In most places seasons are recognized by calendar dates or weather. Here in Tuscany the calendar says it's still winter; the weather--well it has been very confused this year and so winter has never come, but, by the yardstick of Florence, these things don't really matter anyway. Florence has its own seasonal yardstick-- tourists. And they are back.
We go into Florence often for any number of reasons but primarily because it is fun. And, the last couple of months have been very special. We have been alone in Piazza della Signoria, listened to our own echoing footsteps in silent museums, walked Ponte Vecchio while seeing from one end to the other, admired monumental art work in deserted churches and entered restaurants with empty tables. Of all our experiences in this great city, the opportunity to be a part of it while it slept was perhaps the most moving and special. We felt at one with its history and ghosts and solitude born from its unshared uniqueness and accomplishments. It was a time of quiet.
But--this changed in just the last week. It was a sudden metamorphose and not slow. It just happened--as if March opened a closed door and people rushed through. Yesterday groups of people moved through streets and alleys as one entity. Leaders, waving umbrellas and flags, shepherded followers in and out of museum doors, rushing through places that call for much longer periods of contemplation. Places of God were no longer silent--not out of disrespect but as a natural consequence of an infusion of people. Ponte Vecchio, while not like it will be in another month or so, was no longer ours alone.
This is the season for school groups to come and, hopefully, encourage students to begin a life-long desire to explore and experience life out of their comfort zones. There were many such groups listening to impassioned teachers explain the glories of what they were seeing, stretching necks to see all the way to the top of Palazzo Vecchio's magnificent tower and Giotto's Santa Maria del Fiore's many stepped bell tower--I wonder how many climbed it?
This seems to be the time of year when many people from Asian countries visit Italy--or, at least, Florence. I felt sorry for one couple as I watched them pour over their Japanese/Italian menu dictionary trying to decipher such things as peposo all'imprunetina and straccetti di manzo all'aceto balsamico. It's hard enough when doing so in English--a language with the same alphabet and similar foods; it must be close to impossible with a different alphabet and unfamiliar foods. I did notice that their dictionary included many visuals.
Tomorrow we go back in to "The City." We are meeting friends and will go to the just premiered Cézanne Exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi. Because high season has not hit yet, we will buy our tickets when we get there. But--on a weekend or in another couple of weeks, advanced reservations will certainly be as necessary there as they are elsewhere in the city.
I am certain that tomorrow we will find the city even more filled with tourists than it was yesterday. There will be more languages, more flags waving above chattering throngs of lookers. Residents will begin once again to cede their streets and city back to the people of the world and wait to reclaim it when cold sets in and snow falls and the people of the world stay home.
Sadly, our time as residents may be over when the next winter comes for Florence. We will be tourists again when we come back someday. But, this year, as residents, belonging to the place and time, is magical and quite wonderful. I don't want to leave.
God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.