After weeks spent under that lucky old sun in Alghero, falling in love with yet another Italian city, I have made my way to Florence and, despite the tourism chaos, I was immediately reminded why I love this place so much. I spent four months studying in Perugia, in Umbria, which is literally called the heart of Italy, for it is located in the middle of the country. But when I am in Florence I feel like this is truly Italy’s heart. There is something about this city that has a certain draw to it, something almost magnetic, that keeps a person always wanting to return. I feel like it is offensive to tear my eyes away from any part of this city because there is so much to take in. The beauty doesn’t necessarily lie in the infinite number of museums and Renaissance Art that help make this city what it is, but in the people and the architecture and the atmosphere. There is something that is comforting and warm about Florence that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s definitely not tangible, but it is very real.
And so I have taken to walking another city into my head. I did this with Rome a year ago and I found that it is the only way to experience a big city. Before I walked Rome, I didn’t love it in the way that I love other cities in this country. However, after taking the time to get to know it on a more intimate scale, outside of its tourist wonders, I realized that there is something special about it. I have always loved Florence in a different way, but being back now that I have truly seen every magnificent sight it has to offer, I finally have the time to walk the city and get to know it as if it were actually mine.
I wrote a paper on this in a class my final year of college, about how running through a city in a matter of hours is no way to get to know it. And while I can see the lure of Euro Tours and other trips that take you to many places in a small amount of time, I know they aren’t for me. I need more time in a place. There is nothing I love more than frequenting a specific bar or restaurant and getting to know the people who work there; receiving a smile of recognition every morning.
As far as the history goes, even in 2011 it lives on, and it is all I can do as I wander the streets to keep from imagining in my head what went on here hundreds of years ago. Take away the brightly colored tourist kitsch and the little Fiats zipping around, and you may have just stepped into 1600. My love for history runs wild when I walk the streets here, making it even more fun to slowly imprint everything into my mind. So, knowing that I most likely only have a couple of weeks left in the country, I am going to do my best to walk Florence into my head. For me, there is something a little bit magical about this place and I want to know it as best as I can because in a place this old, you never know what it could be hiding a little bit off the beaten path.