The Real Florence
Florence wasn’t love at first sight. And it broke my heart. The idea of Florence was deeply rooted in a romantic illusion of what Italy is. I had spent years soaking up the Italian atmosphere through books, food, music, photographs and movies. So, arriving to the heart of Tuscany meant I carried a backpack filled with expectations and fantasies.
The first encounter left me devastated.
It was touristy beyond metropolitan cities and I was left fighting my way through selfie sticks and a horde of people that ruthlessly conquered the city centre. Catching a glimpse of the attractions was impossible, ducking for elbows became a sport and having a meal at the piazza left me longing for my husband’s cooking and his credit card. The people were not necessarily friendly if not blatantly arrogant and no matter how hard I looked, the Italian charm seemed forever lost.
Luckily, I am not new to cities crammed with tourists and know that the way to capture authenticity is to navigate through the crowds and use time of day to my advantage.
So I raised early.
I was at Arno River just before 7am. And made the trek up to Piazzale Michelangelo just after 10am. A bit later than planned but still enough time to catch my breath and take a few decent shots before the front row got jammed. I navigated through the backstreets that rested peacefully in the shade and where the hustle and bustle seemed distant. And it was right there, somewhere on a street corner in a little family owned ristorante, I encountered the real Florence. Greeted with welcoming pecks on cheeks, passionate discussions, the warmest of laughter, the heartiest of dishes and the most soothing wine. It was there, I made friends for life and where my idea of what Italy is all about, finally came to life.