Friday, June 14, 2013

There’s a handsome new face at the reception desk this morning. It’s Fabrizio and Patrizia’s younger son Riccardo, fresh out of high school. He’s as friendly as everyone else in the family, and equally efficient in handling my hotel bill. We talk pleasantly for a few minutes as he runs my credit card through and prints the receipt, and when I ask for a small favor, he says he would be happy to store my luggage in the corner behind the desk to allow me a few more hours to sightsee before moving on.

There’s a special exhibit at the Palazzo Strozzi called “The Springtime of the Renaissance: Sculpture and the Arts in Florence, 1400-1460” that I want to see before I go. It’s an impressive collection that includes Filippo Brunelleschi’s original wooden model for the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. That object is the fundamental starting point of the Early Renaissance, along with the bronze panels Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti completed for a competition to determine which would be commissioned for the doors of the Baptistery. Those panels are here, too, each depicting the “Sacrifice of Isaac” from the Old Testament. There are nine large rooms in all to digest, with major works by Donatello, Lippi, Masaccio, and Della Robbia, among others. Coming here has been an afterthought, of sorts, but a welcome one.

I return to the Hotel Davanzati and walk up the flight of stairs one last time to claim my bags. Riccardo kindly arranges for a taxi to pick me up downstairs, and before long, I’m on the 11:38 AM train to Lucca. By accident, I’ve picked one of the slower Regionale trains, which makes more stops along the way, but perhaps the extra time will do me good. I need to clear my head after an intense five days in Florence. I have another week in Italy ahead of me and I want to enjoy it.

It’s half past one when a cab driver drops me off at the door of the Hotel Palazzo Alexander on Via Santa Giustina in Lucca. It’s a quiet residential street and a pleasant place to stay, if a bit worn around the edges. I’ll be here for the next two nights, mainly to explore an antiques market that opens tomorrow morning. The rest of today is my own, and I feel no need to rush.

I’ve been here before, on my first trip to Italy in 2008. I combined it then with a day trip to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower, the cathedral, and the Camposanto. It had started out with unseasonably cool temperatures, a driving wind, and torrential rain, but by the time I arrived in Lucca in mid-afternoon, the sun was splitting the clouds and the air was warm and breezy and fresh, as it so often is after a storm. I spent the time I had wandering the streets, walking the city’s walls, enjoying a late lunch at a café in Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, and climbing the Torre Guinigi to stand under the shade of the oak trees and to see the hills of Tuscany roll out like a carpet before me. On one of the rooftops, someone had written in large, block letters: WHERE IS THE HAPPYNESS? And for me it was there, captured in a moment now five years gone. It became one of my fondest memories from that trip, and I always knew I would come back.

I meander up to Piazza dell’Anfiteatro to take some pictures, then down Via Fillungo to the square by the church of San Michele in Foro, where there are people lounging lazily on the steps eating gelato. The shops have reopened following their afternoon slumber and the town is gradually crawling back to life.

Later, I walk into Trattoria Canuleia for dinner, which is just steps away from the curved walls of the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, and ask for un tavolo per uno—a table for one. It appears dark and nearly empty inside, but the waitress leads me out through the dining room to a shaded courtyard in back where there are a dozen or more people dining merrily under a canopy of umbrellas. There are white and aqua tablecloths and potted flowers on the tables, and there is a warm glow coming from the lamps that line the edge of the stone patio. It has the charm of a secret garden, and I’m grateful for the impulse that led me here.

There is a woman seated at the table next to mine and she’s likewise dining alone. Within minutes, she leans over to ask if she can join me. I nod readily, and she carries a glass of wine over to the seat across from mine. Her name is Diane and she’s from Melbourne, Australia on the last leg of her trip to Italy. As I work my way through a bowl of chilled zucchini soup with fresh mint and ricotta cheese, and then a dish of cabbage with buffalo mozzarella and sundried tomatoes, we talk about our travels—all the places we’ve been, and those we’d still like to see. She has a cheerful disposition and a lovely lilting accent, which reminds me of another Australian woman I once met on a train between Assisi and Arezzo.

