Monday, August 22, 2011

Dog Days in Florence

I couldn’t resist taking this photo of an overheated dog under a chair at Piazza Signoria today! The days have been hot, the city is eerily empty, most merchants are closed and this poor dog was suffering from the heat! Like every month of the year, August is unique in Florence. Most everyone has taken off for the coast, leaving Florence silent and still.

I actually didn’t think I would be spending August in Florence for my third summer in a row, but did arrange to take off these 2 weeks from guiding bike tours, at least for a break. I had been invited by Nicola’s family to join them as their guest in Siracusa, for 10 days al mare, but I chose instead to stay in Florence.  I will however, definitely take him up on it next year!

So, here I am, choosing again to cling to my beloved Florence, even when she may not be at her very best. Everyone (but me?) bolted for cooler destinations. I am the only resident left in my building. When I look out my bedroom window at night, all is silent and dark.

The heat forced the swallows, sparrows, and even pigeons to leave, and so it is equally silent in the mornings until the church bells ring.  The market is closed, so I cannot find any fresh produce that looks appealing. I waited too long to get my hair cut and so I eagerly await Antonio’s return from Rome in September. Likewise, I procrastinated to have my favorite pair of shoes fixed, and Giuseppe, my shoemaker is in Calabria. Giovanni, my florist is gone to Trapani, so my supply of always-fresh flowers is missing from my table.

What really surprised me though, was the fact that all the tabaccherie are closed too, and so I cannot find a newspaper anywhere! I didn’t notice that last year, because I was still struggling just to understand the headlines.  But now it is a part of my daily routine. The city is asleep, the best restaurants are closed. No feasts, no concerts, just the city and me. While it’s a lonely feeling, it is also special, because I take notice of things that I would otherwise not see, or take for granted just because they are always there.

And yet, I appreciate the silence, and the chance to get out on my bike and ride without a single car on the backroads! And to enjoy the special seasonal treat of insalata di trippa. And it’s hot enough in my bedroom to do hot yoga! I have also found that this is a perfect time to take refuge from the sun by visiting churches and palaces that I want to learn more about, because their cool interiors provide tremendous relief from the heat and they are not crowded right now.

Yesterday I took the opportunity to visit the basilica and museum of Santa Croce. It always makes me feel special to get free entry because I am a resident. It just reminds me of how lucky I am. Every time I revisit a place like Santa Croce, I develop a more profound appreciation of the grandeur of Florence’s history and the miracle of its art. Standing in front of Michelangelo's tomb and Cimbaue's 13th century crucifix always mesmerizes me.

Well, I have survived the first 3 weeks of August, and look forward to everyone coming back next week, all tanned and happy to riunite with fellow Florentines.  The students will come in droves and Florence will change its face once again.  I am so glad that my nephew Michael will be coming to visit me at that time too, when Florence comes alive again!

Although I am enjoying August in Florence again, I do promise that next year I will go to Siracusa with Nicola and his family!