The day dawned equally dreary and cold on an early Sunday morning in Milan as I made the short trek down to the main train station at the unholy hour of 7am in the morning – made really no difference actually, since I was jet-lagged anyway. And in typical Italian fashion, there was a small traffic melee taking place with some honking, poor driving and bad temper in the Piazza near the train station.
“Ah, the Italian temperament,” remarked TC, wondering as well how more drab it could get when the 2.5 hr train journey consisted of misty industrial scenes that seemed to characterise the region of Lombardy.
But Florence surprised us. It was very much alive on Sunday, bustling with fake-goods hawkers who displayed their wares on white cloth sheets that allow them to wrap their wares in a bundle every time a Companieri comes close.
But I suspect there is more to that.
Some syndicate of fake-goods trading exists here must been in the running for a while, seeing how efficiently the workers signal to each other, moving their large white bundles from Piazza to Piazza.
I find myself overwhelmed in and immediately taken with this amazing Tuscan capital, where reminders of ancient history is found in every nook and cranny. Formidable as a tourist trap (as well as a convergence point and a melting pot of artistic temperaments and hopefuls apprentices/imitators), the Tuscans apparently lament the loss of the ‘true’ city, where attempting the creation of the ‘authentic’ guarantees its very loss.
Despite the complaints, its beauty though eroded by tourism remains undeniable.
Even for the snobbiest of eyes.
The pension I stay in has every attention to detail (4-poster bed with drapes, sensual red walls, strategically placed chairs, scented cupboards and bed sheets, 2 different types of clothes hangers, tea bag holders), complete with a leopard skin bed cover (to which TC shook his head in exasperation), kitsch lamps, paintings of Serengeti animals in a wild mock-safari theme.
Its owners, Ric and Pascal (partners, as they call themselves, probably of all kinds), have amazing taste.
“Lavish for a budget place, faultless attention to detail,” TC says.
Above all, Ric and Pascal have shown nothing but kindness to us when TC was under the weather during one of the day trips. Pascal went to Antica Porta (a typical Italian Pizzeria that contains a grumpy boss who glared at me when I accidentally blocked his passageway that day) to get us pizza, refusing payment after he returned.
I daresay my remembrance of Florence is tainted gold, because of them.