisans, jewelry stores, or hilltop views, the choice is yours. But wherever the alley takes you whether you’re in Rome, Florence, Pienza, Montepulciano(the list is endless), you can’t make a wrong turn; for each turn can lead you to a picturesque landscape, an endearing moment or an expensive but well deserved shopping spree.
(This is a post from a former blogsite I owned, HappyIndulgences.Blogspot.com from 27 July 2010 after a trip to Tuscany)