Florence, like many great cities, has its conquered. Those that come and
are smitten and are unable to leave. Charlie Bloome is one such person.
I tell everyone who plans to go to Firenze
at some time to look up Charlie Bloome. Some do and upon their return
they enthusiastically admit to me of being totally charmed by Charlie.
was a different city when you were with Charlie they would say. And I
would agree with them. Every story they would tell would vividly come
to life in my mind. I could see the table at the Cafe Rivoire where Charlie
would hold court. Or at least that's the way I saw it. If you asked Charlie
what he was doing he would have said that he was merely contributing to
an education. He didn't want anyone to waste time in Firenze.
There was too much to do to not know what to do. Every moment had to be
used and he suggested how best to use it. Sometimes the best thing was
to do nothing. I remember spending at least part of each day sitting somewhere
just enjoying the knowledge that I was here in Firenze
now. Charlie would talk and tell me little stories about the neighbourhood
we were in. It didn't matter where we were he seemed to have some anecdote
about the house on the corner or the shop across the piazza. I suppose
ten years in a city will give you that, if you're interested in it.
One afternoon, I remember, we were having a bite at a caffe near his
apartment. I was commenting on how one of the near by buildings was in
bad need of repair and wondered out loud how old it was. "This is
one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Firenze. Most of these building were
built in the 14th and 15th centuries. There are neighbourhoods that are
considered the new areas and they have been around for three hundred years.
Age is a relative thing. The family who own the building where I live
have lived there for over five hundred years. I was speaking to them one
day about how I felt as if I had always been here and it had only been
a couple of years. The wife burst out laughing and called me a baby. I
was a baby to the city. She pointed to the building next door and said
I should ask the new people there how long it takes to be part of a neighbourhood.
I asked how long the new neighbours had been there expecting the answer
to be at most a two digit number. They moved in in 1788 she stated quite
certainly. Why do you still refer to them as new neighbours if they have
been here for almost two hundred years. She laughed again and pointed
the other way and said because the old neighbours live there. And they
have been here longer than we have, she continued. Old neighbours, new
neighbours she said as she put out a hand in both directions. I asked
how they were referred to by their neighbours. We are the wool merchant's
place the man said proudly. They always refer to this building that way.
When it was first built in 1421 it housed a wool merchant with his small
weaving and dying shop .He was a guild member and the house still bears
the. insignia over the door. We can do that because we are direct descendant.
I shook my head and chuckled at how this could never happen again in human
history that one family could inhabit one building continuously for over
five hundred years. Are there a lot of families like yours, I asked. Families
that have been in the same place for five hundred years or longer. For
the next hour he told me of one family after another in his neighborhood
alone that have long histories. What became quickly apparent was that
the one luxury of having large families was the likely hood of one of
the progeny staying back and minding the fort. As the husband told of
the family histories there were many stories of sons and daughters leaving
Firenze , most not returning. But there was always someone to take over.
He told stories of intrigue in the early days of the Medicis and the dark
years of decline after that. The stuff of romance, I thought." He
leaned back in his chair and looked around. He had such a satisfied look
on his face as if happy with what he had just said.
I looked at the building again and I thought to myself that it looked
pretty good considering what it had been through and maybe it didn't need
anything more than to be seen in a different way.
Charlie was the perfect person for the perfect place at the perfect time.
The city had touched him and he wanted everyone who came to have at least
a mild flirtation with it, if not a full blown affair as he was having.
I think most of us left with at least a kiss and the promise of more.