Without a doubt, Florence is my favorite city and the inspiration for my story “Dreaming Sophia.” This iconic city set on the banks of the Arno River is a beautiful reminder of all that makes Italy special. It is full of art and history and represents Italian pride and independence.
What is there not to love about Florence?
In this important Renaissance city, you will find the Duomo, the Baptistry, the Medici Palace, the statue of David, and the Palazzo Vecchio. There is S. Spirito, the Ospedale degli innocenti, and the Boboli gardens. There is Santa Croce, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Bargello. There are open-air markets, gelato stands, coffee bars, and out-of-the-way trattorias that serve the best “Hay & Straw” pasta I have ever eaten. It is the city of Dante, Ghirlandaio, Ghiberti, Donatello, Botticelli and Michelangelo.
Florence is my town.
Florence is the first city in which I ever lived abroad on my own, and for me, it represents independence and freedom. I used to live with an Italian family near the soccer stadium toward Fiesole, and every day I walked or rode the bus to school via Fiume near Santa Maria Novella. In a short amount of time, I became familiar with the streets, piazzas, and the passageways of Florence. I also knew very well the little shops of the artisans, artists, and goldsmiths that I used to see along my bus route on my way to the studio where the painting maestro waited for me every Tuesday and Thursday. I remember the smell of paint and linseed oil that wafted into the streets from the shops and the sound of the Vespa bikes that bounced off the walls and corridors of the buildings, as well as the hubbub and energy of the city. I also remember the sensation of being surrounded for the first time by a foreign language and the lilt of voices much different from those I was accustomed to hearing.
I stayed so long in Florence that it became almost normal to pass by the Duomo with its rose and green marble, illuminated by the morning sun. I used to go around, always with a notebook in hand, to draw everything I saw; a statue here, a piece of architecture there, one of Botticelli’s angels seen at the Uffizi, or a figure from Brunelleschi’s Baptistry doors. Everything was possible in Florence, and every evening on my way home I would dream of my future while gazing out upon the Arno that sparkled in the light of the setting sun. Who knew the charms of Florence would hold me so tightly that they would draw me back time and time again.
Florence to this day continues to pull at my heartstrings. It is the reason I felt compelled to write my story “Dreaming Sophia.”
To pay tribute to my favorite Italian city I want to share a song that evokes my sentimental feelings and the Santa Maria Novella quarter where I attended classes and passed some of the best moments of my life. The song is called “Firenze Santa Maria Novella” and it is by the Italian singer Pupo.
The lights are out at two in the morning
a bum passes by with broken shoes
the night here is not like in Milano
or in Rome, always full of mess & confusion
within an hour arrives la Nazione
a train whistles a song
a lady without her husband
I look at her well, it’s only a transvestite
Firenze Santa Maria Novella dreams
never feeling shame
she seems the mirror of her city
Firenze S. Maria at least
she makes me feel light-hearted
and my wallet she will not rob
the first morning commuters
this year the florentine team is strong
breakfast with the bomboloni (cream filled pastries)
and trouble for anyone who speaks badly about Antognoni (the soccer player)
rays of sun appear its a new day
people that go promising to return
because in Firenze on my word
you never see enough in just one time
Firenze Santa Maria Novella is a party
for he who goes for she that remains
for a love that will return
Firenze Santa Maria Novella forgive me
I hope to surprise you
when you hear my song