Forgetting our manners and staring at Florence
Gold of light. Ancient in ways. And heartstoppingly beautiful.
That’s Florence for you.
The sun turns into a butterfly with topaz wings and the light is its delicate prismatic dance. Florence is Bathsheba, stepping out of her bath, with the fire of moon beams turning her skin into burnished gold. It’s fitting that David is Florence’s icon. Florence is a moment that time has lost itself in - just like Bathsheba held David transfixed.
This is my heart responding to the beauty Florence is. Never have I been to a place that was living, breathing aesthetics like Florence is. It’s less a city and more an eager dedication to beauty.
Our Airbnb was just outside the city, which saved us a bunch of Euros on city tax. It was still walkable from all the sights. Florence is small and welcomes more than 10 billion tourists every year. But somehow the crowd doesn’t get between you and your Renaissance moment. Even the most persistent of selfie sticks fail to break the spell Florence casts over you. We had a day of almost 12 hours of travelling which featured 3 planned train changes, one train delay, one unexpected train change, one unexpected bus ride, lots of anxiety, lots of heaving heavy luggage up and down train station stairs, lots of expecting to miss our last connecting train to Florence, one train station to another train station chase and a near train miss. And what I remember the most from that eventful day is the golden six o’clock Florence we walked into.
Our host took a little while to let us in and we were more than a little annoyed at the delay after the long day we had. But we walked into an apartment whose windows were gold class seats to a magnificent moon rise. A fat goblin moon was holding court with red tiled roofs and pointy gnome hat trees. And we saw that Florence was trying to play good host. As for our real host, he turned out to be a charming old man who was a wee bit forgetful. We forgave the day.
Despite how tired we were, Florence teased us out with her shiny crystal ways. We walked to the city centre and let ourselves get lost. We walked down those ancient streets, now featuring the most fashionable names. Florence by night is a witch. There’s half chance that the shadows that lurk beyond the arches will throw you right into the middle of the Renaissance. For people who walked arbitrarily, we give us full points on our sense of direction. Our randomly chosen dinner place turned out to be a real winner. MammaMia is a friendly place with a menu that is made of many a pleasant carbohydrate dreams. At the end of our meal, the waitress placed a dainty glass filled with chilled lemon coloured liquid announcing “on the house”! We ventured a tiny sip with confused looks that quickly turned into big grins of approval. Limoncello was an instant hit among us.
Ten minutes later, I found my head swimming in a happy lemon scented haze. I half danced, half walked, half sang, half talked my way down Florence’s streets. Sahit stopped by Venchi for some ice cream and we stood there giggling like complete nut jobs. But the Italians must be used to a lot of Italian wine induced silly tourist behaviour - they hardly paid us any attention. The guy behind the counter was extremely patient with us when we tried to pay twice for our ice cream. Florence is so small that you can walk everywhere. And it’s extremely safe. We heard music, followed it and found ourselves in the middle of the Piazza del Repubblica with its historic cafes and grand architecture and crowd-pleasing singers and its bright, shiny carousel. What better time to have your first carousel ride than when you’re tipsy with Italian alcohol. I’m telling you, those grinning horses had wings.
It was getting chilly and we decided to call it a night. So we went about wandering Florence’s serpentine streets and challenged our drunken memory to worry out the way back to our place. We turned a corner and suddenly we were craning our necks up at the Santa Maria del Fiore in all its astounding majesty. As beautiful as it is in daylight, the moonlight does things to the cathedral, that you’ll remember for all of your days. Behind the spotlight of the moon, Brunelleschi’s cupola loomed mighty. And for the millionth time that day, we gasped “Florence is beautiful”.