In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene I was unsure as to the status of my flight to Italy. Thankfully Air France did not cancel the flight, the weather cleared overnight and I flew out of JFK without mishap or delay. My hat is off to the staff at that illustrious airport and the fine job they did Monday August 29, 2011.
I arrived in Florence around 9:00 hours and had to wait a few hours until my room was ready. The Hotel Orto di Medici was kind enough to let me sleep on a couch in the day room until 14:00 when I could check in. A simple but clean room was presented to me and a crawled into the sack for some more shuteye. That evening I walked around and found a decent trattoria: carpaccio with spicy arugula, baked beans with garlic and tomatoes and fried rabbit reminded me that I was no longer in America and safe and happy here in Europe, a place I seem to be calling home more often than not. The next morning I awoke very early and took a dimly-lit walk through the empty streets, down to the River Arno and onto the Ponte Vecchio, devoid of tourists and closed for the night. It was lovely. The street cleaners went about their business as I strolled about, buying off the jet-lag and getting my bearings. My internal compass is more-or-less realigned. I returned to the hotel, snoozed for a couple of hours and woke up to one of the better continental breakfasts I have had. The salami and mortadella were excellent, the cappuccino was tasty and they even had rice cakes as a choice over than toast. I ate well, knowing that my day trip to Fiesole would burn off the calories. I took the bus to Fiesole and walked around the Roman and Etruscan ruins virtually alone–after another cappuccino. I came back to Florence by lunchtime and made my way from the Piazza San Marco to the San Croce area and visited the Museo Galileo, which is also called the Science Museum. Wonderful, really fantastic. Measuring devices of all types, styles, eras and functions were on display, most collected by the di Medici family over the centuries. I was hit by an understanding of the nature of man, or of at least intelligent man. We are born to measure, to divine distances and directions, pressures and quantities physical and ephemeral. My common metaphor of the sailor’s compass is held up by the cases of quadrants, octants, sundials, Jacobs staffs, clocks and globes of any and seemingly all varieties. I am inspired.
Today is Thursday, September 1. I am meeting some spiritual friends for coffee and conversation at 13:30. Before that I hope to beat some of the crowds to the Palazzo Pitti and then head to the Museo Zoologico la Specola. In the afternoon My day is free to wander. I would like to avoid the crowds for an hour or so and then come back to the hotel for a short siesta. Then I’ll pack my bags. Tomorrow I head to Pistoia, the Villa Rospigliosi and the Aegean Center. First, however, I am meeting up with a fellow student at the train station, which leaves me with Friday morning free before I check out and dump my bags (carefully re-packed) at the left-luggage office, Firenze Santa Maria Novello. I can only imagine what awaits me…