"You may have the universe if I may have Italy." --Giuseppe Verdi
05.08.2010 - 09.08.2010
All of us agree – we could happily live in Florence for the rest of our days.
We hop off the train on our first day and walk through the Piazza. It is filled with tourists but unlike Venice, the crowds are easily absorbed and feel incidental to the mechanics of the city. Around us, people are scootering to their jobs, engaged in conversations over espresso, sketching in the alleyways. We are immediately attracted to its combination of industry and creativity and we dive in, anxious to experience all that we can in the few days we will have to visit.
After a lunch of risotto and wine, we head to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. It is very warm outside and we walk gratefully through its cool interior. Periodically, a deep and commanding voice plays over the loudspeaker: “SHHHHH….SILENZIO, PER FAVORE. SILENCE….PLEASE. The tourists are shocked into quiet for about 8 seconds (“Was that God?” I heard a little girl ask) and then commence with their conversations again. I sit on the floor and study the fresco in the dome above me, trying to make sense of its esoteric message while enjoying the feeling of the cool marble beneath my body. Analiese eventually joins me and we gaze up together until we decide we’ve had enough.
But not Scott and Lang who want to go to the top of the dome where you can see the city laid out from a bird’s eye point of view We divide for the afternoon with a quick plan to meet at the Accademia Gallery, at 4:30 or if all else fails, at the train at 7:00. Analiese and I walk through the town, stopping in stores to watch paper be marbled, admiring the gorgeous fashions in the windows, taking the occasional gelato break.
We end up at the Accademia and wait in line for an hour to see The David. It is very warm but Analiese has an IPOD and I have a book and we take turns looking for Scott and Lang.
But they never come. I realize that I'm in Florence without any means of communication and I begin to grow a bit anxious. I do recall seeing an exhibit of Da Vinci’s designs and I wonder whether they may have gotten sidetracked, but I set the anxiety aside long enough to enter into the museum and to enjoy this opportunity to gaze on Michelangelo’s work.
Sitting under natural light in the center of the Accademia is The David. I had forgotten how imposing this work is and I am struck with that curious blend of humility and inspiration that stirs when I am in the presence of genius. Analiese and I walk round and round, sometimes leaving momentarily to look at other art, but always returning to cast another gaze. Finally we find a seat on a bench where we can rest for a few moments without the jostle of crowds. I find myself watching the faces of the people as they enter the room. Sometimes it’s pure joy, sometimes awe, sometimes just a shadow of a smile, but in almost every case, people stop their conversations and just stare. Even my daughter, who has grown weary of museums, is awestruck and I whisper to her the story of David and Goliath while we sit and watch.
In my determination to part ways with my childhood religion and to raise my children without this burden, I have somehow never had opportunity to tell them the stories of the Bible. It has been an interesting exercise for me, as we've visited museums with religious relics, to reach deep into my memory and to tell these legends that are so much a part of me. It's a bit like opening an old drawer and finding treasures you had forgotten you owned. You dust them off and realize that they're actually quite beautiful and you appreciate them, perhaps for the very first time.
Finally, it is time to leave and I walk out reluctantly, wondering if I will ever return. The evening has cooled and we spend our last half hour of this day in Florence in a pharmacy discussing mosquito repellants (Analiese looks like target practice) before making our way to the steps of the station. Much to my relief, Scott and Lang join us just a few minutes later with apologies and explanations. They finally made it to the top of the dome but were running late to meet us so walked the city instead, making their own discoveries. It is good to be together again and we head home on the train with plans to return in a few days.