Thursday, August 16, 2012

Celebrating the Silence

I love it and I hate it.  August in Florence.  We are expecting our 7th heat "wave", but since June, I cannot tell where one has ended and the next has begun. We are enduring a persistent drought unseen in years. Merchants and residents alike have left the city behind in pursuit of cooler destinations, clinging to a vacation tradition that has it roots in ancient Roman times.  A tradition that is slowly fading as Italy is forced to become more competitive and fewer Italians can afford the luxury of vacations and time off from work.

While the tourist trade never sleeps in Florence, in my little world, nearly everything is closed and I am the only tenant left in my building. I've learned that anything you need in August, you better buy in July.  As I gaze out my window, my neighbors' shutters are closed, there are no clothes hanging on the lines and my plants are almost dead from the heat. An eerie solitude hovers over my empty courtyard at night.

But I too, am clinging to my own "tradition" of heading south after the panic has ended, to enjoy uncrowded beaches, no traffic, no lines and better service.  I've again chosen to remain in my beloved Florence, even when the going gets tough. For more reasons than one.

I love this city even in its heat and its silence. The roads are empty. I can spend mornings enjoying traffic-free bike rides in the northern hills and passeggiatas in the city. The duomo bells resonate with a richer tone and a deeper echo since there is nothing to absorb the sound. My girlfriends seem to be taking turns going away, so there's always someone here with whom to share an aperitivo on Florence's rooftops, overlooking a quiet and peaceful city. Or at Las Palmas, my favorite open-air niche. I've found a little oasis in the Cascine, where a local piscina allows me to run or ride in the morning and swim in the afternoon.  In August, even the Duomo looks lonely, but it feels like it's all mine, as it stands silent against the backdrop of a naked city.

I spend more time indoors, doing things that I would typically find boring, but love it.  Like watching cultural films on T.V., reading, writing, tending my plants and refining my goals for the rest of the year.  And  taking time to lay back, have a glass of wine, and enjoy il "dolce far niente".