Sunday, June 26, 2016

Leaving My Roommates Behind

I'm not ready to leave Florence yet, but I am quite prepared to say goodbye to my roommates. Yes, I know what you're thinking. It's true that my name is the only name on the lease, but here in Florence, as in any large Italian city, no one is ever truly living alone.

Wherever you go in this city, you will be sharing the sidewalk and streets with countless others. That's not a mob you see in the photo above, it's just the usual crowd of folks trying to cross one of the world's most iconic bridges, the Ponte Vecchio, on a Saturday afternoon.

Shop owners struggle to make a statement in a miniscule space. This store owner wants customers to know the full extent of his goods, so he's clustered them on either side of his door. The entry was so crowded, it was difficult to push through the doorway.
Dolce and Gabbana took a different approach. Their clothing line is so exclusive there's no need to bombard you at the doorway. Instead, you can feel free to sit in this lovely spot reminiscent of an English garden while contemplating the next addition to your wardrobe.

They seem to have missed the fact that it is difficult to feel relaxed knowing this "garden" is on a major street in Florence where the chance of being mangled by a passing truck is greater than the chance of adding the latest fashion item to your wardrobe.

Think you'll escape to a restaurant for a little alone time or a chat with friends? Think again. Tables, chairs, and people spill out to the street where passersby and the table of folks next to you will be part of your conversation.
This arrangement of tables and bench across the street from the sidewalk cafe, might provide a spot of privacy if you don't mind feeling like a child on "time-out." But the truth is that, in Florence, you're far more likely to find yourself in this dining situation than any other.
        This, surely, is one of the narrowest bars in the world!

I am convinced the last time anyone in Florence had enough elbow room was Napoleon. And even he had to go to the bathroom to get it!

Napoleon's Bathroom in the Palatine Museum of the Pitti Palace
So space today is tight, not only for store owners and restaurateurs, but for all of us who live here as well. I watched this man make three attempts before he finally squeezed this van into his garage.

People compensate for this lack of space in interesting ways. This person evidently missed having a terrace, so she tacked a box to the the wall beside her front door, stuck in a few plants, and called it a garden.

Here on my own lovely street, via Toscanella, I enjoy the music indicating there's a party in the Piazza Passera or the burble of conversation and laughter when the restaurant next door is particularly busy. What I don't appreciate is knowing so much about my "roommates" who share this building with me. But knowing them is as inevitable as the climbing of 36 steps to get to my front door.

I've written before about my upstairs neighbors, a couple in their eighties who argue like children, often screaming at one another until they exhaust themselves and fall into bed. Now, after three weeks, I know even more about them.

He is evidently a former opera star because he often bangs out the beat with a metal spoon or with his foot on the floor as he warbles his vocalizations. (I never dreamed I'd find a man in Italy who "plays the spoons" as it's known in Appalachia!) She was a furniture mover in a former life. The medieval wooden ceiling transmits every screech of chair and table that she makes many times a day. These noises, of course, are interspersed with the screaming at each other or at the street in general.
Here she is yelling at the building across the way--that's her on the top floor--my bedroom shutters are directly below--while the lady in the building next door is begging her to stop.
My Juliet balcony, with the yellow drape, is directly above above the actors' flat.
My downstairs neighbors, who arrived for the long holiday weekend, aren't much better. They seem to be rehearsing for an American movie. You remember the Katz's Delicatessen scene in When Harry Met Sally? When Billy Crystal tells Meg Ryan women can't fake t h a t  and Meg goes on to prove him quite wrong while the woman at a neighboring table tells the waiter she'll have whatever Meg is having? Well, my neighbors are rehearsing that scene right here. Downstairs. Every afternoon and sometimes twice a day because, you know, practice makes perfect.

So, I'm not ready to leave this dazzling jewel in Tuscany quite yet, but, when it's time, I'll be happy to return home to Arizona where I can sit on my terrace and enjoy, in true privacy, the beauty of pristine desert. It's a place where no one screams or rehearses movie scenes and the only sound is the plaintive cry of the mourning dove.

I'll be ready for that.


Just not quite yet.


  1. Laughing. Fortunately our neighbors aren't bad at all and you more or less have to get used to hearing chairs moving around upstairs when they're mopping the floors. Not much carpeting in Italy, for sure no wall to wall. But the marble is so beautiful and clean.

    As for the woman addressing the inhabitants in the building across the street, we had the exact same situation when we rented and of course, we thought that woman was Coo Coo.

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