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Cafe Rivoire

It is the pigeons that you notice first after the David copy when you enter the Piazza Signoria. There is a little girl standing in the centre of the piazza with her arms outstretched. In each hand she has a palm full of birdseed. She laughs as the pigeons flock to her arms, using her as a roost and covering her in a flurried frenzy. Her eyes are half shut and her shoulders are pulled up as the pigeons walk on her head. She is the center of everyones attention as you can hear the click of cameras all around you. You walk across the piazza and stop near the little girl. Her hands are empty now and the pigeons have left to strut across the cobblestones elsewhere. You turn to look at the row of statues behind you. You recognize the statue of Perseus and the head of Medusa. Your eye scans the three remaining statues along the length of the loggia. and then around to the far side of the square and then in front of you again. A few yards a head , in the far left corner of the piazza ,you spot a young girl with a violin case in one hand and a boom box in the other stop in front of a cafe. She places the boombox on the ground, turns it on and then pulls the violin out of its case and rests it on her shoulder, ready to play. In a moment you hear the beginning strains of a familiar but unidentifiable concerto coming from the box. She strikes a dramatic pose as she was about to begin playing. Her bow strikes the strings with a strong and sudden first flourish. The rush of sound fills the whole piazza and you see everyone in her vicinity turn toward her. You also see that she is standing in front of the Cafe Rivoire and it looks like a good place to have a little lunch and some entertainment. There seems to be a lot of music around this town you think to yourself.
The cafe is bordered on three sides by waist high potted shrubbs giving the cafe an exclusive look, apart, separate from the common square. You see an open table and you enter knowing this may prove to be an expensive lunch. You sit down and look around you. Between the young girl with the violin, the expanse of the square and the lovely striped awning you were sitting under there couldn't be too many better places.

There is a small rectangular chalkboard on a stand by the door. It lists the day's lunch specials in an elegant script. You decide on letting the waiter decide. He is prompt and attentive when you ask him to put something together. He smiles and suggests a nice light pasta dish. He tells you the chef has a favorite simple pennini with garlic and onions in olive oil. Very light he says. Antipasta? he asks. Wine? Yes, some wine sounds good, you answer. Your house red would be fine. He nods and leaves. By now the girl's first piece is over. There is applause from in front and from behind the girl. She turns and gives an abbreviated bow to the audience behind her. The music starts up again and she takes her position. A little less dramatic this time but enough to get everyone's attention back. She plays another three pieces. The last you recognize as Pachabel's Canon and as she plays this perfect melody you see that her eyes are closed and the music becomes hers. You suddenly change from an audience to a voyeur and for a moment you feel awkward looking upon this musical intimacy . Suddenly it seems the music ends. She draws the bow slowly, prolonging the last note. There is more applause and another short bow. Her violin case is on the ground opened. A few people from the crowd step forward and drop some notes into the case. She steps into the enclosed area holding a small cigar box. The takings in this area are much better. You hold out a 2000 lira note and drop it into the box as she walks by . She nods her head in thanks and continues on. In a moment she has walked through and out. She packs her violin and picks up the boom box. With her life in her hands she moves further down the square to another cafe and another performance.
It has grown quiet. The piazza has temporarily emptied itself and only the pigeons are left picking up every last seed, tidying up it seems for the next wave of passers-by. The pasta has arrived and your wine glass has been refreshed. You stab a couple of the pennini and place them in your mouth. There is just a hint of garlic and onion and the taste is like every Italian home in the world. You close you eyes and roll the the flavour around in your mouth and you suddenly realize you are hungry, very hungry.

A light breeze picks up, circulating the air in the piazza. You pause for a moment in your indulgences and take another look about the square. The violinist has started up again a ways away and you can hear the music above the noise in your vicinity when the breeze starts up and pushes the music about the open space.
You finish off the pasta and the wine and you think about moving on. It has been a good lunch no matter what it costs. It is almost 230PM and there is more to see on your first day.

 

 

Text by Bryen Lebar
Picture by Sandro Santioli


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Press registration n. 5528 10/11/2006 - Editor Polimedia - P.IVA 05575950489