I’ve been fortunate enough to have quite a few visitors come through in the last few weeks here in Italy, with the promise of more to come. As a solo traveler, I’ve certainly gotten used to moving at my own pace and doing most everything according to my own preference, mood, or idea at the time. I’ll walk for hours on end, up and down winding hills and through narrow passageways, admiring the landscape or happened-upon street art, most times with no real final destination in mind. So, as I’ve been making an effort to show my friends what it is I love so dearly about this place, I’ve had to slightly reconsider the way I structure my everyday activities in order to maximize sight-seeing and slightly minimize the dilly-dallying I’ve become so fond of.
In doing this, in trying to share what has enamored me with the people that I love, the thing that has stood out the most is this – a strange and surprising realization – that perhaps what I have here is not mine to share. I’ll happily take visitors around to my favorite spots – the markets that charm me, the restaurants that leave me stuffed and satisfied, the sights that take my breath away – but it may not mean the same thing to them, it may not even look the same to them. The things I love are also loved by them and by others, but perhaps in a different way. Or conversely, the things I haven’t noticed or paid much mind to are charming or interesting or funny to them – which opens up a whole new set of ideas in my mind. In re-experiencing this city with others, I’ve been able to see things I haven’t noticed before, things from a different perspective.
What is Florence to me? It’s the mound of fresh apricots delicately balanced on top of blood oranges and crisp apples in the fruit bowl on my kitchen counter. It’s the plastic, neon-colored cucchiaino from the gelatarias that tumble to the ground when I pull my keys out of my jacket pocket. It’s the faint sound of a clarinet being played in a far off piazza, it’s the olive oil stains on my canvas sneakers. It’s all of these things plus so much more, and it’s mine alone as well as mine to share, for whoever wants to take it.