Taming Firenze: Pinocchio and Lemon Trees

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This past weekend I travelled with my Italian Language class to the nearby town Collodi where the famous story Pinocchio was written. There, we explored the very old and very bizarre Parco di Pinocchio.

As with all good stories, it was a cold and rainy day when our Italian class entered the abandoned park. Yes – I said abandoned. The park closes in the winter months and opened just one day in February for us to visit. So on this cold and rainy day we all made our way through the old, abandoned, entirely deserted park filled with small, old statues of scrawny puppets that looked like they were on the verge of coming to life and attacking us all.

Honestly, it was amazing.

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Though old, the park had a very distinct charm. It felt like walking though an old storybook you’d find covered in dust and cobwebs in your grandmother’s attic. The park allowed you to travel through the story of Pinocchio chronologically. You met the characters, you saw Geppetto’s workshop, you even got to walk into the belly of the whale.

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As our Italian professor told us, the story of Pinocchio is deeply engrained in Italian culture. It is a story of great importance to Italians even in modern times. Though this park – with its creaky animatronics that screeched from lack of oil, its arsenal of demonic-looking marionettes, and its rickety bridges that clearly would not support much more than the raindrops falling fast from the sky – was nothing like Disney World or even my beloved Hershey Park, it was certainly unique.

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After visiting the park we stopped for lunch – under lemon trees!

We had the privilege of dining in a lovely family owned citrus garden. After an amazing meal, we toured the garden.

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Many of the plants in the greenhouse were ornamental, meaning the plants were bought and sold predominantly for the sake of aesthetics. This trend was popularized by the Medici family in Renaissance times. They had many ornamental citrus plants in their family gardens.

However, a lot of the plants were still great for eating. We got to try fresh lemons, oranges, kumquats and even a little something called “Vegetarian Caviar.”

The maze of brightly colored lemons and oranges was made even more beautiful by the love given to the plants. The garden belonged to a family. Our tour guide’s father planted the lemon tree that started it all at the entrance to the garden. Our guide spoke passionately about each plant. He had clearly devoted his life to cultivating the beautiful garden.

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His devotion paid off. Not only was the garden enchantingly beautiful, but the fruit was fresh, juicy, sweet and nothing like anything I’ll ever have in America.

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