A “Make-up Visit” with Anne in Florence

(April 7, 2014–current trip)

My flights to Florence this trip were scrambled by the one-day strike of all of the security guards in German airports on 27 March—the same day that my flight from San Francisco would have landed in Frankfurt. Talking to one of the women working in the duty-free shop in Frankfurt when I arrived a day later, passengers arrived at the airport there and got their boarding passes, checked in their bags—and then got to the security screening area and found that there was no one there at all. The strike was called with only a couple of hours’ notice to the airports and airlines, so people like me had to scramble to put together other plans. As hard and as long as the counter agent in San Francisco tried to get me through to Florence, my only option seemed to be SF-Frankfurt-Rome, departing a day later than I had booked my original flights. I had to contact Anne in Florence, letting her know that my plans had changed, and that I would go from Rome directly to Spello. Normally, I arrive in Florence and spend a night with her before going on to Spello, but our plans were instantly out-of-date contending with the strike.

A week after I arrived in Spello, I made plans with Anne to go and spend a night with her in Florence, making up for our change of plans. After the usual regionale train ride (more than 20 stops between Spello and Florence, not a high-speed train route), I arrived in Florence early to walk around a bit, and see what had changed since my last trip.

First peek of the Duomo, behind the San Lorenzo church

First peek of the Duomo, behind the San Lorenzo church

Rounding the corner near the San Lorenzo church, with the street market stalls still setting up for the day, I got my first peek at the Duomo—the most recognizable landmark in Florence. I was headed toward the Sant’Ambrogio marketplace, and had my usual talk with Gennaro, while he packed my mozzarella di bufala cheeses (always the same order—3 bags with 10 small cheeses floating in more fluid than necessary, making the weight always a burden to carry back to Spello). I took a few photos of the produce in the outdoor stalls there, and then headed back to the Piazza del Duomo, and the train to Anne’s house in Rifredi, a suburb of Florence.

Opening up for the day at Sant'Ambrogio marketplace

Opening up for the day at Sant’Ambrogio marketplace

Kabocha squash, Roman cauliflower and cardoons

Kabocha squash, Roman cauliflower and cardoons

Fennel bulbs

Fennel bulbs, a personal favorite of mine

I passed two men on Via dei Servi changing a bulb in a street light—and could not help stopping to watch the process. I suppose I was comparing their work to what would be required in the US, with safety standards and equipment, hard hats, etc. Instead, they each leaned a long ladder against the building wall, “free climbed” up to the big lamp, and worked together to get the globe off, and the bulb replaced. I suppose it was a completely ordinary event to Florentines, but it somehow caught my attention and I watched the entire process to the finish.

Changing a street light

Changing a street light, Florentine style

Wrestling off the glass globe to get to the bulb

Wrestling off the glass globe to get to the bulb

"I'll be right back up with the new bulb."

“Hold it there–I’ll be right back up with the new bulb.”

All done.

All done.

I passed by the Duomo, and the campanile beside the church, and then got my first look at the Baptistry. It is completely shrouded in scaffolding for cleaning and restoration of the exterior, and bears no resemblance to the building with which I am so familiar. One of my favorite parts of the building exterior is the scene of an angel, Jesus Christ, and John the Baptist over the door, depicting the baptism of Christ. If I hadn’t been looking hard to find it, I would have missed it with all of the confusion of the scaffolding. What a shame people seeing that building for the first time will see the “Golden Doors” of Ghiberti, but not the rest of a special building covered in beautiful sculptures.

Campanile and Duomo, early morning light

Campanile and Duomo, early morning light

Hexagonal baptistry covered with scaffolding

Hexagonal baptistry covered with scaffolding

Trio of statues depicting the baptism of Jesus Christ

Trio of statues depicting the baptism of Jesus Christ

Anne and I spent the afternoon and evening at her house, just catching up on our mutual news, and the next morning she accompanied me into town on the train to the Santa Maria Novella station, where she met friends for lunch. For her, it was an unusual trip out, LVAD computer and battery pack and spare battery carried along, but she was determined to get out for a change of pace. Lately, she has been having some difficulty with feeling tired, and lacking energy—but she was determined that she would see her friends, see me off at the station, and have some time in Florence before catching a train home.

Anne, at the Florence SMN train station

Anne, at the Florence SMN train station

We had an afternoon and evening together that we had missed because of the strike in Germany, but we didn’t wait long to get together and recover the time we had expected to have before my travel plans changed.

 

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