We continue to explore and delight in Firenze. As a city, it is very like other European cities: crowded, full of high buildings and famous landmarks, yet different because of its own unique sense of special-ness. For example, I sit in a little internet cafe (which doesn't have a drop of coffee, mind you) just down the street from Church of Santa Maria del Carmine which has a chapel inside with the amazing Masaccio frescoes of the life of St Peter. It's a huge, brown stone building, impressive for nothing but its size, yet it has a treasure-trove few new world cities can boast. And it is simply lost in the sea of churches and basilicas and museums and towers that are sprinkled liberally through this city.
Some random thoughts on Florence:
--the streets are narrow and the bus-coaches are huge, sometimes requiring a driver to reverse and forward several times just to get around a corner (and many corners are more than 90 degrees)
--the motorcycles are big and half the population seems to own them
--things cost a lot more here, and there are vendors everywhere selling you everything, a lot of which is made in China
--the espresso is strong and the gelato is heavenly
--the street corners-crossings surprise you with occasional shrines built into the building corners remembering a saint or an occurence
--the shops are small and narrow
--many buildings (like the one we live in) have courtyards so when you look into the large gate-like doorways which cars can drive through, you often see a garden or palm
--there are many Americans here, mostly high school students; could it be spring break? they definitely stand out, even before you hear them speak
--Italy is a materialistic paradise: name brands take up whole city blocks--Gucci, Versace, you imagine it, it is here. It gives me pause, and I wonder how empty people feel after they have chased so hard to find pleasure and purpose, and just have a leather bag or uncomfortable shoes to show for it in the end. (Perhaps I have lived in Africa just a tad too long?)
My silent time this morning brought these thoughts from Baillie:
"So from this little room and this short hour I can lift up my mind beyond all time and space to Thee, the uncreated One, until the light of Thy countenance illumines all my life."
In a context where so much is to impress and is for show, a simple reminder of how small I am in the context of eternity (not in the context of history or art) helps put everything into perspective.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. We have had a reminder in every church we've entered: the crosses are all covered with purple material. The Palm processions should be magnificent, even if the people don't fully comprehend the Miracle. Who of us does?
Ciao for now.