Sunday, September 24, 2006

Impassioned Florence

I now appreciate Florence much more. This summer, I had gone with my parents and it had been hot, rushed and short. I had been inspired by the David and by the solitude of San Marco, but in all I couldn’t grasp how Firenze could be the cradle of the Renaissance. This weekend I had a chance to visit my college roommate once again and spend a good two and a half days wandering, grazing, chatting.

After walking up before sunrise in Ferrara to catch a train to Florence with the students in my program here and after wandering around Florence with a tour guide and learning much about the city, we were left to our own devices to discover the city. Chris, Hezzy, Stephanie, Chiara and I forged off to first to Trattoria Anita, a cute little trattoria near Santa Croce with a Florentine menu, an affable waiter and great company. The dishes were small but prepared with expertise, a satisfying culinary venture. Upon the recommendation of our waiter, we went to Gelateria dei Neri to feed our lust for gelato. We were satisfied beyond belief. I sampled Chocolate with hot pepper and pistachio aside Crema Giotto (coconut, almond and hazelnut). Creamy, delicate, light and satisfying. After descending back to earth, we wandered around until we finally made it to the San Miniato, a church with an expansive view of the cradle of the Renaissance. After resting for a few moments, taking much needed water and rest, we explored the strange church and its intricate mosaics, frescoes and tile work. We joked around all five of us, getting along quite nicely, always talking in Italian, appreciating each other’s company and friendship.

That evening there was a welcoming evening at Sesame, a swanky restaurant/lounge. We chatted the night away, enjoying the drinks and food. A very strange place with a name that strikes Asian references, a d├ęcor that wanders from Turkey with hookahs to India with its lamps, and food that was all over the map. Suffice to say we had a good time and left unwillingly after Middlebury’s block on time was over. We headed back to Chris’ and chilled out for the rest of the evening until we fell asleep.

Saturday morning we decided to make a group brunch (or as we like to call it collanzo, a cross between collazione and pranzo) before heading to the Palazzo Vecchio for our tour of the secret passageways. Hezzy made the omelets, Stephanie and Chiara took charge of fruit and dishes, and Chris and I helped in various ways with cutting, serving and drinks. We arrived for our Italian tour, looking very much like foreigners but forging ahead to learn about the secret rooms that held precious art and documents, hidden from all others. There was one room for Francesco I, where he kept his precious art and objects. At first it looks like a room full of paintings but then the paintings open to passageways and cupboards. A fun little tour, a small secret, precious places.

We bid Chiara, Hezzy and Stephanie adieu at the train station with very fond memories of our time together, joking around, snapping photos, cooking, going through security at Palazzo Vecchio, trekking to San Miniato, and enjoying each other’s company. Chris and I slowly made our way back to his place, stopping to see the neck-stretching intricate mosaics on the ceiling of the Baptistery and to see the divinely finished paintings at the Church of S. Annunziata. After relaxing and reading for quite a while and then cooking dinner to Scooby Doo dubbed in Italian, Chris and I wandered the night seeing a clown performing his act in the street, a guitarist singing on the Ponte Vecchio and finally testing the night scene at Moyo and The William. We had two drinks each, trying old favourites and discovering crazy new concoctions before walking home and passing by a Turkish kebab joint to satisfy a midnight hunger.

Sunday couldn’t have been more wonderful, waking up fulfilled and rested and heading to the Bargello Museum to discover that it is Museum Day in Florence and all the museums are free. We soaked ourselves in sculpture from Donatello to Michelangelo to many many others before heading to catch my train back to Ferrara. On the way we rounded the corner to beautiful flute music. It filled the streets before we saw the flute duo, and my heart rose at the sound. Hearing the buzzing trill of the flute made me remember my time with the instrument. I was enraptured by the duo, they were playing without music stands and were staring intensely at each other, letting the music move them in tandem. It was as if they were making love in the street. I gave them a few coins and had to turn back to go buy their CD, I was so entranced by their music. Chris and I walked through an antique market before arriving at the train station and sending me back home to Ferrara.

Florence is definitely a city compared to Ferrara. There is much more stimulation, much more activity, and so much to see. I will definitely visit Chris again, we had such a wonderful, peaceful, pensive time together. We are planning to go traveling together. I snapped tons of photos, sensing the urgency of travel to capture my visual experience. Friendships crystallized during the weekend and I realized how much I cherish Chris as a roommate and a friend, and how much I will enjoy my time with Hezzy, Chiara and Stephanie here in Ferrara. A weekend full of memories, another step in this journey of taking in my surroundings, connecting to my friends and feeding my desire to learn and grow.

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