Monday, March 13, 2017

On Safari In Florence

Annamaria on Monday

I returned from South Africa and, the very next day welcomed my friends Jean-Claude and Francoise visiting from Nice.  We launched into a marvellous week of art exhibitions, a studio visit, museums, and churches around this, the greatest art treasury in the world.  Our first stop was the Gozzoli chapel in the Palazzo Medici-Ricardi to view the splendid frescoes.

A strange compulsion overcame me there.   In all the richness of the images before me, my eyes began to do what they had been doing for the previous week when I was sitting behind Stan in the Land Rover, rolling and bumping our way through the South African bush:  Without intending to, I found myself scanning the terrain for birds and animals.  And so began my next great adventure--a safari in Florence.  Hence:

A Field Guide to Wildlife in Florence


Travellers accustomed to African safaris will find some expected similarities, but also some marked differences between the African bush and game spotting in Florence.  
  • Birds will, obviously, most likely be found by looking up.  Not all, however.  Birds of prey, especially, can quite often be found at eye level.
  • Animals elusive and difficult to find in the sub-Saharan wilderness are often quite plentiful in the chapels and piazzas, as this guide will demonstrate.
  • Though their African cousins often flee when approached, all but two or three of the creatures you encounter in Florence will remain stationary and pose to show themselves to their best advantage.  You will find this positively delightful.
  • For convenience, this manual is organised in similar fashion to other Florentine guidebooks, by location, rather than by species.
My Terrace

Swallows and pigeons are quite common in Florentine outdoor spaces.  Only a bit rarer is the European goldfinch or cardellino. (True to the arcane nomenclature of birds worldwide, this bird shows very little of the colour of its given name, but never mind.)  See also Galleria degli Uffizi.

Palazzo Medici-Ricardi

Go first to the Chapel where Benozzo Gozzoli's The Journey of the Magi (1459) offers a wide array of birds and animals.

Stan will recognise this as a typical safari scene of a waterhole at which
one can spot several different varieties of bird life.
Although the chapel is the most interesting to wildlife seekers in this palazzo's fortress-like structure, the determined visitor will not want to miss the state apartments, the ceilings of which offer wildlife difficult to spot elsewhere.

Extremely rare elephant.  Those on safari in
Italy determined to see elephants are better
 served in Rome.

Rare indeed, a lioness.  The macho Medici world,
it seems, much preferred the male of the species.

The Duomo, the Baptistry of San Giovanni, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

Bird-lovers will want to concentrate on the Baptistry.  The Museo, on the other hand, offers thrilling sightings of felines.

Galleria degli Uffizi

The Uffizi is a paradise for birdwatchers.

Rafaello's Madonna del Cardellino
Detail of the above

The Church of San Lorenzo, The Laurentian Library, The Medici Chapels

All three of these locations abound with rare and exciting sightings.

Although, in the author's opinion, this image does not compare with the African
firmament, it has the added advantage of pleasing animal lovers as well as

Michelangelo's owl, unique in this genus.  Habitat: Medici Chapels

Piazza Signoria

Visitors with a sense of the dramatic will want to save this  locale for last.  Lions abound.  Here, along with the above golden cover art of this manual, is but a small sampling of the scores if kingly creatures on which to feast one's eyes.

The Signoria is also the precinct of the wild boar.

Florentines have a special affection (and taste for) the wild boar or cinghiale.    
Myth says that if visitors rub the nose of this porcellino, they will return to visit
Florence again.  The richness of wildlife viewing here requires several
visits, of considerable length.


  1. How our life, and out art is enriched by those we share our planet with. We must preserve them and their habitats as life without them would be so much poorer. Except for cat that is now lying on my keyboard preventing me from typing as fast as I should be.... this cat could be an endangered species. She just does not take a telling!

    1. Thank you, Caro. Once I started to look for and examine the wildlife in Florence, I found particularly the birds so interesting and moving. There are so many species pictured, and they are so accurately portrayed by the artists. One of the things my friends here and I have been talking about is the diversity of birdlife that the artists were so familiar with. It's just beautiful to see.

  2. What a wonderful expedition! You've inspired me, Sis, to seek out all the birds I can find on Waikiki which we're headed this morning for Left Coast Crime. Enjoy your return to NYC...and the impending winter wonderland.

  3. Bro, I hope you take pictures of the Waikiki wildlife. I am apprehensive about my trip home. It is spring here in Firenze. Temps in the mid 60's; trees in bloom. And it looks as if I may be stuck in the Dusseldorf Airport tomorrow while the blizzard freezes the Apple. We shall see. I am sorry to be missing LCC. Bring my best to my buddies there.

    1. I shall. Do not even think of getting into NYC if the weather forecast is anywhere close to accurate. One to two feet of snow, plus gusts to 60MPH from 10PM Monday through end of day Tuesday. A real Nor'easter blizzard. :(

    2. And temperatures down into the teens though the weekend. :(((((

    3. I am supposed to land in JFK at 5PM tomorrow. :(((

      I am figuring I may be in Düsseldorf all day, Maybe for the night. I go armed with a manuscript that needs a lot of work. Will be longing for messages from my friends.

  4. I'm not sure I'd want elephants and birds and other animals on my ceiling. Just think of all the uh... stuff... um... dropping... on us below...

    Beautiful pictures, nonetheless, AmA. So sorry about your environmental stress. FINALLY, we're STARTING to move out of a long, cold, wet winter, here in the Pacific Northwest.

  5. EvKa, having seen a lot of actual elephant poop in the bush, I am extremely real happy to say that frescoes of elephants neither eat nor excrete. I am biting my nails, no-- actually pretty resigned about what might happen to my flight to NYC tomorrow. I must say I am sad to be leaving sunny, gorgeous Italia.

  6. I would be sad to leave sunny, beautiful and art-filled Italy. How wonderful that you spend so much time there.

    I love the goldfinch photo. And the statues and paintings of animals.

    Agree with the sentiment about protecting wildlife and art.

    1. No surprise to me that we are in agreement again, Kathy. As it turns out, I have two bonus days here in sunny, springtime Florence, thanks to the winter storm on the East Coast. My flight from Düsseldorf to JFK was canceled, and lucky me, I have to wait an extra two days here before I can get another flight back home. I'll make good use of the sunshine. I wish I could bring this weather back with me to my friends in NYC.

  7. We would love the weather -- and a few frescoes and sculptures, too.

    Lucky you -- two more days in Italy.

  8. What a wonderful idea, Annamaria! I'm challenging all the other MIE bloggers to go on safari in their "home" countries!

    1. Thank you, Michael. I can't wait to see what the others will find on there Safaris. I stuck to birds of any sort, since many migrate anyway. And to wildlife that I would have seen in the African bush (or the close equivalent). I did notice that a tiger and several domesticated animals photo bombed a few of my shots.

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