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.
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.
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.
I also loved sitting quietly in the Uffizi gallery…
…getting lost in La Primavera. And marveling at Boticelli’s talent and skill. His beautifully imagined rendition of Spring, the wealth of detail, and — unusual for the era — the way he managed to create the look of transparent clothing.
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.
58 thoughts on “Days Off in Florence”
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.
Sounds like you’ve have many great travels. do you mind sharing how you pulled that off?
It was all part of my work in the media.
Interesting, delightful post. A pleasure to read, Cynthia. Regards, Iris.
Glad you like it, Iris.
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.
Perhaps the beloved niece or another family member has continued the business. That’s the sort of shopping that I like.
Hmm… I wonder. That would be fitting, somehow.
Any possibility of a return to Florence?
A person can hope.
Indeed we do!
Oh just reading this brings a desire to visit Italy again! What a lovely time you must have had there! Dana
Italy is great and time in Florence was always special. Thanks for visiting my blog, Dana.
Just a thought…maybe a second book is in order, about all your travels! 😀
If so, it’s mostly written already. I wrote a lot during those years of travelling and working in other countries. Hmmm….
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!
Glad it brought back good memories, Clare! A special place, for sure.
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.
Wow… just walked through the streets of Florence .. through your post! Makes me want to visit Italy! Someday …
Yes. Some day.
It’s worth making a goal.
Easily the hub of one of the most stunning regions (Tuscany) on our planet. Nice ‘teaser.’ 🙂
Thanks, Eric. One of my favorite places in the world.
And you really can’t get a bad meal there–well, at least, not without really trying!!!
That’s for sure, Lori. I also love the home-cooked feel you get with some trattorias.
Reblogged this on Cynthia Reyes – Author and commented:
The garden is loving the rain, so I’m not going to complain….
Instead, I’ll imagine I’m in Florence, a place I love.
Oh, I hope she’s still there, in the bosom of her family. 🙂 🙂 Thank you for transporting me back, Cynthia. Was it only this February that I was there? The photos and memories tell me so but it feels long ago.
Thanks for your kindness too. The sheer brutality of this attack, and the cowardice of the previous one in Manchester! What did we ever do to generate such hate? James was at a birthday celebration with friends in south London. I did not know till the following morning that he had been so close.
Thank you, Jo. I knew you’d like this post. You must have so many lovely memories of special places you’ve visited.
Regarding the attacks: I am glad you didn’t know till the next morning that James had been so close. I feel for those people who knew their loved ones were right there in that spot, and those who are now bereaved or otherwise suffering.
Fiances, tourists, people just having a little happiness in their lives… all gone now. How do you ever erase those memories?
I love this post, Cynthia! Re-reading it after three years has been such a pleasure. We are hoping to go to Italy again next year – I can’t wait!
You know: re-reading it was a pleasure for me too! And I’m glad it did the same for you, Clare. I do hope you get to return to Italy, my friend.
Cynthia, it has been raining here all week and I love Florence as well! Thank you for brightening a stormy week.
And thank you for reading my post, Amy. I hope you’re doing well. It seems to be raining everywhere this spring. Not far from where I live, a friend’s house on the lakefront was flooded. Her newly finished basement level, damaged badly. I love rain, but gee whiz, I don’t like flooding.
I like the Star Trek concept of a global weather system-enough rain, but not too much. Finally, the rain let up here, the mosquitoes came out in hungry hordes and I am watching a swarm of Dragonflies devour them.
That’s what we’re missing: Dragonflies. I haven’t seen any so far, and the mosquitoes are out in force. I must re-run my blog post asking God why s/he made mosquitoes.
Yes, you must!
So wonderful to visit Florence with you.
Thank you, Laurie. I’m glad you did!
I’ve always wanted to visit Florence and your words and the visions in my head that come along with them make me realize it’s a must do!!
It’s such a remarkable place, Tina. I hope you get there one day.
You are lucky to have lived in such a place. I’d love to see all the artworks.
It’s really a great privilege that I had, and even to have these memories is a good thing. Rome is grand — a bit too grand for me. Florence is still small enough that I can relate to it…. especially in the off-season. I still would get lost on a side street if I went there today, however. (I can get lost in a room.)
A delightful post! Florence is on my list but I will probably never make it. Lucky you to have lived there and have such beautiful memories!
A blessing disguised as work! I know it was a rare privilege.
Such a lovely city .. wonderful post Cynthia
Thank you, Julie.
Sounds wonderful. Some day Judy and I will get there.
You must. Do read up about the history of the city and its buildings and artists before you go. It gives the visit an extra dimension, I think.
Florence is a beautiful city, I just watched a movie today that was set there and reminded me of when I visited many years ago.
It’s one of those unforgettable places, for all kinds of reasons, not all related to art and history. Ah, the ice cream at Santa Croce!
Lucky, lucky you! I’ve been once but my visit wasn’t long enough to call it a second home. I’d love to have a return visit!
I wish that you will!