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Visita il Mugello, culla dei Medici, a due passi da Firenze e le bellezze toscane

Travellers in Tuscany



Foreigners in Firenze

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. Firenze 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.



Text by Bryen Lebar
Picture by Sandro Santioli

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