We spent close to seven months living in Florence. We left just over a year and a half ago. I miss Florence.
Thoughts on our return to Florence:
1. Living inside the city means that one of your neighbours will be a musician, an opera practice studio or other mind-blowing opportunity to listen to the classical music while sitting on the pot, putting out laundry etc. This time, we’re right next to a violin, viola and cello maker. They look out onto our laundry courtyard and occasionally we hear the first voice of a beautiful instrument.
2. There is always a new gelateria to be tested, but you shouldn’t drop the old favorites.
3. The same goes for eateries. There is always a new trattoria to try or one you just never found before. Word to tourists, go to the south side of the river, the Oltrarno, to eat. Cheaper, and if you’re a bit away from the Ponte Vecchio significantly less tourists. Our favorites are still Alla Vecchia Bettola and San’Agostino 23, but with the change in hands of D’Gione and a great experience, but not as stellar as the first at Cavalo Nero, I’ll add L’Bridonelle (truffle pasta and fried zucchini flowers were amazing) and Trattoria Dell’ Orto (Crespelle – a Florentine speciality)
4. I forgot how bad the tap water smells. Even I can’t bring myself to drink it. Frizzante all the way baby.
5. The obsession with Louis Vuitton bags by Florentine men and women is completely beyond me. Those bags are just plain ugly. Really, you’re dressed exquisitely why add a dour brown bag with advertising all over it that looks exactly the same as all the other brown bags, and for that matter the knock-offs that are being sold all over the city.
6. Boboli may not be highly manicured like a fine English garden or how it was in the time of the Medici, but my mum is right, there is a greater beauty to be found in the fact that it is no longer only for the obscenely rich and their cronies -that the people of Florence can enjoy the space for free, and the rest of us for really not that much. It feels like a nice big F.U to the bourgeoisie. (What my dad noted is also important: when you think about how many great relics this city has to protect, something has to give and some open space in the middle of the city that all can enjoy is precious)
7. If you’re planning on going to Boboli, you should walk around the Northeast wall of Fort Belvedere out of the gardens and to Giardino Bardino. Another triumph for the people of Florence. Fought for and won just this century so that all could experience, the pergola blooms wisteria in April and the hydrangea in summer. Early mornings before everyone else makes it are best.
8. I’d forgotten about the septic system for inside the city walls. Living on a large leach field can be smelly. Not unrelated, those rowing teams look so peaceful in their rhythmic movement down the Arno, I’m not sure they should be.
9. Wherever you are in town you’re going to be woken by the bells pealing the call to first mass. It doesn’t matter how thick the windowpanes, walls, or pillow, the bells are too mighty to be silenced.
10. Carousels are fun at two years, at four years and forty-two years.
We went on the carousel in Piazza Republica a lot.
11. If you’re here for any length of time you will see at least one motorbike accident. You’ll wonder why you don’t see more. Motorcyclists are crazy here and dodge and weave against traffic.
12. The sidewalks are ridiculously narrow. The order of who has priority on the sidewalk:
a. Old doddering Italian ladies and gentlemen have right of way. Don’t make them move off the sidewalk, it is too bloody precarious. Just say no to broken hips.
b. People carrying infants or pushing toddlers in prams come next, but expect to be cooed over. This is the price you pay so that you can bring your babe back into the nicest restaurants and be welcomed with open arms. Just enjoy it.
c. Same goes for pregnant ladies. You’re going to get cooed over. You are a goddess, enjoy the adoration. Maybe that should be a Madonna instead?
d. Late middle-aged Italian ladies who think that those in b and c should move out of the way. No really, it isn’t going to happen. In fact, unless you look infirm I’m going to stand my ground with my four-year old. I don’t give a crap about that look you’re giving me
e. The rest of you
Note: Italian teens still think that they have priority that they did when they were little and are oblivious to all. Maybe this isn’t just an Italian thing.
Dear tourist with the huge camera. You might consider that camera your baby, but it doesn’t give you any traction on the sidewalk priority listing. Get off the sidewalk as my child approaches and I haul groceries back from the store.
13. You won’t catch me on a bike inside the city walls, but sans helmets, the old and young take to rickety old bikes (none of this fancy shiny bike stuff here) and risk life and limb on the streets here. Tucson, note you could learn a thing or two from the bike parking opportunities here.
14. Those double-decker sight-seeing buses might be great for other cities, but Florence is a city you can walk. Grab a city bus to go up to Fiesole for the day, but walk to the rest and save a bunch of money.
15. The Accademia and Uffizi are definitely worth a visit, but check out some of the smaller museums and churches. The Bargello is amazing as is Santa Maria del Carmine which were new to us.
16. If you’re in a vacation rental (an apartment that a Florentine is renting out) you might be told to sweep up the leaves off the patio by your elderly neighbour. He stopped short of asking me to weed. Just.
17. If you’re in a vacation rental you can save loads of money on meals by eating at home. I know, you’re thinking what is the point of that, if I’m in Florence? The produce here is so much better than anything we find in Tucson. If fruit and vegetables tasted like this all the time then you couldn’t stop kids from eating them. Tuscan cooking is based upon the quality of ingredients. It really is easy and quick to make something scrumptious here at least for one meal a day.
I’m sure there is more, but this is quite long enough.