Florence, You are Ours!

There are nights you feel like a princess, and you just have to go with it. My new dress and shoes—a silk gown with gauzy, see-through sleeves, the fabric scattered with blooms, and the length hitting above my knees just right, and then, of course, paired with four-inch-high Tommy Hilfiger wedges all made me feel willowy and sensuous.

“Wait up, Little Goat,” Paul called huffing behind me a good twenty feet. “My feet are hamburger, give me break.”

“Little Goat?” I laughed. If I had not been in such a good mood, it would have been a much different conversation.

“Yes, you are bounding around on your toes on those shoes. I just see you head bobbing up between all the people.”

“I can’t bound on my toes, wedges are platforms; it’s like regular walking just much higher,” I retorted.

Florence had changed during our five-day visit. The first day was ninety degrees and our cotton clothes clung to us in the heat and humidity. Tonight, the wind was brisk with a little bite to it. The air was clearer, and everything–the white façade of Santa Croce cathedral outside our porch, the thick, red tiles of the immense round dome of the Dumo, and the lantern-shaped lights on the street corners—stood out in stark shadows in the twilight.

I shivered.

“I wish you had a regular coat,” I told Paul as he adjusted the collar of the sports coat I insisted he bring.

I had told him, “You never know when you’ll need it for an event you hadn’t planned on.”

“What do we women bring for those moments?”

“A pearl necklace.”

“Why aren’t you wearing yours?”

I didn’t feel like it.”

And then, just like me not minding Paul calling me the Little Goat, he didn’t mind wearing the sport coat. He didn’t mind at all.

We should have been exhausted, in our pajamas, drowsing in front of the TV. In a single day we have visited the Uffizi Art Gallery, climbed the Duomo’s dome and bell tower, and now we were on the way to a Three Tenors concert. We sped through the streets where the owners of restaurants were pulling down plastic curtains to protect the diners from the wind. We were late for the performance. The proprietor at the bottom of our building offered to put our dinners in a warmer for us to eat later, but instead we jumped up from our table, grabbed hands and shouted, “We’ll see you for dessert, Ciao!”

When you start shouting the language of the place you are visiting, you’ve made it. Florence was ours.

The Uffizi Gallery, opened in 1560 when the local mafia family, the Medicis, started hauling in art they had in their palace and hanging it on the walls. Five hundred years later, the Uffizi is stuffed with art. Shaped like a horseshoe, two sweeping galleries are crowded with thousands of years-old marble statues and paintings of historically important Romans and Italians as well as the ubiquitous Madonna with Child. Who knew though, that most of the statues had been repaired over the centuries with extra body parts from defunct statues, and many of the works were painted by one artist but a different one had signed his name over the top after the painted had dried?

“I’d be pissed for eternity,” I said solemnly to Paul. “I’d find the faker and haunt him and his family forever.”

“Yep,” Paul patted my shoulder. “I have no doubt.” I’ve been known to wish for revenge.

Now is moment I have to apologize to Paul. I called him an idiot. He wanted to climb the 463 steps of the immense Duomo dome. Its real name is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, but she is called the Duomo. Massive, she dominates the skyline of Florence, and you can feel her ownership of the city. Calling them “interruptions and resumptions,” it took 150 years to complete the Duomo, and Filippo Brunelleschi, the final architect and builder, burned his notes and plans used to build the double dome (one inside the other to hold it together) making it a near impossibility for the current architects to figure out how to maintain the structure. Idiot.

Back to the other idiot. “We are fifty-five years old, we do not exercise AT ALL, we drink way too much wine, eat too much cheese, your blood pressure medicine had to be increased, and I am considering botox. Why do you think we should climb it?”

But we did. We used the same staircase the workers did all those generations ago, and at the top we saw the whole swath of Florence stretching out in red roofs, church spires, the glinting Arno River, and palaces on the hills in the distance. It was so exciting that, buoyed by our success, we dashed across the piazza and climbed the Bell Tower which was 414 steps. On our way down, the bells began to toll, and I felt like I was being rolled from side to side on an old ship. We passed the opening where we felt the powerful push of the metal bell through the air as its gong, gong, gong pulsed steady and unrelenting. Though my teeth were bouncing around in my skull, it was stupendous.

So, it brings me to the last event of our crazy day. I had bought tickets for a Three Tenors concert. Now I knew they weren’t the real Three Tenors—Carreras, Domingo, and Pavarotti—but I was hopeful it would be like Las Vegas where we once saw one guy who could sing exactly like Billy Joel and Elton John.

These guys? First of all, only one of them was actually on the cover of the program. The other two were subs. They sang for an hour and a half, and they were pretty good. I called one of them Hair Flipper because he liked to bend deeply at the waist and throw his head back, so his hair cascaded around him, another guy I nicknamed the Hulk, because that guy had a head like a boulder, and the last one I called Mike the Neighbor.

“What? He doesn’t look like Mike (our best friend),” Paul wrinkled his forehead and frowned.

“No, he looks like Mike the neighbor who only replaced half his roof and doesn’t mow his lawn,” I whispered.

“Oh,” Paul said nodding. “He does look like Mike the neighbor.”

They sang arias from La Traviata, Rigoletto, and Tosca. They entered the stage and exited the stage. Over and over.

“Why don’t they just stay up there?” Paul asked.

“It’s all about getting in character,” I sat on the edge of my chair. I just wanted to hear them sing Nessun Dorma—a song I first heard in 2007 and makes me weep every time I hear it. But it wasn’t to be. When people started leaving during the third version of The Marriage of Figaro, the three tenors hastily tied it up and bowed. Hair Flipper, the Hulk, and Mike the Neighbor. They held hands. Ooh, gross, I thought.

Giggling, we ran back through the cold where the owner of the restaurant called out, “You’re back! Come tell me about it!” We sat with him and drank Moscato wine and ate tiramisu while I told him all about my names for the three singers. He wasn’t offended at all.

So, we’re packing up. We will look like idiots once more as we wheel our four robin’s egg blue suitcases across the piazza towards the taxi stand. Florence has been glorious; Tuscany, we’re on our way…

3 thoughts on “Florence, You are Ours!

  • Well done as usual. I can understand better now why you have four robin’s egg blue suitcases. Cultural immersion is a good thing. Also, before commenting I had to listen to Nessun Dorma, this version by the real Three Tenors. Full disclosure, I didn’t cry. Don’t hate me for that, it just means I have more music appreciation work to do.


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