I write this from the edge of the Arno River. I walked over here with the intention of trekking up to Piazzale Michelangelo (one of my favorite places in this city), resting, eating my biscotti-nutella home-made sandwiches, and taking in the view as the sun set. However, along the way here, I ran into Jannis, the family friend Massimo introduced me to back in November-ish when we visited Firenze for a weekend. Of course I stopped and talked – mostly about music and the tedium of education, casual – in Italian. Sadly the sun set during that very conversation. I continued on my way anywho, and figured I may as well go somewhere else since the sun was nearly asleep.
When I walked through the arch that marks the old city limits, I turned right instead of continuing straight to Piazzale Michelangelo. My feet fell into acute angles almost immediately; the steep inclination begged to be noticed. I continued up the hill, following the edge of some unknown, medieval-looking fortress. Once again the sounds of Florence faded into oblivion. But unlike on the walk to Piazzale Michelangelo, I felt a little bit scared. The sun had set, I was alone, and I was walking up an unforgivably steep hill to who knows where. But I figured it was still kind of light out, and my instincts upon which I rely so heavily told me everything was okay. So I continued onward, comforted by the occasional passing of a car or motorcycle. After a while, I heard footsteps in my distant past, and glanced back to see two college-aged kids also tackling the hill. So I really was okay. I paused to take a picture, looking backward, and noticed that I had surely discovered an unconventional method of cardiovascular work-out: slight fear + new place + hill à heart pumping, breath flying. I inhaled, remembered my impending reward (the nutella sandwiches, duh) and trudged on.
I saw the apex in the distance. When I reached the top of this newfound hill, hot pink light – reminiscent of 70’s silk bell-bottoms or scenery in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – spilled out over the aged fortress. I attempted to capture the fleeting magenta overflow, but even 8-mega pixels could not contain such brightness.
Of course I couldn’t stop then. I followed the light, the angles of my heels becoming less and less acute with each stop. Before I knew it, those very heels were restored to their natural 90 degree figures. I had reached the top, and consequently, the edge of the fortress. I tentatively edged forward. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a sign: “Centro Historico di Firenze”.
Yes, I thought I had been living in the historic center of Florence, but apparently the real historic center lay within the walls of this “fortress”. I turned right past the sign, walking between walls as old (or older?) than the cobblestones of the Ponte Vecchio. I may have thought that the sounds out Florence had faded away before, but now, like a well-behaved camper, they left absolutely no trace. The streets were narrower, the light more subdued, and the atmosphere more subtle, mysterious and perhaps vaguely foreboding. I continued down the thread of a street, still unsure of where exactly I was going (notice a theme here?). My heels fell just as quickly into obtuse angles, gripping the stone terrain and persistently resisting gravity. I walked slowly, half my attention focused on the nutella sandwich that had magically traveled from my bag to my hand to my mouth and the other half focused on the sign next to me about Galileo’s astronomical observations.
I trudged all the way through the centro historico, and by some lovely twist of fate, ended up next to the Arno, smack dab between the Ponte Vecchio and where I began my exploration. Remember, small adventures are just as good as big ones.