When we part at the end of dinner, I’m sorry to see her go. Solo travel has its rewards to be sure, but it can be a hard and lonely business sometimes, which is what makes sharing an unexpected meal with a sociable stranger so comforting.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It’s early and my bags are packed. Over breakfast, I pull out my iPod and use its Kindle reader to flip through an essay the novelist Henry James once published in the Atlantic Monthly titled “A Chain of Italian Cities,” in which he recounts his journey through the hill towns of Assisi, Perugia, Cortona, and Arezzo. I am loath to leave Rome so soon, but I have spent time here before, and for now I am excited to retrace James’ steps, more than a century later, to some of the lesser known sites in Tuscany and Umbria.

It’s a gray morning in Rome as I head by taxi to Termini station to catch the 10:36 AM train to Arezzo, my home base for the next four days. It’s an easy ride, but by early afternoon the dreary sky has opened into a steady rain and I’m relieved that the walk to Piazza Guido Monaco and the Hotel Continentale is short.

At just 75 Euros a night, the hotel is a bargain, even if my room does resemble a 1980s college dorm room with its white furniture and floral bedspread. I open the doors to the balcony and look down the street to the right, towards the train station, which serves as a major railway hub, and then left past the piazza towards the historic center of town. Arezzo is a real city, with real Italians passing by on the sidewalks below. For the first time, I have wandered outside of the tourist corridor that connects the venerable triumvirate of Rome, Florence, and Venice. To be fair, Arezzo is hardly undiscovered—it was featured in the 1997 movie “Life is Beautiful,” which won an Academy Award for best foreign language film—but the city isn’t even mentioned in Rick Steves’ guidebook and that fact alone confers a certain air of adventure. I am striking out on my own, and as usual my stomach leads the way.

Just as I arrive at Piazza San Francesco I stumble into Gastronomia Il Cervo and walk through the door to the delight of a jovial man behind the counter. His English is poor and my Italian is worse, but the essentials of communication are achieved with a smile. He recommends a spicy pasta made from stale bread, a warm and hearty choice on a chilly day, and I enjoy a bowl of it immensely in the dining room upstairs, ending the meal with a cappuccino.

Feeling fortified, with umbrella in hand I venture back out onto the quiet streets and spend the afternoon lazily wandering from church to church. My first stop, resting on the edge of a lush green park near the ruins of a Medici fortress, is the city’s cathedral, or duomo. There is a beautiful vaulted ceiling lined with frescoes, some stunning medieval stained glass by the famed Frenchman, Guglielmo de Marcillat, and a charming, if unassuming, portrait of Mary Magdalene by Piero della Francesca.

I make my way back down the hill to the Romanesque church of Santa Maria della Pieve to see its Lorenzetti altarpiece, a luminous polyptych of the “Madonna and Child with Saints” painted in 1320. I pop a coin into the light box and stand back to appreciate the effect, watching the figures glow on a ground of gold paint high over the crypt at the end of a long spare nave, under a ceiling of thick wooden beams.

At 4:00 PM, I arrive back at Piazza San Francesco and enter the basilica there to see the Bacci chapel, famous for Piero della Francesca’s cycle of frescoes known as the “Legend of the True Cross.” The reservation I made online weeks ago hardly seems necessary, for as in the other churches in town, I am quite alone, save for a pair of young women taking tickets by the door. They direct me past a velvet rope and I savor the space, turning round and round to follow the visual story of the wood that was ultimately used to create the cross on which Christ was crucified.

My eyes search for a place to begin. By now, after several summers spent tramping across Europe, I am familiar with the form. Frescoes like this are made up of distinct scenes that can be read much like a medieval comic strip. With some help from a small book I bought in the gift shop, I follow along: In the beginning, seeds given by Michael the Archangel are planted in Adam’s mouth at the moment of his death, becoming a tree that grows upon his grave. It is later felled by King Solomon and its wood used to bridge a stream. When the Queen of Sheba attempts to traverse the bridge, she has a vision in which she sees Christ killed on a cross made from its beams. The wood is buried, but later found and it fulfills its fate. Centuries later, on orders from the Emperor Constantine, the relic is discovered among the three crosses of Cavalry and its identity restored.

It’s been a wonderful afternoon, but my mind is crammed to overflowing and I am eager to feel the cool air upon my face. As I open the door to leave the basilica, I reach for my umbrella expecting rain, but I am greeted instead by a bright blue sky. The storm has passed, and all of Arezzo is reflecting in the puddles it left behind.

