Florence, Italy, Wednesday, I think
I hurry in the early predawn darkness, my early pre consciousness, to capture the muses, the amuses, before their fireflies of impressions are extinguished by light, by time, by full consciousness of realty. There is an additional, unanticipated urgency; the clusters of cellphones and tablets have not yet discovered our escape from their ever present monitoring. Their habituated electronic surveillance slept while my wife and I snuck out of Monterey, California and arrived here, home, in Florence, Italy. Home, though we have not lived here for over forty years.
“Home” it would seem, is not just the physical place where, as nature would have it, you were dropped off, but also the “home” of the very cultural family into which you were born. Oh yes, I know classical Greece is recognized as the foundation of western society, but I’m talking about the elegant architecture, art, and literature that the Renaissance built upon that foundation. And where better to appreciate it in one compact jewel of a city, than Florence.
“You’re leaving, for a year, to Florence?” Our elder friends, that is to say our contemporaries, express in shock, then incredulity, then wistful admiration as we explain our intent to recapture our youth. Cynthia and I were newlyweds when we first stayed in Florence. And why shouldn’t we expect to revisit our own youth, our own history? In Florence, we can retrace our steps on the very cobble streets previously trod by Dante, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci. We can revisit their youth, their early works, even the very houses they lived in, and the studios churches and palaces they decorated which we all can revisit.
“Florence hasn’t changed much in 400 years; I don’t expect much change has happened in forty.” Our friends seemed satisfied with our optimism.
Below our windows, the street sweepers are cleaning up after another night of communal revelry here in Piazza Santo Spirito, in the “Oltrano”, the “other side” of the Arno River. It is just a few strides from the Ponte Vecchio. Communal is indeed the right word to describe the feel for the entire Centro Historico, for this charming city is administered as the Commune di Firenze.
How “real” is it, really, to wake up on the first day of the rest of your life, and find yourself really here in Florence, again, for the first time, to have as the first evening’s walk the overriding memory of a buzz, of buzzes, a swarm of motor scooters. They descend upon the hapless pedestrian in the cross walk, the cross hairs of a determined mass of worker bees intent on their assigned destinations.
“The bells! The bells!” No longer just the image of Lon Chaney, hands over his ears as Quasi Moto, that less than human, tormented creature, but rather a “Molto Moto”, a very human, very cherished experience of the peeling of bells throughout the city, yet seemingly intimate to the neighborhood. The bells of the innumerable campanili seem to be sonorously pitched to a deep, heart-longing tone, as if by some heavenly edict.
My bride and I lived in Florence some 42 years ago. Cynthia had visited here with her sister about four years later. Her message to me back in the states at the time was, “If you could see what I see now, you would drop everything you are doing and join me here in Florence.”
And that goes ditto, from me to you. Ciao!