This past weekend, Giulio was sick, and normally in the early days of recovery, he is a bit grumpy, to say the least. Thankfully we had playdough and Elmer the Patchwork Elephant (which I absolutely remember reading when I was younger) to hold us over until Nonna came back home. The afternoon left me a bit frazzled so instead of heading straight home, I took a detour, and then a longer one, and found myself walking through Signoria under the yellow glow of the streetlights. The piazza is almost empty at night in February, and it was easy to stroll across the square without looking where to step, where to dodge another camera.
Then I heard it, the familiar hum of a single violin. At the edge of Piazza Signoria, the halls of the Uffizi create a corridor leading to the Arno river. The acoustics of the hundreds of arches and cavernous stonework sounds like a concert hall – especially when there’s silence. The song drifted, but I knew it was the same. There are many musicians in Florence, but I haven’t heard anyone play like that.
It was years ago the first time I walked by and he was playing. It was late – Rami was working and I was waiting to pick him up from work, and sometimes I’d walk the city and take the opportunity to enjoy it without the crowds. The music lifted up through the stonework and echoed pure. The man stood randomly on the stairs of one of the arches, dressed warmly in a knitted hat and scarf. His casual jacket and jeans a stark contrast to the violin tucked under his chin – the amber-color glowing under the lights. He had no speaker, like most of the other street performers. He had no costume, no background soundtrack. It was just him, his talent, and the corridors of the Uffizi, and me. I sat and listened to him in the cold until my feet were numb. A private concert among works of art and palaces.
I did the same thing tonight. Some people stopped and listened to a song. Others passed by dropping change into his violin case. Though it was earlier this time, and there was more commotion, his notes sang over the suitcases and the military truck, unabashedly idling in the midst of it all. After a while, he stopped, put down his instrument and stretched his shoulders. Took out a cigarette. I went over and added my donation to his case, knowing he deserves more.