When Henry James was here in the 1870s, he spent much of the day in an “uninvestigating fashion,” taking in the “general impression” of things. In walking down Corso Italia and its side streets, I now find myself doing much the same. Along the way, I stop at Cremi for a dish of artisanal gelato—a scoop of orange with lime and one of coconut. Its bright, refreshing taste suits both the change of weather and my buoyant mood. I walk further down to San Agostino in time to hear the church bells toll the top of the hour, and then I turn back to the hotel to rest before dinner.

When I head out again, I’ve already decided to end the day with a meal at La Lancia d’Oro, a restaurant that spills out under the Vasari loggia, facing Piazza Grande, Arezzo’s most famous public square. Come Saturday, the sloping pavement will be covered by rows of antiques stands for the monthly Fiera Antiquaria, but for now the view is peaceful and serene, a jigsaw of stone and stucco buildings, each decorated with colorful coats of arms.

Believing that the quality of restaurant food is usually in inverse proportion to its location, I truly don’t expect much from dinner, not here in such grand surroundings. I expect tourist fare, so I am stunned when a chain of delectable dishes make their way out of the kitchen, all delivered with warmth and grace by wait staff that treat me like family. I order a bowl of Ribollita to start. It is a Tuscan specialty I have longed to try, a soup made with bread and vegetables. But a small plate of appetizers arrives first, unbidden. For a moment, I worry that there has been some costly confusion, but the night is so warm and pleasant and my glass of the restaurant’s private label wine so enjoyable, that I throw caution to the wind and decide the experience is worth whatever the price. I order a fresh plate of asparagus ravioli, but later decline dessert, only to find a trio of pastries brought to my table anyway, followed by a cream pudding.

When the check arrives at last, I thank the waiter for what has been my best meal in Italy, ever. It is a prize hard won, given the fine lunch I had in Siena two years ago, and the beautiful plate of gnocchi I once ate in Rome. I peer at it cautiously and then wrinkle my brow. I have been charged for the Ribollita, the ravioli, and the wine, but for nothing more. The rest, it seems, was kindness.

I grab my tripod and snap a few pictures of Piazza Grande, floodlit beneath a cobalt sky, and on the walk back to the hotel, I think again about Henry James. He, too, had been seduced by “adorable Italy,” and by the charm of Tuscany in particular. By the end of his day in Arezzo, he had “seen Santa Maria della Pieve and its campanile of quaint colannades,” as well as “the stately, dusky cathedral” and a museum filled with “Etruscan vases and majolica platters.” It had been, he said, a day of “soft saturation,” spent among beautiful hills and cypresses that cast long, straight shadows in the sun. And when he travelled on, he took with him “[m]emories and images, anything and everything.”

In years to come, he would look back and write fondly of the things that populated his Italian Hours. Exhausted, I lean back into bed and close my eyes, knowing that someday I will, too.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

It’s a bright and beautiful morning in Arezzo and I’m standing on the rooftop terrace of the Hotel Continentale surveying the city streets. Directly below me is Piazza Guido Monaco, a small octagonal park named for the Benedictine monk who invented musical notation. Beyond, an assortment of stone towers dot the landscape, including that of Santa Maria della Pieve, but the overall effect is a mixture old and new, owing to the fact that much of Arezzo was bombed heavily in the war, especially here near the railway station.

In a newspaper account published by The Times on July 16, 1944, it was said that the “main street through the town… was a melancholy line of battered shop fronts and doorways.” And yet, “at the end of this sombre route one came to the Piazza del Duomo and it was a refreshing sight. There stood Arezzo’s fine cathedral, serene on its height above the streets of the town and remote from the damage and havoc that war had wrought below.”

Today, the city has risen from the rubble and rebuilt itself around its surviving landmarks, and when I see the cathedral perched high on the hill in the distance, the miracle of its survival makes me smile.

It’s a Saturday morning and the streets are already teeming with people, and I can see a row of white canopy tents that have appeared overnight for the Fiera Antiquaria, Arezzo’s monthly antiques fair. I’ve been told that it’s the oldest and the largest of its kind in Italy, with over five hundred booths that wind up the hill past Piazza San Francesco to the duomo, then back by the Palazzo Comunale, and under the Vasari Loggia, before spilling out into Piazza Grande. Aside from the convenience of the city’s railway hub, this is the main reason for my visit, so I rush to the elevator, eager to descend and join the crowd.

