Tuesday, October 9

Letter from Florence

One of the charming squares in Florence

Arriving in Florence is always a pleasure.  Not least for the absolute beauty of the place, for its ease in navigating, and for its stores.  I've come to the conclusion that Florence is like a miniscule Paris, where both the galleries and shops are brimming with shoppers and where the women dress so creatively; I even caught a guy walking down the street with a huge loaf of bread under his arm.  As far as I could tell, the only difference is that shopkeepers & waitstaff alike seem to actually appreciate you.  The city center is small enough to criss-cross on foot, and really, the only thing you need is a set of earplugs, for two reasons:  To muffle their homegrown noise pollution (narrow streets and motorinos do not make a fine mix), and to tune out the hoardes of people speaking English.

The old luggage shop has given way to a swanky coffee bar
a pleasant welcome to Florence Santa Maria Novella train station
Arriving at the train station, I was met by a fine crowd of people, distinguished from all the rest.  About 24 gypsies, making out like bandits while people scurried to purchase their tickets and hop a train.  Out in front, the Florentines have done away with their Bus Info Booth-which was one of the best things about arriving there.  I felt so sorry for the poor newsstand guy--I feel like petitioning the City Govt so he could draw a salary for offering Tourist Information.  Seeing that the last time I caught the bus out front seemingly going toward the center, I ended up 45 minutes from my destination in unbearable heat, I decided to grab a cab.  Even the Florentine taxi drivers have always been a joy to take a ride with (while they may be taking you for a ride...!).
In Milan, addresses stem from the center out down the spokes, so to speak.  But in Florence, after hiking many a mile, I knew this is not the case.   I learned from my cabbie that addresses start from the Arno River.  I thought there was something so poetic about that, although it didn't help me out -- what if your road is parallel to the Arno?  In any case, I ended up in a lovely section of Florence, down along the via Ghibellina and not so far from Santa Croce.  The streets in these parts are lined with cool shops & galleries, and not a chain store in sight.  I sat down underneath the archways of this tidy square (above), the Volta di San Piero.  A student hangout with a pub, a kebab place and a hole-in-the-wall eatery where I had a so-so ricotta & honey crepe, accompanied by a lousy cappuccino; but where the people & dog-watching was terrific, in compensation.

Burnt by the Tuscan Sun
Signed copies now at B&M Books

From there, I window shopped along the near traffic-free street, heading straight for Piazza della Repubblica - a place I like to go up on the rooftop for a drink with friends and a very fine view, indeed.  I stopped in at The Paperback Exchange to check on my book sales, before heading over nearer the Arno to B&M Books, a place selling an amazing selection of books old and new, and often hosting authors & artists.  I took advantage of their €1 and €5 book corner, and signed a few copies of my book which they had admirably placed, front & center.
At the nearby Palazzo Strozzi (one of my favorite places in Italy), an exhibit of Italian art from the Fascist period (hands down my favorite period for Italian art) is going on.  They have an outstanding cafè and a peaceful courtyard when you walk into the building.
Heading back over to the station, I caught a glimpse of a slight advertising fail for another art show (longtime readers will know it's one of my pet peeves of Life in Italy - just do a search on my blog for the word Advertising to have a hearty laugh).  I can't for the life of me think how anyone could have simply walked away from this job, thinking, Sì-That's a job well done!   I actually stopped to ponder if it was a ploy to get you to go to the exhibition, since there were more than one done up this way.  I don't think so.  Then again, maybe the poster guy needed to catch his train - or catch a thief making off with his wallet.
A show on Gothic Maolica?
Or, advertising a show on mosaic pieces...

For related posts on Florence, click below or just look at the tag cloud off to the right.

A Day Trip to Florence ... From Umbria Uncovered

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