Sunday, May 30, 2010
Today Italy and I bonded - I no longer felt threatened by the language barrier or the uncertainly of it all, at least temporarily. I felt emboldened and very (!!!) uncharacteristically relaxed and spontaneous, I got up in time to sit on the ptio of my wonderful new hotel room and watch the sun rise while I read my guidebook to pick a destination for a day of adventure. I picked Florence.
I have to take a moment to say grazie mille to all the people who looked at me like I was crazy when I said I was going to Tuscany without visiting Florence (but not to those who look at me like I'm crazy for other reasons). Florence is a lovely city and, though I prefer Rome, I am very, very glad that I spent time there.
The best thing about my trip was my travel companions. I keep meeting the most delightful people and today was no exception - as I left the hotel and climbed aboard the bus to the train station, I started chatting with two girls who had been in Cortona for the boring conference (on microbiology, as it turns out, not mathematics). They're ph.d students but are anything but boring - we laughed a lot today. One was from Thailand, the other from London though she'd been born in Afghanistan. We did a whirlwind tour of Florence, skipping most of the tourist sights (sorry, David! Hopefully you'll still be posing au naturel the next time I come visit) when we all fell in love with the Piazale Michelangelo and its amazing views of the city. Apart from a visit to the Basilica di Santa Croce and the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli, we spent all our time looking over the city. We took buses to save time (they had a plane to catch; I just wanted to get back to the beautiful balcony at my hotel in Cortona), but got to see a lot of the city that way. Armed with a cheesy but pretty painting of Florence, I returned to relaxation in Cortona.
I love the evenings here - somehow it's even better than sunset at Pacific Beach. Not only does everyone stop their work or studies, but they all begin to mill around. Traffic stops driving on the flat street (it's actually called that because yes, there's only one in this otherwise steep hill town), and everyone lingers in the streets or sits in the sidewalk cafes to watch those walking by. Shop owners leave their stores to talk to neighbors or buy an ice cream next door (or both!), leaving their stores open. Sometimes they put up a sign to let you know they'll be back; other times, you must go in search of the owner down the street in order to pay for something. It's amazing - the trust of humanity makes Cortona seem like you've traveled back in time even more than the Roman roads or Etruscan walls do. The town's people assume that people are the best we can expect them to be, and I love it.
Posted by Beth at 1:33 PM