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

Travellers in Tuscany



A little Romance

Most people don't immediately connect the idea of romance with Firenze. There are probably any number of places in Italy alone that would probably rank ahead of it in most travellers' minds. And in as much as romance is built on reputation, Firenze has had only a thinly scattered affiliation with the subject through literature and art. The art of the Renaissance which is the predominate form in Firenze does not send people's hearts aflutter like the baroque quality of cities like Paris and Vienna. Nor does it have the cafe culture of these two cities. The type of environment that nurtures intimacy. So where is the romance to be found in Firenze?

It would seem that romance is not found in Firenze but rather it is brought along. Its more of an attitude than a discovered quality. Its not the hot passion of youth type of romance but a subdued subtle type that relies more on substance than form. It is the type of romance that comes with maturity and knowledge, a cerebral passion of sorts. It is paced and practised and comes from a place of familiarity and comfort.

Romance in Firenze begins with the pensione or hotel. It must have a garden whether it be on a rooftop or at street level. After a day of strolling the city an evening spent in a fine garden, under the stars with the house wine flowing freely, is a brilliant way of finishing up. The Pensione Ariel on via Magenta is a personal favourite. The garden is protected from the street with a ten foot wall and it is filled with hydrangeas and a magnificent palm tree. Inside the wall it is a different world.

The pensione must be family owned and run and if you are lucky the grandmother is doing the cooking. It will be spotless and the rooms large and airy with a big window hidden by ancient shutters. There will be tasteful objets d'art throughout and it will be the temporary home of only interesting people. It will be the Firenze of E.M. Forster and others of his sort. Its old and steady rhythms seeming a comfort to travellers.

The Piazzale Michelangelo may have one of the most breathtaking views in the world and a view is what often feeds romance. Firenze like an old painted consort looks her very best from a bit of a distance and with the added shadows of dusk she can charm as no other. The view from the piazzale is free but a view with dinner at the restaurant on the edge of the piazzale is better. Sometimes romance is to be found in the quiet moments when no words are said but there is an experience being shared nonetheless.

The river walk from the Ponte Vecchio west along the exact route that had carried the footsteps of Da Vinci and Michelangelo. It is the romance of historical connection, the feeling that you have shared in something important and that many significant events took place in this space.

Beauty alone can create romance and where in the world can there be found more beauty than in Firenze. If it only held the David that would be enough to satisfy the aesthetic craving of most people. But there is more, much more than that. There is the leisurely afternoon spent going through the galleries of the Uffizi and ending the tour with a coffee and pastry in the cafeteria. It is a time to talk about what was just seen and rest the feet and laugh a little because too much will be forgotten.

You must find the perfect ristorante and it has to be within walking distance from the hotel because this will not be the last time you will be here. The Il Profeta is a case in point. It is a ten minute walk from the Pensione Ariel and it becomes your restaurant. The meals are taken slowly and the waiter speaks English. He spends an extra moment and says how lucky you are to be here tonight because the chef has something special planned. And you see that you are the only visitors in a room full of regulars. The meal is memorable.

The evening air is warm on the walk back to the pensione. The garden lights are on and its time for a nightcap. There are a few interesting people about but you take a table to yourselves. The owner of the pensione brings a house chianti and there is some thoughtful conversation. The wall keeps out any city noise and the crickets become the predominate sound. The moon is high and bright over Firenze and the time here has been perfect. You look around you and know Firenze has been romantic because that's the way you wanted it to be.


Text by Bryen Lebar
Picture by Sandro Santioli

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