Eternal travel

Had an email message from an old friend, Bruce Peer, who is traveling in Italy this month. His wife, Cath, is singing with her choir at venues across Italy and he’s tagging along. And what a group of venues they are, beginning with St. Mark’s in Venice and ending with St Peter’s in Rome.

He happened to write from Florence where the choir appeared in Santo Stefano al Ponte, a beautiful church built in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The church, done in the Romanesque style with a polychrome marble fa?ade, has since been deconsecrated and is now used only for musical events.

Our friends had lunch at Gilli in Piazza della Repubblica, the place we met them when they visited the city at the time we lived there. They were staying in Fiesole and had taken the #7 city bus from their hotel. We’d only just arrived a few days earlier for our long-term stay so that was the first we’d heard about the joys of the #7 bus. We took it many times for Fiesole’s tranquility as well as the Roman and Etruscan ruins.

Bruce reported that Florence is hot and crowded, exactly what you’d expect at this time of year, although I have to admit that I was a bit surprised, given the global downturn, that so many people were still traveling.

He did not describe the scene in Piazza della Repubblica during their lunch. But I can imagine it. Across the street those staying at the Savoy would also have been lunching al fresco as tour groups meandered by with each leader holding high a yellow umbrella or piece of red cloth on a stick so the stragglers didn’t get lost. The five Romanians who call themselves Gypsy Show would likely have been entertaining nearby. One of them hammers on the strings of an open-topped zither as if it were a xylophone while his lively colleagues play violin, bass, accordion and guitar. Or it could have been a string quartet offering selections from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. There can also be solo performers: a Russian soprano with a head-set microphone, and two classical guitarists, both with serious miens in keeping with their music. They all seem to have a pact that means only one of them plays at a time. If someone is strumming, the next musician to arrive waits while the first finishes an hour-long set.

No, we weren’t there with Cath and Bruce this time, but it was so easy to go there in our mind’s eye. When people ask how many times we’ve been to Italy, I can honestly say “hundreds.” There’s hardly a day goes by that Sandy and I don’t revel in some aspect of our time there. That’s the draw of Italy. Unlike some places you go, Italy never leaves you.

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