My day started around 12 pm because last night was a late one for us. We got up, Rami made lunch (cacio e pepe pasta – I still haven’t had a better one outside of my own kitchen in this city, honestly) THANK YOU WONDERFUL HUSBAND! Then after a bit more afternoon travel planning, my day of movement through Florence began.
I set out from home on my bike – now equipped with a black wicker basket that has a caged top so Luna can ride with me. I left her home at first because one of the only places I can’t bring her is to Giulio’s school. I rode down into the traffic that circles Piazza Liberta – the big 18th-century triumphant arch towering over the Porta San Gallo – which was part of the old walls of Florence. Then, down Via Cavour which has a lovely, separated bike lane. Today, that lane was blocked by a delivery truck that had pulled right onto it – the driver mumbled apologies as I and another man on a bike (with a feather in his hat – how can I make this up) heaved our bikes onto the sidewalk to pass him.
Then, it’s into and through Piazza San Marco – the scene of the terrible Florentine tree-tragedy; when the city cut down all the trees saying they were “sick” and many people weren’t buying it and voiced their horror for months. Over the bumpy cobblestones (poor Luna), dodging busses, then a left onto Via Battisti with the store that has a sheet out front with black sharpie scribbled on the front (this is the normal way to protest here – sheets and sharpies – if it’s a bigger sheet, spraypaint): “IO STO CON I PASTORI SARDI” Showing support for the movement of the milk farmers in Sardegna that has been in the news.
Into Piazza Annunziata – surrounded by arches, with the fountains on either side and the Duomo rising up from the end of Via Servi. Almost every day, I pass behind a photographer on one knee, camera tilted trying to get that massive dome into the photo of the couple standing rigidly a few yards away. Same spot. Everyday. Different couple. I wondered where all of those photos ended up. What mantle? What photo album tucked away somewhere in the world? I park my bike on a bike rack on the opposite side of the street and head up the stairs.
Into the school (which is also a museum, and was an orphanage – there was a baby dropbox), grab Giulio who immediately begins singing the Elmer Song at full volume. We walked back through the piazza – the photo shoot replaced with a tour group of people from somewhere northern and very blonde. Back to wait for the C1 bus – telling Giulio that on the bus the rule is that we have to speak sottovoce (whisper). Back up through the city, around Liberta, up to the little Mugnone river, across the red bridge called Ponte Rosso, and up our street. Rami, with his helmet in hand and on his way to work, opened the door as we went in.
After freeing Luna from her two whole minutes of abandonment, we had a merenda (snack) of clementines and cake made by Rami’s mom, then headed to see the dragon at the park – a beautiful fountain made out of fragments of stone and broken glass bottles to form a dragon that snakes down the stairs of the garden. Then, into the dog park below to let Luna get some energy out. Then back down into the house, Luna back in her bed, Giulio and I out the door to catch the bus back into San Marco. Switching buses in San Marco, down to Piazza Azeglio – where we hopped off to Giulio’s shout of CASA MIA (my house and headed up to drop him off with Babbo (Florentine for Dad).
Then back out, walked back past the garden of the Archeological museum (I still have yet to enter – it’s on my list) under the archway of the school, into the Piazza and onto my bike that thankfully was still there – no pieces missing – in this city, you never know.
Pedaling back down the street into and out of Piazza San Marco, back up Cavour on the bike path, under the porticoes of the city-side of Piazza Liberta, past Caffe Lieta – newly opened by the Cavalli family, up towards Ponte Rosso and back home. Grab Luna, back out with the bike, her now seemingly ok with the ride (first time!) and we rode back down the Mugnone, turning left just before the newly renovated Russian church with its mosaics and onion domes so out of place on the outskirts of the Renaissance city, but still beautiful.
Down into the traffic again, through the newly formed Piazza Stazione, in through the chaos of the trams and the taxis and the tourists that don’t wait for the green man to walk across the street because God help them if they lose their group. Down and right to come up on the American church, then left again, right at the little rotary, and up past my old job and onto the Arno, where I can breathe again.
Over the Amerigo Vespucci bridge – the Ponte Vecchio glows from three bridges down – and a right through the old walls again, and into a little trattoria tucked under the looming Porta San Frediano – and I fell in love with another little corner of the city after a plate of pasta with a sauce of zucchini flowers, and a creme caramel – nevermind a wonderful group to chat with. I haven’t seen many of them in ages.
Thankfully my friend Ela offered to give me a ride home, and I decided to leave my bike on the other side of town for the night, taking the top of Luna’s basket with me – just in case. I’m risking it a bit by leaving it there, I know, but after dinner, it was cold, I honestly just didn’t want to bike through the city – from one old door to another, with an extra 20lbs of puppy in the basket. In the summer, those night rides are beautiful – it’s sometimes the only time of the day when you aren’t sweating. I’ll do it every day, but tonight, I chose the car.
Finally, back home, I think of how much effort my travels today would have been when those walls were still up so many years ago. I went in and out of the city eight times – what were the checkpoints like? If the guards knew you, would they just let you in? Now those points of entry are points of interest. We walk in and around them, almost in taunting – they’ve been stripped of their purpose.