In truth, there isn’t much I can afford, or for that matter, fit into my suitcase, but I thoroughly enjoy wandering the hilly streets nevertheless. There are chairs and tables and wrought iron beds, stacks of books and prints and gilded picture frames, porcelain figurines and ceramic bowls. I fall in love with a pair of 19th century paintings of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and a beautiful landscape by Pier-Antonio Gariazzo, but in the end seize upon a small and far more affordable pair of modern paintings, each depicting people browsing an Italian antiques market, just as I have done all morning. Whether art imitates life, or life imitates art, I head back to the hotel thrilled with the purchase.

It’s nearly 1:00 PM and while I had originally thought I might head to Florence for the afternoon, I’m feeling as lazy as Henry James and want nothing more than a pretty place to explore in a thoroughly “uninvestigating fashion.” I decide to catch the bus to Cortona instead, a tiny hill town made famous by Frances Mayes in her memoir Under the Tuscan Sun, and when I arrive there at Piazza Garibaldi an hour later, and gaze out across the hills, lakes, and valleys of neighboring Umbria, I’m glad I came.

I begin to follow the narrow straight line that is Via Nazionale towards what my map tells me is the center of town—Piazza della Repubblica and the Palazzo Comunale—but I stop off along the way for a late lunch at Tuscher Caffé. I sit back and relax at a small table by the side of the street with a gorgeous plate of cured meats, bruschetta, and pecorino cheese before me, as well as a glass of chilled prosecco. Truly, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Half of the Palazzo Comunale is wrapped in scaffolding, which is a bit of a disappointment, but the town itself is not. It has a romantic, easy charm and the hours slip by gently on the mind, if not the body, for Cortona is a hill town indeed, and on either side of Via Nazionale, there are alleys and stairways that branch off into breath-robbing inclines. I shop for ceramics, eat some gelato, and peer down Etruscan wells, walk down to the church of Santa Maria Assunta, the town’s duomo, and stop into the adjacent Diocesan Museum to see works by Luca Signorelli and Fra Angelico. But mainly, I just walk, as far as my legs will take me, out along the walls for another sweeping view of Lake Trasimene and the Val di Chiana, all the way back to the shade of the Parterre gardens. Somewhere along the way, I fill the last space on the first of my camera’s 8 GB storage cards and reach into my bag for another, wondering if I will make it through the rest of my trip at this pace.

It’s just after 7:00 PM when I finally catch the bus back to Arezzo. I sink back into the seat and enjoy chatting with a young Korean student living in Florence, whose name is Yun-Mi, but who asks that I call her Stella, which she says is her English name. She is as amiable a traveling companion as I could hope for, and her facility with languages impresses me deeply, and not only because she is far more capable than I in confirming our route with the driver.

Back in Arezzo, a deep fatigue has started to set in. My legs are aching, and yet my stomach is growling like mad. From the bus stop in the piazza, I head up Via Guido Monaco to a kabob shop and order a sandwich and a can of Coca-Cola to go. I slump back to the hotel feeling guilty. After all, I should be dining on classic Tuscan fare—a steaming bowl of Acquacotta, or a juicy Chianina steak—but alas, what I crave most is sleep. Exhaustion is, perhaps, something Henry James would have understood when he wrote of “the familiar tax on the luxury of loving Italy.”

Monday, June 7, 2010

It’s time to move on again, and in packing my bags this morning I feel a rush of excitement.

When I approach the front desk to pay my bill, I tell the clerk how much I’ve enjoyed my visit to Arezzo and the Hotel Continentale. And I mean it truly. In planning my itinerary months ago, I saw my time here as a convenient and inexpensive home base—a way of squeezing a few extra days out of the budget—but it has far exceeded my expectations.

The clerk pauses in his paperwork, looks up, and furrows his brow. “Quiet, quiet, quiet,” he says. “We get in a car and drive to Florence.”

And so it is.

