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.
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.
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|
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.