I am in Italy for most of the summer. I am traveling to big cities and small villages. Today I am in Florence. The city moves. And we move with it. Tourists and Florentines, moving with an uneasy, yet familiar, flow. I first notice the tourists. The city teems with them. Many are college age. How did Florence become the playground for American students?
Upon closer look, the walking tour I am taking yields an insight to the daily rhythm of Florence life. First, there is the church. While tourists flock (and rightly so) to view the awesome sight of the Duomo, I notice other sorts of travel.
There are the horses, waiting to carry the tourists away from the piazza. And there are church workers taking just pressed vestments to a baptism, perhaps.
Second, there is the river. People walking across the bridges. Boats meandering down the serene water. Rowers perfecting their stroke—catch, drive, finish. Runners and cyclists following the river’s path. The river provides both a place of solace and a beacon for wanderers. I hear a tour guide say, “If you can find the river, you can find home.” As a rower, I know this to be true.
Eventually, I peel away from the group to find my own path. I turn left. I turn right. I am not concerned because I know where both the Duomo and the river are. These two anchors assure me that no matter where I wander, I have a place. Eventually, I find a quiet trattoria with friendly camerieri. I decide that this is where I will eat. “Buongiorno,” one waiter calls out. “Buongiorno,” I answer. “Siete aperti? I ask.” “Si!,” he says, following this (in perfect English) with “Do you understand Italian?” I tell him that I am learning. That’s all he needs. We speak only Italian from then on. He is patient with me. What follows is a delightful lunch of pasta, sparkling water and local wine. Passersby are few as I marvel at the quiet just a few blocks off the main piazza.
Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” I moved this morning. More than 10,000 steps of movement. And then I stopped. And I felt the rhythm of the city. And it felt bellissimo.