I catch the 8:55 AM train to Florence and arrive at Santa Maria Novella station less than an hour later. After a short cab ride, I find myself back in the welcome arms of the Hotel Davanzati. I first visited Florence in the summer of 2008 and have the warmest possible memories of the place and of family that manages it. This morning, it’s the handsome Tommaso who greets me, and like his father Fabrizio, he is a kind and gracious host. Before long, my things are stowed away in the same charming room, and I have been briefed on the latest trends in local gelato. Grom, it seems, is very much in favor.

As I head out onto the streets and through Piazza della Signoria under a morning sun that already feels scorching hot, I am reminded of all that I love about Florence—the beautiful art and architecture, the enticing aromas wafting out from local cafés, the magnetic pull of museums, the sound of street music around every corner. There is an urban metabolism that pulses with possibility. I feel energized and find myself walking quickly, remembering that I have but a short time here.

I am devoting the day to loose ends, to a list of things I had wanted to do two years ago. There is, it seems, never enough time in Florence.

Because it closes early, my first stop is the Bargello museum, housed in the imposing Palazzo del Popolo, a former barracks and prison. The fortress is impressive in itself. There is an inner courtyard and covered staircase, and the walls are lined with heraldic shields from the 13th and 14th centuries that represent the coats of arms of various city magistrates, known as podestà. Inside, there is furniture and tapestries and some Majolica ware, but the real specialty is sculpture. The Bargello houses Donatello’s bronze statue of David. Completed in the 1440s, it was the first freestanding male nude to be cast since antiquity.

Florence, of course, is better known for a very different David—a more mature and heroic one, carved in marble by Michelangelo. Tourists line up in droves to see it at the Accademia across town, and they stand proudly by a copy of it for pictures in Piazza della Signoria. Here at the Bargello, Donatello’s David seems overlooked, in part because the museum itself is off the beaten path for weary crowds en route to other staples of Florentine history and culture. Even on a busy weekday at the height of tourist season, the museum is nearly empty.

As Mark Twain once wrote in the Innocents Abroad, I like Michelangelo very much, but I do not want him “for breakfast—for luncheon—for dinner—for tea—for supper—for between meals. I like a change occasionally.” As Twain went on to observe, in Florence, Michelangelo “painted everything, designed everything, nearly, and what he did not design he used to site on a favourite stone and look at, and they showed us the stone… Enough, enough! Say no more… I never felt so fervently thankful, so soothed, so tranquil, so filled with a blessed peace, as I did yesterday when I learnt that Michael Angelo was dead.”

Well, if that’s the case, Donatello’s David certainly is a change. He depicts David as a youth, more accurate to the biblical tale, but the pose is jarringly effeminate, with one hand resting on a hip that bends at the knee. The addition of a jaunty hat and Goliath’s winged helmet at his feet, one wing splayed seductively up the back of David’s leg, gives the entire composition a homoerotism that reminds me of the Caravaggios I saw in Rome. I wonder what Twain would have to say about that?

Nearby, I stop in for a bite to eat at Antico Noè, a tiny sandwich shop in an arcaded alley off Piazza San Pier Maggiore. I order the numero otto—pork with pecorino cheese—and watch as a steady stream of college students crowd the doorway. Next, I take Tommaso at his word and pay homage to Grom near Piazza del Duomo, where I get a dish of raspberry and lemon gelato for dessert, and eat it on the steps of the cathedral.

I walk back to Piazza della Signoria and join the security queue to enter the Palazzo Vecchio. This is the local town hall, and its soaring bell tower is nearly as prominent a part of the city skyline as Brunelleschi’s red-tiled dome.

It’s a self-guided tour, but an excellent one given the opulent surroundings. I visit the Salone dei Cinquecento (or, Hall of Five Hundred), where some believe that a long-lost scene of “The Battle of Anghiari” by Da Vinci lies hidden beneath a later fresco by Vasari.  I wander next through a series of connected public rooms, where every square inch of the walls and ceilings are covered by Renaissance art, some of which depict scenes of Florence that are wholly recognizable today.

