Casually slumped atop of the stone wall, one leg dangling towards the water, the other tucked beneath my body, I’m breathing in the ambience surrounding the Arno River. I’m in Florence, it’s frosty, the air is dry and free from movement, I’m sure it’s trying to snow again. The cobbled roads are rammed with visitors wandering any which way, each stopping and starting, staring and passing. Momentarily i’m drawn away from the blurred reflections cast off the Ponte Vechhio and i’m watching where everyone is going. It begs the question, what is it about Florence that attracts so many tourists?
I follow the ebb and flow of the traffic, led by the energy of the sweeping crowd into Piazza della Repubblica. It’s here the constant flow of movement momentarily relaxes. A three person deep ring has united around another street performer, all urgently awaiting the puppet to perform. I push to the front to get a glimpse of the interest – a fire juggling unicyclist… who would have guessed. There are chalk artist’s who’ve created huge renaissance portraits on the ground, a human statue moving only for a coin and a lone guitarist strumming away arousing couples to dance under the night sky. Everyone seems bemused by the ambience. All over Florence there are performers, artists and musicians vying for your attention. Perhaps people flock here for the creative ambience?
I’m away again, swept up in the sea of faces. Faces that are staring up at those big glass windows adorned with the latest fashions and ornaments. Life size white mannequins dressed in fur glare down at me, I move to the next window and it’s leather jackets, then shoes and on and on it goes. Women and men are pouring out of the doors with bags upon bags, looking for more or at least wishing they had the money to. Do people come to Florence for the shopping?
Relieving the shoppers are restaurants, cafes or bars. Unlike in Rome where it is popular to dine alfresco, in Florence it seems to be much more intimate. Down a dingy alleyway I look in through the dark windows and can see diners cozied up together beneath the dim lights, tucked away from prying eyes. Each window shows the same scene, diners patiently waiting for a table, suited waiters parading with elaborate plates of tantalising cuisine and luxurious wines. Wild boar, baked breads, enormous T-bone steaks, pasta… With my mouth watering it could certainly be the food that brings people here? I know it’s what keeps my Dad coming back.
The streets are all lit up, even the darkest of alleyways are intricately decorated. Feeling squeezed by the narrow and unusual streets I am flooded with the unique perspective the scrambled roads offer to many visitors, the same streets that open into vast squares of concrete and tall towers like a medley of arteries leading to the heart of the town. The architecture here demands your attention and requires time to absorb and reflect upon, A historical significance attached to each piece. Could the history behind those intricate designs draw visitors to Florence?
Enthralled by it all, I find myself back beside the Arno river where I first started, blissfully unaware of the conclusion of my evening stroll. Hmmm. blissfully unaware… You know, maybe that’s it, Florence is Florence… and it’s inevitable to be swept away without reason, you just have to let it.