This trip to Florence, as my entire life seems to have been, has not been as I expected. However, as my life has been, my trip has been filled with changes–some challenging, many surprising and gratifying. As I have relayed in earlier posts, my first week of this trip was unexpectedly filled with time great times spent amongst new and old friends. My high school era American friends left a week ago today. Then my Florentine/American friends, Gary and Margaret, left this past Friday.
This is Gary, Margaret and me at one of our favorite aperitivo meeting places.
So, I have been alone much more in my second week here. I still meet and talk with people every day, and my italian is improving. I have had the time to take some of the day trips as I was hoping to. It is so easy to take the train here. If only we had trains like this in the U.S. My first solo day journey was to Arezzo. I have been studying renaissance frescoes and there are some amazing frescoes in a small cathedral in Arezzo. It is off-season here, and also, this is not a place that attracts tourist groups. La Basilica di San Francesco was so peaceful and quiet. Only a few other people were there. I cannot tell you how touching and emotional it is to see beautiful art in peace and relative solitude.
The main frescoes are those of Piero della Francesca painted in about 1458-1466. They tell the tale of the Legend of the True Cross, which is an interesting Christian legend. The very basic story is that the tree that became the wood that created the cross upon which Christ was crucified was planted by the son of Adam. The Queen of Sheba informed Solomon that the Saviour would be crucified on the wood of this tree. They apparently cut down the tree and buried it in hopes of changing that fate. The legend goes on from there, and we all know that their hopes of changing that fate did not come to fruition. It is a non-biblical and very mystical Christian legend.
Even in my days here alone in Florence, they are never truly alone. I know the lady at the little fruit and vegetable stand that I stop in every few days. I know the beautiful bartender at my favourite little wine bar by the Duomo. I know the owner of the bar that is a favourite hangout of my dear friend, Angelo. I know a handful of other locals enough to say “Buon Giorno!” I am even starting to know the man who works in the little lighting shop near my apartment. He always wears red shoes and his blonde cocker spaniel is always by his side wearing a matching red scarf around his neck. I do not have any photos of the two of them yet, but I promise to try!
When I talk with people here, they allow me to imagine that I could live here. It is so simply stated. “Why do you not live here?”. That question for me is similar to the question that I always was asked back in my Austin networking days. The dreaded “What is your passion?” question. Only this ever-repeated question is not dreaded–it is welcomed. It seems so simple, the way that they ask it. I have no delusions about that. Moving here would be no simple matter. It is a long-shot, and a long road. This evening. I met a young man from Athens, who now lives in Amsterdam. He has never been to Florence before. He had this amazing understanding of the Renaissance period, though. Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and there simply is no other place on earth which can make that claim. The young man who I met from Athens understood this deeply, and understood what that means –something which I already understood so thoroughly, but somehow, hearing it and the passion in his voice about it reinforced my awe for this beautiful city.