Florence, one evening at the Piccolo Cafè. We've just met Jean and Luc, two Parisians, when Claire and Thomas ask if they may join us at our table. After the mutual presentations, we toast, we chat, and one thing leading to another Jean and Luc tell us about their visits during the last two days: the Ponte Vecchio, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery, the Palazzo Pitti, the Duomo, the Baptistery, Santa Croce, the Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella, and so on, and so on. It sounds like a complete listing of the local sites. They have even found a Special Night in a club some kilometres from Florence where they've gone by train, returning at dawn by taxi… When they've finished, Claire mentions that she and Thomas rent a car in order to visit Pisa and Sienna after their stay in Florence. All the three cities in only three days, if you please.
GOSH! Two Lil' Pussy cats start sweating and fell the sudden need to order another drink. In fact, for one moment we thought we were compelled to run the same tourist marathon, we who were always saying to each other that Florence itself had too many sites to be visited during our six-day stay.
"When one travels, one's always so busy, no?" Claire asks with a smile. "There are so many things one sees that it's impossible to recall half of them…"
Seb and I look at each other, both thinking how our our own day has been: nicely packed, but without being a race against the clock. We stood up at 7:30, taken a shower, then a nice breakfast: coffee, fruit juice, cornetti, scrambled eggs, cheese, fruits. Today's goal was the Palazzo Pitti. After having brushed our teeth, we strolled down the Via Pisana, rather calm at this morning hour. After two days, the low buildings on both sides looked already familiar. The cafés were opening, an oldish lady came out of one, an espresso in her hand, and old guy was walking his dog, a youngster was roaring by on his Vespa only to stop in front of the nearest shop in order to buy a newspaper. People were smiling, busy with their everyday lives, talking with each other in that melodious and always a bit theatrical language that Italian is. The morning sun rays painted the Porta San Frediano in front of us in hues of light yellow, a soft breeze was breathing over the asphalt. We took the Borgo San Frediano, a narrow but busier street bordered by older, higher buildings, and there were loads of new details we pointed out to each other or photographed.
The visit of the Palazzo Pitti was really interesting (see our post here). We interrupted it for a lunch in a quiet side-street. We took our time because to eat doesn't only mean you nourish yourself, no, we want it to be a quality moment, almost a gastronomical feast, with time to we share our impressions. After the second part of our visit, we walked a bit through the Giardino di Boboli behind the palazzo, strolling down narrow paths, climbing on top of the hill in order to enjoy the splendid view over the Tuscan hinterland, our gazes lost in the green countryside with its cypresses, olive trees and lavish villas. The heat became haunting, insistent, so we sat down on a lawn under a plane tree to treat ourselves to a little siesta, bare toes stretched out. There were lots of things to see, to start with the palazzo a little down-hill, then the whole city of Florence in the background, and the main actors were the sweating tourists climbing uphill and the young locals sitting around us having pick-nicks, snogging, laughing, smoking, having a good time…
When the air became breathable again, we put our socks and shoes back on, and then we left Boboli and walked over to the Giardino Bardini. The park was empty, again we enjoyed breathtaking views over the city. Then we walked down to the Via de' Bardi. We followed the Arno river and had a drink in a shady café before we went back to the hotel, where we took a nice shower and allowed us a little moment of calm. One hour later we left the hotel again, fresh and beautiful. It was that exquisite hour of orange and red hues, that refreshing hour before sunset, that hour when the Florentines dress up and go out to perform their evening lives on the stage of their city. We stopped at the Cafè Colle Bereto in front of the Palazzo Strozzi where we enjoyed a scrumptious aperitivo that didn't even cost much. We were surrounded by the young 'n' rich of Florence and elsewhere who were splendidly showcasing their designer-brand clothes and spreading clouds of expensive perfumes. Afterwards, we had a little digestive walk through the narrow lanes until we reached the Via Borgo deglli Albizi, where the small Rivareno shop beckoned us to enter. Yesterday we had discovered it and had treated us to some top-of-the-range Italian ice-cream. Now, we couldn't resist either. We strolled around some more, slowly, enjoying the Florentine night life, before we landed here, in the Piccolo Cafè.
All this had made for a busy day, in our eyes. Rich emotionally, rich in discoveries, rich in pleasure. But we're not sure our four new friends wouldn't think of us as being lazybones, losers where fast-paced run-along tourism is concerned. We haven't seen everything Florence has to offer, after all. We haven't seen Pisa and Sienna either. We just have lived the Florence-experience, and intensely so; we have seen the city's colours and its lights in the morning, in the afternoon, in the night; we have smelled it and felt it; we've got the impression that we have understood it a bit. Without getting too tired, at our rhythm, and at reasonable prices.
Claire is still smiling as if she were waiting for an answer. Therefore we say, "Oh yes, travels… always making you weary." Then without conferring one with the other, we decide to pay our fellow Frenchies a drink. Because none of us two has forgotten half the things we've seen today; on the contrary, our heads are still full of them. Thus we pity for our new friends a bit.