A Walk in Florence, Italy

How the Florentines feel about themselves

I can’t hide that I like Florence in the winter, with its biting cold, and I bundled up well to walk through its streets. I wasn’t the only one with a scarf wrapped around her face, there were other Florentines who freely come out of their homes as there are fewer tourists around. It is a pleasure to see them on their bicycles and not on scooters and, even though they look just as dashing as the Milanese, I’d say they have more style.

Via Tornabuoni in Florence

Via Tornabuoni in Florence

And why shouldn’t they?  Born and raised in the most important city of Art in Europe? They don’t stand apart only for their style, but for everything they do. Some think they are arrogant because they want to be the best at everything. The Florentines don’ t deny any of this as they claim to belong to a race of first-born children who don’t want to lose the benefits of their legacy. On the other hand, I thought how hard this legacy must be for them to bear, with the expenses they have to maintain it.

Venice has its pink palaces, Rome has its own, but in a light orange, Napoli has the red of Pompeii, but Florence does not have colour. In a manner of speaking, that is, because there is a grey, porous marble known as pietra serena, which frames the doors and windows, while the walls are white (the Uffizi Loggia, for example), or a muted yellow, so muted, that you can’t even call it a colour.

Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence

Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence

One day I was talking to Willy, the English sculptor, and I told him how boring I found this grey stone. He blew the smoke out of his pipe and suggested that the next time I found myself in Florence, to go to the Piazza Santissima Annunziata.

 “Try to replace the grey arches with coloured marbles,” he told me.

 “Serves you right” I said to myself when I went, because what I imagined was so outside the nature of the city that it was ridiculous.

Florence is the only city in Italy that doesn’ t care to please your eye. Whatever buildings aren’t whitewashed allow the stone to be seen, but stone on its own is colourless. And for the walls to be even more austere, there is a ton of heavy metal nailed onto it. These are the rings that were once used to tie up horses or insert torches for lighting the roads during the Renaissance. I would have been able to observe all this if my own eyes weren’t constantly set on the shop windows which, with the advent of Christmas, I found far more interesting than anything else.

I couldn’t imagine the Florentines singing, but I found myself asking if they had crazy dreams. Self-control in life doesn’t mean self-control in fantasy…

An excerpt from the book: A YEAR IN TUSCANY

Barbara Athanassiadis