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|Volume 11 |Issue 28| July 13, 2012 ||
A Roman Column
A VIEW WITH A ROOM
I could have added a colon and a secondary title, like, E.M.Forster's Florence and Mine; or, Firenze re-re-re-re-re-revisited. But while the first subtitle would require me to re-read one of my favourite books set in Firenze*, “A Room with a View”; the second would imply a blasé, 'been there-done it' attitude.
That would be false as well as arrogant. Firenze can never be done with. So, the truth is in the title, as is. On our recent overnight trip to this exquisite medieval city with a visiting friend, we actually booked rooms in a hotel just for its view and location. The rooms were secondary, since we would hardly be spending time there.
The best feature of the Hotel Pitti Palace, built into the 13th-century Rossi Tower of the Medici's Palazzo Pitti and situated at the top of Ponte Vecchio, is its panoramic roof terrace with a picture postcard skyline of Firenze.
The Uffizi Gallery was barely five minute's walk from the hotel, but we had decided that this time we would do no serious sight-seeing, except to stroll to the Piazza del Duomo to pay respects to Brunelleschi's Dome, nod at Giotto's Belltower/Campanile, glance at Ghiberti's bronze doors of the Baptistry, salute Michelangelo's David at the Piazza della Signoria, wave at his neighbour, Cellini's gruesome bronze statue of Perseus beheading Medusa, standing in the Loggia dei Lanzi with the Rape of the Sabine Women.
Tourism Lite! But essential, since this is our Florence of the View trip. Everything would be about the Big Picture, the Bella Vista. So, instead of sweating the details, we would spend the time enjoying a leisurely breakfast on the terrace café, watching the pigeons on the geranium potted ledges that gave way to the tiled roofs, dome and campanile in the distance; and at sunset we would return to the rooftop to sip complimentary drinks, while observing the chromatic changing of guards in the horizon, from russet to a blue night-sky.
For the rest of our stay, we decided to practice the art of meandering: drifting around the piazzas and palazzos like contented spirits, floating equally through the Firenze of the Renaissance-minded Medici's, and the Florence of contemporary fashion and craft.
Given a few extra days or a lifetime, I would have revisited Dante's House and the Casa Buonarotti, home of Michelangelo; checked out Donatello's bronze David or Giambologna's bronze Mercury at the Bargello; slipped into the Gothic church of Santa Croce to view the tombs of Galileo, Machiavelli, Dante and Michelangelo.
But we are here for a day and a half only. We must celebrate the gilded surface of the moment and the city; skim the intoxicating froth from the chalice of Firenze, sip not glug the champagne.
So, we set out across the cobbled stones of Florence's oldest bridge on the Arno, the Ponte Vecchio. The only bridge that escaped bombing in World War 2. Under the Medici, this bridge, originally housing Butcher's and Blacksmith's shops, became what it is to this day: the Goldsmith's street. We pass the glittering shops but concentrate on the dazzling view across the Arno.
We amble along Firenze's alluring alleys; glut our eyes and cameras with the beauty of church facades and cupolas and statues in unexpected niches; admire artifacts like majolica ceramics, marbled paper products and leather crafts in shop windows.
We take a ride on a capacious rickshaw with a Fiorentine on the cycle, to get off at the Mercato Nuovo, the covered souvenir market, where people flock to rub the shiny nose of the Porcellino, the magic bronze pig, which grants wishes. But we forget to make a wish because Firenze is a place where all desires end. It is a wish fulfilled.
We sit in cafes for endless coffee and mindless chatter; share ice cream, pastries and buns bursting with nuts and raisins. We have a long lunch, and we know that later, we will have a languid dinner in some enchanting spot. What more is there to wish for?
Yet, one of us must have wished for perfection, because in the evening, when we step out to dine after our rooftop drinks, we blindly veer left on the street along the embankment of the Arno, and serendipitously enter what turns out to be the perfect restaurant.
The Ristorante Alfredo sull' Arno is exactly that-- right on the river; and our table is the only empty one on the balcony. The view is stunning: across, the lights on the Uffizi side of the Arno, and to the left, the twinkling Ponte Vecchio.
The food is as perfect as the ambience. It would have to be so. We have dreamed it up, willed the evening to end enchantingly. Enjoying Firenze is an attitude, a Point of View.
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