Monday, March 10, 2014

You can take the girl out of the city...

This week I was fortunate enough to go to both Rome and Florence for various reasons (the Pope and a food festival, TASTE, to be precise).  One would have made me more than thrilled, but two cities?  In one week?  Don't misunderstand me, I love Monterosso.  I love the Cinque Terre.  It's a dream that I take a picture out of my front door every single day, even though it's always the same view.  The city, however, is where I thrive.  I'm a fast walker, I'm excellent with a public transit map, and I have a very short attention span.  I need a little "city" every so often to recharge my batteries for another few months in my little seaside hamlet.
Good morning, Pope Francis

Since getting back yesterday from Florence, I've spent a great deal of time comparing it with Rome.  They are both so ridiculously beautiful and so full of history you think they would just explode, but they are two completely different places with two completely different personalities.  I've loved them both for quite a while, but it's hard to pick a favorite.
The duomo, the duomo…Florence
View from our room at Granduomo apartments

Rome to me is a black and white film.  It's a woman tucking a mass of curly, inky hair into a glossy helmet before hopping effortlessly on her Vespa in stiletto heels and speeding away, cutting off a taxi at the light.  It's a young guy in a slim legged black suit on his cellphone smoking a cigarette under an intricate doorframe, dodging a puddle of an unknown liquid on the cobblestone street.  It's the taxi driver that yells back at the pedestrian using the most colorful curses you can imagine.  Rome, for me, is getting lost at twilight and winding your way through narrow streets until you reach a clearing and lose your breath at the sight of the Trevi Fountain or Piazza Navona, tucked into this little nook but looming over everything.  Rome is a spitfire.
Piazza Navona, Roma

It drips cool.  It's artichokes and cacio e pepe and red wine and the shadows the Pantheon makes over a piazza full of people with their jaw dropped, mixed with the smell of strong coffee from Tazza D'oro on the corner.  Rome is knowing you are getting off the subway at a stop called Colosseo, and it will be right there in all it's glory, waiting for you just like the last time.  It's crowded, it's a little dirty, it's a bit of a mess, but it is, at the end of the day, Rome.  And if you are here, who cares?

Florence, on the other hand, always feels more refined, more posh, more orderly to me.  It's a 60 year old woman in a tan pantsuit with a colorful designer scarf tucked over her perfectly styled blonde hair.  It's the butcher hacking up a piece of meat in the window, it's the church bells on Sunday, it's the majesty of the Duomo, it's the antique market at Santo Spirito and the line around the block of people waiting, patiently, to see Davide.  It's the refinement of a city that's home cuisine is contrastingly the most simple and delicious things you can imagine.  
Sunday market in Santo Spirito, Florence

It's ribollita, it's a rare Fiorentina steak, it's tripe stands on the street and artigianale gelato.  It's the bread I hate made without salt.  It's perfect Italian.  It's a smoothly raised eyebrow instead of a long string of curses.  It's inky red wine poured smoothly into a glass, it's biscotti and sweet vin santo, it's the yellow lights that illuminate the Palazzo Vecchio, where the bonfire of the vanities lit up the same piazza centuries ago.  It's the Arno, the Ponte Vecchio, the Japanese tourists snapping pictures and the old grandmothers walking by with their knee length skirts and sensible shoes, pausing to look at the display in the window of Ferragamo.  It's a museum next to another museum next to a church that is actually also a museum next to a statue.  It's so small that you can walk it in a day but never manage to fully read all of it's story.

It's impossible to pick a favorite.  These two breathtaking places have two different moods, two different characters, and so many different layers I still have to uncover.  The most beautiful thing is that you don't have to pick one, or to prefer one over the other, and that everyone meets Rome and Florence as different people, sees another side of them, has totally different experience.  
Roman Rooftops

You can take these two beautiful cities as they are, as you find them, and just enjoy the time you have in them.  Take a deep breath, a long look, and recharge your batteries.
Piazza della repubblica, Florence

And then go back home to the beach.


  1. What a great description of two amazing places. I totally love the way you tell their story. I to agree totally. two places full of history and century's of story's, pathways that take you places and smells and sites that take your breath away. I love to think of how many people have walked the cobbled streets and the storey the walls could tell if they could, I am so looking forward to enjoying both City's in July and also my visit to see you at Le Cantina.
    thanks for the joy of reading your journey. :)

  2. You are such a great writer ! I love the way you describe rome.. made me feel like I was back over there. I need to get myself to Florence !

  3. Beautiful compare and contrast of two wonderful cities. You really nailed the character of each. Like you, I love both of them. By the way, we had a fabulous dinner at Ristorante di Miky when we were in Monterosso a week or so ago. Thank you for writing such lovely things about the Cinque Terre. As I tell everyone, the only problem with the Cinque Terre is everyone wants to go there and everyone is usually there. Louise