(JP) Let me start at the end of this day, because I feel it's as important an element to world travel as any - if not the most important. Never underestimate the power of traveling with the right person(s). I say this because instead of going out to "ooonce ooonce" on a disco dancefloor as planned, Mon and I looked at each other in the same moment upon returning to our hostel room and opted for a quiet night "at home", watching TV (Mon) and blogging (me). This kind of understanding about pace and pleasure is not something you'd get with any travel buddy -- most would think this decision satanic and horrifying; but to us, it's the ideal cap off to another perfectly "YES." night in Florence. Acqua al 2 just had us for dinner again, and it was even better the second time around. Which, you should know, is not possible - but apparently perfection likes to try and outdo itself nevertheless.
Having started our day rather late today, it only took a few hours to be able to watch the sunset over Ponte Vecchio and its surrounding bridges. The plan: capture various images of a beautiful scene. The result: capture various images, yes; some inside a camera, others inside your deepest chasms of hope and awe, which you can only sense in first person real-time. As I stood watching yellow turn to blue to pink to rose to purple to navy in the sky before me I already flashed forward to any chance I may get to describe just how beautiful Florence was to the inevitable question "How was it??!". Then, my chasm dropped, shed a tear of sorts, snickered and kicked a few rocks in frustration because it already knew there is no way in hell I will ever be able to describe second-hand what I'm witnessing. The velvety sky. The lovers holding each other, kissing each other in this veiled light, the exact sway of the old man in neon orange suit pants paired with sky blue blazer as he strolled past parked bikes by the side of the river, the curiosity with which 2 men bent over one bridge's edge to peek at the water down below..perching their coupled butts up in perfect sychronicity, or the specific way everyone (and I mean everyone) on the old bridge smiled as the sun made it's way to the other side of life. It's a dream come true; literally. Not in a cliche sense - in the sense that you are in fact very there, camera in hand, neck going back and forth frantically trying to decide which beauty is better to behold in any given moment. And yet, you are standing within a dream nonetheless, in a place without lines, without definition, a textured, triumphant mixture of joy upon joy. The buildings, the river, the architects since passed all rejoicing together with we smiling ants-on-a-bridge at what we, in this moment, have made real together. It's that indescribable realized dream, collectively shared, that I will remember most about Firenze. And I can see my camera folding its arms and turn its back on me in a huff to stare at the wall as I publicize its limitations this way. Sorry buddy. You're the next best thing, but we both know your eyes and my words have met their match this time.
Michelangelo, however, remains unmatched having seen his David sculpture in its full glory. My God. I thought it was going to be so much smaller, so much more "eh, that's cool I guess" than it really was. In fact, it's towering. Huge and grand and strong and soft and a symbol of how truly amazing old short guys can be when they put their minds to it. Cuz dude -- anyone who can take solid rock and mold it into something so utterly human, fleshly even, serves as a David vs. Goliath in his own right. For Dave it was a slingshot, for Mike it was a chisel and some time. Together, the statue caught me so off guard on levels I wasn't expecting. And now, I get why people make such a big deal about it. That, or its my long-standing obsession with sculpture -- I totally wanted to be one in another lifetime. It's so sexy to me -- the journey from formless to form, hard surface becoming putty in our hands, creating movement where there was none, evoking the human from the inanimate. That's power if you ask me. And now that I think about the added layer in David's story specifically; how he used a rock to take down the big guy, how the inanimate doubles simultaneously as our saving grace and as this imposing force with which to contend. And in finding a way to partner with it (shot in sling, rock under chisel), we find a way to triumphs others never thought possible. Standing there, I felt as though my entire time in Florence has been repetition on that theme - the human and the concrete (the Duomo's size is beyond comprehension, and yet, we built it!; those bridges to the ineffable I referenced before - that was us too, finding a way to harmonize with the rivers below; and David being grandly huge, and yet, his creator being probably shorter than any guy I'd consider dateable.)
Somehow, Firenze represents this perfect marriage between the human and the constructed. It reminds me that we do rock sometimes (yeah I punned, get over it), and in some cities, that perfect balance CAN be achieved. When you witness it, camera or not, its unlike any feeling you've had before. Is there a word for being utterly proud and utterly humbled at the same time? Perhaps that's Romance. And as a true romantic I say: if you're looking for love - not in the SATC sense - in the sense of wanting to feel the FEELING that is love within yourself, go to Florence. You may not know exactly what it is you're sensing, but when you come out the other side you'll probably be smiling with us too, on that bridge, in a velvety sunset, realizing we do have something to honor. Something to do with this kind of beauty being a joint venture, that romance takes two, that between us and Mother Nature we've created some earthly treasures that are well worth the trip. Even if you can't take them back with you.