Days Off in Florence

At certain times of the year, my thoughts turn to Florence. Firenze, one of Italy’s most interesting cities.

In early June, the Florentine sunlight is clear gold,  intoxicatingly warm on the skin.

One wants to stay outdoors forever.

Image thanks to

Image thanks to

The first time I visited Florence in early June, I was shocked by the crowds on the streets, in the piazzas, in the galleries.

I’d repeatedly worked in Florence, but always in winter or autumn.  Without the crowds of tourists, I got to know the city in a more intimate way.

Days off in Florence were special, every errand an adventure.  Picking up supplies, posting letters, buying gifts for family at the open-air market,  sitting in a cafe, having a cappucino, or — depending on the hour — a Caprese salad at a favorite trattoria. All seemed to involve a conversation.

I loved visiting Florence’s galleries. The Academmia, where I’d stop and say hello to Michelangelo’s David again, and trying  — again — to not stare at his …. hand.

image via wikipedia

image via wikipedia

I’d go to see Fra Angelico’s exquisite paintings.  Every time I visited Florence, I spent time with the paintings of this Renaissance artist-friar (once described as “a rare and perfect talent”) and visited the San Marco priory where he’d lived.

Fra Angelico's "Annunciation"

Fra Angelico’s “Annunciation” – image via wiki paintings

I loved sitting quietly in the Uffizi gallery.

Image via

Image via

Getting lost in La Primavera. And marveling at Boticelli’s talent and skill.

Boticelli's "La Primavera"

Boticelli’s “La Primavera” at the Uffizi

And always, I’d stroll over to my favorite dress shop, a short walk from Florence’s famous Il Duomo cathedral.

Going into that shop was a bit like coming home. The proprietor would recognize me immediately with warm kisses on both cheeks and loud cries of welcome.

“Come stai? she’d ask.

“Bene, grazie.” I’d reply, smiling. “Come stai?”

A smile, a “bene, bene”. Then an elegant shrug, and remarks about doing business in Italy these days, what with the state of the government.

And then came the really important stuff: swapping news about our families.

“And – you remember my niece?” I’d nod yes, though I’d only heard about this beloved niece, never met her.

“Did I tell you what happened to her?  No? Well….”  As if we had seen each other just yesterday, instead of months earlier.

Between my trying on different outfits, her serving other customers,  my looking at myself in the mirror and frowning, her saying: “No, no, that’s too big! Try this one instead!”

Or: “There, there... Bella! Molto bella….”

Around and between all that, the latest chapter of her family saga would unfold.

An hour later, I’d leave with my purchases and — always — a head full of family gossip.

And sometimes, the thought:

“Home” is also where they know you, where they’re glad to see you.

Dedicated to my favorite shopkeeper in Florence, with thanks for making me feel at home in a city not my own. Years later, I wonder if you’re still there, and I wonder how you and your family are doing.




Filed under A Good Home, Firenze, Florence, FRa Angelico, Italy, La Primavera, Life Challenges, Lifestyle, Michelangelo's David, S. Africa, Travel Abroad

29 responses to “Days Off in Florence

  1. Sounds like you’ve made friends in Florence. The enjoyment of outdoors reminds me of living in Boulder with its pedestrian oriented downtown and many outdoor parks, trails and opportunities to connect while being outdoors and/ or active. I hope to have some international travels one day.
    Thanks for a fun travel story Cynthia.

    • Thanks, Brad, and I hope you will one day too.

      Boulder has so many great things about it, including a fabulous university.
      Two other cities with a pedestrian-friendly vibe: Dublin, whose Grafton Street is very interesting, and Stuttgart.
      There are many others, but I really like these two.

  2. It was all part of my work in the media.

  3. Interesting, delightful post. A pleasure to read, Cynthia. Regards, Iris.

  4. I remember having late meals and a few beers sitting watching people milling around plazas at 2AM, plus the 3 hour ‘Lunch Breaks’ lol 😀

    • Chris: Yes. Me too. But not quite 2 a.m. and not quite beers! (Gee whiz, Chris, you were in the land of great red wines!!)

      • LOL red wine gave me almost instant headaches, white wine didn’t cut it and I only ever nursed one beer to be sociable – nowadays I don’t drink alcohol at all (can’t stand the taste after living and working in Saudi Arabia for 8 years) 😀 😀 😀

    • I hear you, Chris. Red wine has a similar impact on me. In fact, most wine does. Imagine being in a great wine-making country and not being able to drink much of the stuff…. Go figure.

  5. Perhaps the beloved niece or another family member has continued the business. That’s the sort of shopping that I like.

  6. Oh just reading this brings a desire to visit Italy again! What a lovely time you must have had there! Dana

  7. Just a thought…maybe a second book is in order, about all your travels! 😀

  8. I have been to Firenze twice – the first time was on my honeymoon with my first husband and the second time was last summer. Such a wonderful city but the crowds in the summer are terrible I agree. I went at the end of September in 1982 and the crowds weren’t too awful but the mosquitoes were! This really brought back good memories – thank-you Cynthia!

  9. Glad it brought back good memories, Clare! A special place, for sure.

  10. How wonderful to have lived in a foreign city where you felt so at home! And to have your family with you, too. Many years ago I visited my cousin in Portugal – stayed for a week in his little fishing village – and was treated with such kindness and welcoming generosity that I felt like you did. But to actually have lived there for awhile and have gotten to know people and your environment so well … an abundance of riches, I’d say. 🙂 Jeanne

    • Thanks. Not sure I can call it “living there” as I didn’t stay for very long stretches. But for years I called Florence my second home because I had bonded with this city and was often there.

  11. Wow… just walked through the streets of Florence .. through your post! Makes me want to visit Italy! Someday …

  12. Yes. Some day.
    It’s worth making a goal.

  13. Easily the hub of one of the most stunning regions (Tuscany) on our planet. Nice ‘teaser.’ 🙂

  14. And you really can’t get a bad meal there–well, at least, not without really trying!!!

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