And, as you can expect, I’m positively giddy.
It’s been a sort of running joke for some time. I’ll quit my studies and run away to Florence to become an impoverished bohemian writer. By day I would sit upon my European balcony, drinking Italian espresso, typing supreme words of wisdom and intellect. By night, I would drink cheap Italian wine, batting away charming Italian men with a stick.
What can I say, I have a romantic disposition.
It therefore surprised me that, when all was said and done in Florence, I had mixed feelings. We did drink wonderful wine, eat amazing food, walk through stunning examples of architecture and gaze upon beautiful works of art. We weaved through cobblestone streets, between tightly packed houses with their little green shutters, avoiding street hawkers, ducking in and out of gelato shops.
But despite all this, something rang false.
Actually, you know what it was? Too many fucking tourists.
Florence is beautiful. You can feel the money of the infamous Medici’s leaking from its pores. From the beautiful decorative walls of the Uffizi, the elaborate Duomo and associated buildings, the collections across countless museums and galleries to the ancient Ponte Vecchio, and the walkway above it, constructed so the Medici lords would not muddy there boots walking with the filthy peasants below.
There are few cities in the world steeped with as much culture and sophistication as Florence. The art even trickles down to the younger generations, with the street art mimicking the most famous works in the Galleria and Uffizi – Caravaggio, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Di Vinci – plastered in bright colours over electric boxes and concrete walls.
But despite all this, it just feels staged. The swarm of tour groups throughout the city and accents that are certainly not Italian are what fill the streets and bars. Even though I know it’s a real city that is supposedly lived in, it’s completely overwhelmed by visitors. At least it is during June. It isn’t Florence’s fault, it’s too pretty not to be visited. But travel is best when you see how life is lived by another culture. This is missed here, and the city is lessened because of it.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t love my visit. Oh god no. The best part was walking up to the Michelangelo Plaza, looking over the city with its little red roofs, watched over by a statue I like to call Fake David #2. Between the stalls, an artist was sketching a portrait of Mona Lisa in oil pastels with pain-staking accuracy on the concrete path. If you looked beside the city, you could the see the remnants of the city walls, holding back the greenery of the park and rose garden. It is the city you picture when you think about bohemian romance.
Florence, it’s not your fault. It’s mine. I talked you up too much in my head. You are lovely, truly, it’s just… I’ve found other places I love so much more.