Last Friday we picked up my mother from the station in Florence.
The train was due at 8:30pm, so we had about 4 hours to kill after school pick up. We often spend some time in the nearby playground as most other families do, watching our children grow more and more hyper, from playing tag and other highly emotional, socially strategic games. Luckily the sky was blue that day and we managed about an hour. By this time, blood sugar levels were dangerously low… I could tell from the glassy look in their eyes – that, and the incessant shrill coming from their mouthes.
Time for Marcello‘s – a cute little art-deco patisceria, just a few minutes away, on the way into Florence.
In Florence, as in most cities of Italy, come evening time, the bars and cafes serve aperitivo. This is their version of ‘happy hour’ – meaning all drinks are priced the same (this case €6) whatever your poison, and with this drink you get a free, all-you-can eat buffet. There were at least 20 different dishes to choose from and most were vegetarian.
For a whopping €12.00 (kids go free) we were fed and watered and ready to rock.
I had a glass of red wine, While Angelo opted for a neon-coloured “fruit” cocktail, that may or may have not contained any fruit and closely resembled Tizer in appearance and taste. The wine was good as was the food and we managed to while away another hour or so.
However, despite our multiple return journeys to the buffet, we still had considerable time to waste; so I suggested we go to Piazzale Michaelangelo.
We are based south of Florence, so our best way in just happens to be on the Viale Michaelangelo. A long winding road, (wide enough for 2 cars and with decent tarmac BTW), up and around the hillsides overlooking the town. A bit like Mulholland drive in LA…
Approximately half way, the road reaches a panoramic vista point where you can stop the car to take in a dreamy view of the city beneath. Every landmark beautifully laid out like a tapestry in front of you. Reach your hand out, and touch the Duomo. This is Piazzale Michaelangelo, complete with replica ‘David’.
The sky now a darker shade of midnight, I was eagerly anticipating pointing out the Duomo, the Ponte Vechio, the Uffizzi, the Palazzo Vechio, all lit up like ornamental evergreens.
When we arrived, the normally overcrowded open car park by day, was near-empty. We stepped out into the night and took in the romantic atmosphere. Young couples and groups of friends huddled around bottles of wine and candles, gazing over the bannisters somewhat wistfully.
In a-mist the usual contending artist and poets, we were surprised to find another pedigree of scholars altogether; the Astronomists.
Right in the centre of the Piazzale, were 6 or 7 telescopic lenses reaching out towards the stars. Each had its owner, surrounded by a small group of people all waiting in line for a peep at the universe above.
Now some of you may know, that both our daughters have names inspired by heavenly bodies; Cassiopeia A and Ara Ray.
Cassiopeia is a sort of W residing in our northern hemisphere, while Ara occupies the polar opposite down-under.
We like stars.
Cassi, perhaps feeling a little entitled because of her namesake, needed no encouragement to join one of the groups and wait for her turn at the telescope. As it happens, she didn’t need to wait at all, because as soon as she showed up all golden curls and beaming smile, the crowd parted like the red sea and she was greeted with admiring cheers (so what else is new?). Victorio, the bookish man who owned the telescope, gently instructed her, and she put her right eye to the view finder.
I watched in wonder as she squealed with delight and her little soul rejoiced at the vision of the moon. Craters and all.
She must have spent at least 10 minutes peeking through this little keyhole, interjected with the odd relaying to Victorio that the moon had wondered out of frame. The little girl was smitten. As was I.
It is perhaps difficult to truly appreciate that, at that precise moment in time, we were perfectly aligned somewhere between Botticelli’s Venus and the moon. There was indeed magic in the air and I felt my own little spirit do an excited somersault to mark the moment.
It was now a few minutes past 8, so it was time to take the aptly named Viale Galileo (you couldn’t make it up) down the hill and on to the station.
This is how to kill time – Tuscany style.
(We ended the evening buying a take-away pizza from Piazzuolo for another €6 and eating it on the drive home, complete with mum in the car.)