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Florentine interlude

It’s not my intention to write a travelogue, but elements of that sort will undoubtedly enter in as long as I am in fact traveling. Having abandoned (reluctantly) the Salento, I’ve returned to Florence where I’m spending most of my time in the library and mostly researching the history of olives in the 18th c. I have spent time in Florence off and on for more than thirty years, and I have to confess that I do not love Florence. Florence will be ok with that. She has many lovers, far too many in fact, and so will not notice my disaffection. It is of course a beautiful and unique city: the color of the stone, the medieval alleyways, the architecture, the villa-studded green hills surrounding, the stunning assortment of museums, collections and churches (though most visitors seem to focus on just one or two). But Florence is also an endless flow of humanity on a seemingly pointless voyage. I am diverted from the sidewalk by three consecutive tour groups, each led by a young woman of a different nationality holding aloft a baton with some distinctive emblem, only to confront an oncoming tour bus. Luckily I can find refuge among a row of jaggedly parked bicycles. And why, really, are there so many American students? I walk through the center of Florence and feel at times as if I am back on campus in Bloomington. I’ll repeat my long-time advice to students considering study abroad in Italy: anywhere but Florence! So if you must visit the birthplace of the Renaissance, sneak in quietly in December or January. Keep your head down. See the Museo del Duomo, the Brancacci Chapel, the Baptistry and those other more-visited museums. And then, apologetically, move on. Florence, alas, will not return your love.

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