I have a 3:45 PM reservation to see a cycle of frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel at the church of Santa Maria del Carmine, but with some time to spare I decide to cross the Ponte Vecchio and do a little shopping along the Oltrarno, stopping at Roberta’s to buy a leather belt for my Dad. Then, I walk up along the river to the Ponte Santa Trinita to admire the statues at each end representing the Four Seasons, which were added in 1680 to celebrate the wedding of Cosimo II de’ Medici. The bridge was a beautiful one, with three graceful elliptic arches, but in the closing days of World War II, it was spitefully bombed by the Germans, along with every other bridge in Florence, save the Ponte Vecchio. The statues collapsed into the Arno, and while the remains were put back on the newly reconstructed bridge after the war, the head of Primavera was missing and long thought stolen by soldiers during the liberation. It wasn’t until 1961 that it was finally found downstream.

I am right on time for my appointment. In the end, despite the restrictions—the need for advance reservations, and a limit of just 15 minutes to view the art—my visit in the Brancacci chapel is well worth the effort, especially given the quality of the multimedia presentation beforehand. Begun by Masolino in the late 14th century, and later finished by Masaccio and Lippi, the frescoes tell the story of the temptation of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, as well as other stories from the Bible, including “The Payment of the Tribute Money” from the Gospel according to Matthew.

In the only sour note of the afternoon, a French tour group joins my time slot, and despite the usual admonitions for silence and respect, the guide talks loudly the entire time, instructing those with her to stand in the center of the small space, where they remain for the duration, crowding everyone else out. Afterwards, several of us try to talk to the guard to protest. We’ve had little chance to see the frescoes up close because of the guide’s boorish behavior, but it seems there is nothing he can do.

I decide to duck back to the hotel to change out of my sweaty clothes before dinner and to post a few pictures to Flickr for friends and family back home. When I arrive, Happy Hour is underway at the Davanzati, so I have a glass of prosecco beside me as I connect to the internet on my netbook. This is, apparently, an act of heresy in Italy and it draws a good-natured rebuke from Fabrizio, who reminds me that I am on vacation and that I shouldn’t work so hard. I’m truly not working, but it doesn’t seem worth the explanation. I simply agree and close the lid.

For dinner, I’ve reserved at table at Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco on Borgo San Japoco, where a cute Italian busboy asks if he can introduce himself. I nod and he flirts endlessly, insisting on taking my picture. Eventually, the waiter comes by, frowns, and sends him packing back to the kitchen, to my grave disappointment.

I dine well on some hearty Tuscan fare—white beans with sage, and a plate of Pappardelle al Cinghiale, or wide ribbon noodles with wild boar sauce. Sitting nearby is a couple from Florida, celebrating their 13th wedding anniversary. In eating early, and snapping pictures, and in brimming over with enthusiasm for Italy as we talk, we are—the three of us—the spitting image of the American tourist, although hopefully not as hapless and uncouth as those Twain depicted in his narrative.

The night is still young when I leave my Florida friends. The air is cooling at last, and the change in temperature makes for a pleasant stroll. A classical guitarist from Poland, named Piotr Tomaszewski, is playing on the Ponte Vecchio to an appreciative crowd. After a while, I head up Via Porta Santa Maria, past the duomo, to Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. Designed by Brunelleschi himself, this used to be an orphanage known as the “Hospital of the Innocents.” It’s a low structure with an arched colonnade and above each column is a round terracotta sculpture, or tondo, added by Andrea della Robbia around 1487. The tondi depict infants in swaddling clothes lying on a blue wheel—a wheel which actually existed until the late-19th century, allowing mothers to leave their unwanted children anonymously by rotating them into the hospital interior on the equivalent of a Lazy Susan.

By the time I make my way back to Piazza della Signoria for the third and final time, night has fallen. Floodlights have kicked on and the tower and stonework of the Palazzo Vecchio stand stark against the sapphire sky.

In the Innocents Abroad, Twain wrote that “Florence had pleased us for a while,” before becoming tedious in the effort required to appreciate it. I suppose that it’s possible to come to Florence to relax, to embrace what the Italians call l’arte di non fare niente—the sweetness of doing nothing. Fabrizio, at least, says that it is.

This is a city that wears its past proudly on its sleeve, but I’m sure there are times when the looming presence of the Renaissance imposes a burden on locals and tourists alike, for who among us will ever reach the heights of a Donatello or a Masolino, a Brunelleschi or a Michelangelo? And so we exhaust ourselves in stifling heat, trying to see it all in the time that we have.

What can I say? Florence inspires me—not to do nothing, or even something, but to do everything. If not this time, then the next. And that can be rather sweet, too.