Florence (Indie 30 – Day 15, City)

Florence (Indie 30 – Day 15, City)

BootsnAll prompt: What is your favorite (or least favorite) city and what do you love (or hate) about it?

 

I lived in Florence, Italy in the winter and spring of 2008. I love many cities and dislike many others. I have a love-hate relationship with my current residence in Pittsburgh (mostly love), but the first city that came to mind when reading the prompt was Florence. Probably because I’m working on finishing up some poetry about my time there.

 

Florence is a city that is packed with tourists, but also often overlooked. On many package tours (including the one I did on my first trip to Italy), Florence is a midday stop on the way from Rome to Venice. On that first trip, I toured the Duomo, ate gelato, and shuffled across the Ponte Vecchio.

 

But when I moved to Florence in 2008, I quickly came to see all that had been overlooked about the city: Carlo’s cheese and meat stand in the Mercato Centrale, the dizzying array of painting not on the highlights tour of the Uffizi, forgotten back alleys where waiters smoke on their breaks, and watching the sunset over the Arno.

 

I quickly found that getting up early was the best way to meet locals and find a quiet moment in the historic center. One morning, I was up for sunrise and sat in front of the Duomo, just admiring it, all alone for 10 minutes until a man in an orange vest arrived and began quietly sweeping the square. For awhile longer, it was just the two of us in the shadow of these monuments.

 

I became a regular at a coffee shop around the corner from my apartment. Every morning I stood in my purple fleece and jeans elbow to elbow with local businessmen in suits and shiny black shoes. In the evenings, my roommates and I would go on long walks or do homework at the cafe in Edison bookstore. At Edison, we met so many people – locals and foreigners alike – who asked to share our table and then would chat with us for awhile over our coffee. It’s a good thing our homework was easy because we definitely did more talking than working.

I love this city because it is historic, but approachable. The historic center if flat so it’s easy to walk for miles (and I often did). But the city is ringed by hills and mountains so its a quick jaunt out to the country to enjoy a vineyard or take photographs of Florence from afar.

I also met so many friendly people. Florence can feel intimidating at first because many people tire of the crowds and tourists who don’t even attempt to speak Italian, but anywhere that I showed up at an off hour, before peak tourist season started, or half a mile or more outside of the historic center, I knew I would likely receive a friendly response. My roommates and I became regulars at a great little gelateria. The man who owned it and made the gelato knew us by face and name. His English was quite limited, but his daughter or one of his workers would translate when we got stuck. I liked practicing my Italian with him. And his gelato was incredible.

Florence was just a fun place to live. It had all the elements of an historic city: larger than life monuments, incredible art galleries, and cobbled streets. But I also felt comfortable there very quickly. Once I learned my way around the main roads, it was home for awhile. I loved the challenges of being foreign but appreciated the comforts of the few things I knew wouldn’t change during my time there. It’s a lovely city.

 

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