On Day 12 of our wonderful Italian holiday, Benedict Ambrose and I returned to Edinburgh. The first thing we did was check his office for the post, and the second thing I did was brew a cup of good, flavourful, hipster coffee. It was a welcome-home hug in a mug. Italian coffee is good, but it is for chucking back like a caffeine shooter or for flavouring cups of milk foam. It is not for savouring. Italians are good at espresso, but they do not understand the importance of a good old cup o' joe.
No doubt I will blog for the next few days on the beauties of Italy. I won't say too much about Norcia because I have been writing articles about the Benedictine Wonder Town for various Catholic publications. Buy this week's Toronto Catholic Register, or stay tuned for a future edition of the Scottish Catholic Observer and updates to Catholic World Report. I may, however, post of photo of me riding a donkey because the cuteness is just too much.
Meanwhile, B.A. and I spent a few hours in Rome before taking the train to Spoleto and the Spoleto bus to Norcia. We spent a week (Monday to Monday) there before going to Florence (i.e. Firenze) for two nights. On Wednesday we took the bullet train to Rome and spent two nights in raffish Trastevere. This morning we woke up in our highly romantic, all-white rental apartment (right near the Ponte Sisto), walked to the cab stand near the Teatro Argentina, and took a cab to Ciampino airport--via the Old Appian Way. Now we are home, and I am deeply grateful to myself for having cleaned everything before we left. There is nothing more aggravating then coming back from holidays to a messy house.
When I first arrived in Florence--aged 27, on a Contiki tour bus--I thought it was the most beautiful town I had ever seen. I was overwhelmed. The red rooves, the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, the narrow streets, the view from the Piazzale Michaelangelo... I wanted to stay a week, and so the next year I did and stayed in a wonderful room with a view. I was staggeringly, stupendously lonely. Even at 28 I was too timid to strike up conversations with strangers.
This time I arrived in Florence by train with B.A., and I didn't recognize a darned thing for ages. Our B&B (carved out of an apartment comprising part of one-and-a-half or two floors in an old building) was a fair distance from the railway station, which was itself a fair distance from the haunts of my lost youth. When we finally found the Duomo--after a boozy lunch--I wandered about on my own, trying to find my old hotel and, as I plaintively repeated, "my lost youth." When I gave up and sat beside B.A. in the "For Prayers ONLY" section of the Duomo, I remembered how lonely I had been and how maybe I should keep my lost youth lost.
Meanwhile, the old glamour of Florence had disappeared, even though now I had the money to sample all the things I eschewed during my lonely week there so long ago. First, I ate proper meals instead of nibbling pastries. Second, I drank wine at lunch and cocktails at supper. Third, I had male companionship, having got a husband in the decade-plus interval. I dragged him all the way to the Piazzale Michaelangelo---and instead of the glorious cityscape tattooing itself afresh on my brain, I felt a bit ho-hum. I wonder if this is because I have now seen other beautiful cities--Krakow, Bratislava, the restored bits of Wrocław and Warsaw--or because I am older and jaded. Hmm. It could be because I live in Edinburgh, which is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Amusingly, the most dramatic restoration of memory I experienced was yesterday in Rome when I had my first bite of tortellini con agrumi in Cul de Sac. It was just as good as all the other times I have had it--each time being spaced out by a year or more. It is really the most heavenly foodstuff I can think of.
Tomorrow I will write more about Florence. Although I didn't fall in love with it again, Florence was certainly full of beautiful things: art, architecture, shoes, boots, handbags, notepaper and American pilgrims on Day One of their Saints of Umbria tour. A short stay in Florence was a last minute idea, but I am very glad we went with it, for Benedict Ambrose (unlike me) knows really a lot about paintings and architecture.