European Vacation – August 11

Day one of exploring Florence. Our first impression of Gassime proved to be correct, as he effortlessly switched between at least 4 different languages and welcomed everyone for breakfast. He quickly got our reserved room ready and got us settled into a clean and tidy quad with a view of the Duomo and Campanile from the window. Shutters opened out into a little tiled courtyard. Just too damned cute. After getting settled, we hit the cobblestoned streets of Florence.

You literally can’t turn a corner here without seeing a scene you just have to take a picture of. Lauren, who had saved up and bought a digital camera for herself, had it going constantly. Around every corner, there was a new renaissance treasure to be seen. We walked past the Duomo and Battistero to the Ponte Vecchio, down to the Palazzo Pitti, then back to the north bank of the Arno and wandered the streets, checking booth after booth filled with leather goods, souvenirs, sweets and the ever present gelato counters. My daughter Alanna was determined to do some shopping. Alanna is almost 13 and is in love with the idea of shopping. However, she doesn’t seem to realize that shopping means at some point you actually have to make a decision and purchase something. After awhile, all the booths blurred together, but she still seemed convinced that the perfect momento had not yet been found.

The weather was perfect, sunny but not too hot and the hours passed quickly as we wandered through the historic maze, made a stop at the Festivo de Gelatto (hundreds of flavors, including carrot and spinach, we opted for less adventurous and wholesome options, mine was dark chocolate) and gradually made it back to the hotel for a quick afternoon nap.

After the nap, we headed out again, grabbing a calzone at one of the many Pizza di Taglio (by the slice) shops and then wandering down to the Arno to see the Ponte Vecchio at night. This is a truly amazing structure, being one of the few historic bridges not destroyed by the Germans as they retreated and crowded with tiny little antique buildings clinging to the superstructure of the bridge. Most of them house jewelry shops, windows jammed with dazzling Italian gold. At night, it provides a inspiring view and picture opportunity.

We continued along the north bank of the Arno until we reached the Uffizi Gallery, and then walked through the central courtyard, enjoying a rare moment when the historic location wasn’t jammed with tourists. A classical guitarist was performing Rodrigo and provided the perfect soundtrack to the moment, dusk in Florence, with the Uffizi and its many statues framing the imposing Palazzo Vecchio and it’s piazza, lit up at night. A few more steps and we saw an orchestra setting up. Apparently, it was the 62nd Anniversary of the Liberation of Florence from the Germans in World War II and there would be a free concert in the courtyard. I started questioning whether you could call it a Liberation when Italy was still technically in alliance with Germany at the time, but decided to quit quibbling with Italian revisionist history and just enjoy the moment. It was a little surreal, sitting in Florence and listening to Ennio Morricone (theme for the Magnificent Seven) in one of the most beautiful piazzas in the world. Just one other comment on the celebration. They continued to say how important the liberation was for Florence, but not once did they mention who did the liberating. I thought a quick nod of thanks to the many American soldiers (and some Canadians, my uncle being one of them) would have been appropriate.

After the concert, we continued to stroll (the Italians call it a passeggiata) down the street, catching a few other street entertainers and falling totally under the spell of Florence.

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