There is something magical about Florence during a warm autumn shower. I open my windows wide to listen to the sounds of the rain dancing on the cobblestones below. My apartment is 30 steps up from the street, on the first floor, in the Costa San Giorgio. Narrow and steep, the street is home to connected 3, 4 and 6 story buildings which magnify sound. The click clack of tourists’ footsteps echo in the closeness. Voices come to me quiet and muffled. I hear the muted strains of violin music from an apartment nearby.
The streets call to me, at all times, but especially in the rain. I walk for hours, stopping to smell, to look, to touch, to taste, accompanied by the soft pitter patter of the rain on my umbrella. The warm, gentle breezes, far different from the harsh, driving winds of Kansas, ruffle my hair, my shawl, my rain jacket. In the rain, I am drawn to the River Arno, now a muddy brown, the richness of the riverbed disturbed by the wind and rain. I walk to the Ponte alle Grazie and look back toward the Ponte Vecchio which seems a brighter golden yellow in the subdued light.
I walk the center, experiencing the colors on the Ponte Vecchio and the Via Tornabouni, where Monte Blanc pens, Tiffany jewelry, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Roberto Cavalli clothing and accessories sport the season’s newest colors and styles. The brightly colored umbrellas of tourists a sharp contrast to the rich greys and browns of the streets. I walk into the Coin Department store where a young sales clerk invites me to a sink to try the newest shower gel and salt scrub. I visit the Swarovski crystal department and look at bracelets. I leave the store and head toward the carousel in the Piazza della Repubblica, still now, in the rain. I walk to the Red Bookstore where I decide to sit for a while to read.
After a brief stop, I’m reading the newest Bridget Jones book by Helen Fielding called Mad about the Boy and her writing makes me laugh out loud every few paragraphs, so I don’t feel I can stay in the bookshop long for fear of disturbing other readers, I again hit the streets.
I head toward Piazza Santa Croce, water running down the trough in the center of the rain soaked street. Bright, welcoming lights from shop windows beckon. I reach Santa Croce Piazza and stop at the Finisterrae Pasticceria to look at the lovely pastries. The last time I was in, I sampled a delicious, rich, dark, creamy sipping chocolate, offered by a barista whose eyes were the same chocolate color as the drink he handed me. I settle on a cappuccino and 4 bite-sized cream puffs, one chocolate, one hazelnut, one crème, and one pistachio. The same barista hands me a cappuccino with a lovely flower design and three sugars, in contrast to the usual one. He remembered how I drink my coffee. I like that. I sit at a table across from the pastry and gelato counters and page through an Italian newspaper. The pastry bites are light and flavorful. The cappuccino warm and bitter.
When I leave, it is dusk and the rain has stopped. Everything is wet, shining, and washed clean. The soles of my shoes squeak on the wet stone streets as I head to Caffé Giacosa for aperitivo. I may have a wine spritzer tonight, but my real draw is the luscious, buttery olives, the spicy corn nuts, the tapenades, and the carrot sticks. I have been away from my apartment for 5 hours. Time flies as I troll this city spontaneously deciding minute by minute where to wander next.
I walk home, up the steep street to my apartment. Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain again. Maybe I’ll walk to Piazza Michelangelo to get a panoramic view of the city and then to La Carraia on the Ultroarno side of the Arno River near the Ponte alla Carraia for the best gelato I’ve found yet. Who knows where my feet will take me.