The process of appreciating a city doesn’t always follow a love-at-first-sight model.
First impressions are not always the most lasting. Florence needs some time. It can be hard to love a city when you’re surrounded by group after group of tourists using their Yoga experience to bend over into odd positions to take the fifth perfect shot of the duomo.
The grandeur of the buildings can be diminished in the peak times of day. It’s like seeing a beautiful, attractive woman dead drunk.
Luckily, Florence is a schizophrenic city. I mean that in the best possible ways. If you’re adventurous and dedicated enough to wake up as early as you can in the morning, preferably at the hour of sunrise, you will see and appreciate what all the hype is about. And you will fall in love.
It happened to me specifically on the Ponte Vecchio. The bridge that’s withstood the cruelties of the ages, including world wars and catastrophic floods. A caged-in, colourful bridge that just screams medieval. Walking there, gazing out onto the sun-kissed river, you really do feel like you’re walking in the 15th century.
Without a skyscraper in sight, nor a single car, or cruise ship or merely a piece of aluminum; the sun’s weak haze sailing over the river’s green surface; that is perfection, that is the Florence I wanted to see.
After seeing that side of Florence I could tolerate everything. Appreciating it then made me feel I was leading a double-life, like I was in on a secret no one else knew. The city and I had a special, lucid connection. All because I woke up early and ventured into the loneliness of morn.
Here are the poems I wrote on those solitary morning walks on the Ponte Vecchio.
A thousands hands waving
On the river’s surface.
A pigeon swoops overhead
And sees a river’s surface!
One man in a kayak,
Like a stray mantis,
Sails towards the bridge
With his mind
A constellation of ancient names.
There is beauty as the breeze
Grazes the waving hands
On the river’s surface.
In the embrace of deaf sounds
Time flows around me.
Floating columns dissect the sunlight.
Sailing sunlight dissects the column’s shadow.
Through the bridge’s grimy ribs
A window looms onto sun-kissed mist.
Mountains muted into mere silhouette
Broken by the long-fingered cypresses.
And all my lacework of a mind can see
Is my body hitting the grey water.
A procession of lucid snails,
The river marches gently.
But the reflection remains moored,
As still as its real self.
How can an illusion,
Born from the games of light,
Resist the flow of a river
Born from distant cypress mountains?
My eyes are transfixed
By the golden sheen
Of the image in the mat river
So I forget the very name of reality.
The postcard has sprouted reality,
A few branches catch the dainty sunlight,
Permeating over the water
As cold and veined
As melting marble.
The postcard spreads further,
A cobweb of brick and cypress
Caught in the shy, misty morning light.
When a spider abandons its cobweb
The threads return to the trees.
An extension of moss.
When I abandon the bridge
It will once again become
Nothing but a postcard
An extension of mortality
So delicately fading.
Faces grieving in tantric marble
And on impotent canvases.
There are no faces
In the water and sunlight.