Favorite travel destinations? The question is hard to answer because there are so many. But if I am asked what some of my favorite foreign cities are, the question is more easily answered.
In the number one position is the ancient city of Florence, Italy.
It’s in Florence that I had my best cappuccino, at a sidewalk café; it was so artfully decorated with the image of a fern leaf designed with coffee in the milky foam. Florence is also the city that introduced me to one of the most surprising street performers I have ever encountered.
Read on . . .
On a recent trip around the Mediterranean, I had the pleasure of spending a day in Florence (Firenze to the Italians who live there). Florence is capital city of the Tuscany region; it was birthed in 59BC by Julius Caesar, under the name, Florentia.
Florence was once a place where Caesar’s old soldiers could languish out their days, but it is now perhaps best known for its Galleria dell’Accademia museum, which houses a very famous original work by Michelangelo, his statue of David. You’ll find other of Michelangelo’s works there, too. But if you want to see them, expect to stand in LONG line-ups.
If you aren’t into waiting in line, then take a walk around the city; there’s much to see from the heavily photographed medieval Ponte Vecchio Bridge over the Arno River, to the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, also called the Duomo. If you are lucky, like me, you might just happen across a street entertainer performing for no one behind the home of a very famous poet.
Dressed in a red tunic, black pants, laced-up boots, and with an odd but very fitting kind of cockatiel hairdo, the actor wove his spell. His presence still haunts me. Even now, over a year later, tears come to my eyes as the memory moves me. He was so immersed in his art that he seemed not real, but rather a ghostly manifestation.
There were no signs announcing this theatrical gem; you just rounded a corner and there you were in the middle of his stage. I questioned a few other bystanders and was told he was a theatre student reciting a poem by the renowned poet, Dante. I looked at the wall behind the young man to see a plaque identifying the building as Dante’s former home.
I had to move on, but as soon as I could escape my tour group, I sought my way back along the maze of cobblestone streets, back to him, back to his strange siren song.
This time I was accompanied by an older Italian man who was leaning up against his Vespa scooter, and smoking a cigarette. The two of us, united now in an appreciation for the words we were hearing, stood for a long time — transfixed, as the young actor spoke in a language that my mind couldn’t understand, but my heart did.
What really impressed me was that the young man never once acknowledged us; it was as if we didn’t exist. He never addressed the audience to ask for money, and he never stopped performing. Even when a couple of backpackers dropped some change onto what appeared to be his busker blanket, the performer remained in his private world, his lilting cadence continuing to stir my heart.
I am so glad he didn’t break character and address the audience because the spell he had cast upon me would have been broken. What a terrible loss of a precious travel memory that would have been!
Do you, too, have a favorite travel destination, or memory that haunts you? Share it here in the comments box.
(You are welcome to comment. Let me know if my blog has helped you. Or add a comment if you feel I have missed an important point. I don’t mind correction. A “dig” on a social networking site would be appreciated, too. Just use the handy links below. Subscribe to the Picajet Blog to receive notices of replies to your comments, and new blog postings.)