“Ad Astra – to the Stars”
Ancient Latin phrase
Once again we cross paths, like ships, sailing now for new horizons.
Can it really be goodbye this time?
I gave up my life in Florence little over a year ago.
I packed up, took myself over to Venice, then Athens, rural Greece,
through Avalon, Belgium, and after that tough winter on home soil,
I’m now happily back on the road…
The road to my global pilgrimage.
But a trip to Tuscany without a trip to Florence wouldn’t be a worthy trip at all,
and after taking a short break to reconnect in that Sacred Blue,
I had business with an old lover to attend to… down in the valley.
Down in that Jewel City.
Forget Pisa, forget Sienna – both pale compared to Florence.
Yes, Pisa has the famous tower and Sienna has the quaint streets…
But Florence has soul. And I’m sure it will always hold a piece of my soul.
How could one ever forget Florence?
Somehow, though, I really feel that era of my life has ended.
Alas, I have come to a crossroad.
Decisions have been placed in front of me, and I’ve had to decide –
To go back, to a place I know, to a certain freedom,
To security, a promise, a kiss,
Or to face the unknown, go blindly into the dark,
Keep true to the light of my faith, my guide.
I have chosen the latter.
It may be sad – but I will always hold true to the lessons my Italian life taught me.
To let go… To dance. To sing… To just be me.
So perhaps this is goodbye, for now…
But it’s not the end.
Because I know, the light will not fade.
Every place I’ve been.
Every tree, every sky I’ve seen,
Cannot be erased.
And I know, I’ll never change.
There’s a fire in me, calling me,
To kingdoms far beyond the sea,
Will not stay.
And so we move on…
I met Rose down in the city, and even though it had been a whole year, it was just like old times.
And I just loved her new apartment!
We had a quick coffee and pastry at my favourite old pasticceria in Florence…
“Castaldini” – on the Viale dei Mille.
A little off the beaten track for normal tourists, but well worth it for those pastries!
Especially if you get there early in the morning…
I love just getting totally lost in Florence.
Even though I of course know my way around pretty well by now,
There are always little alleyways, turnings, nooks and crannies I’ve never seen before
yet to be discovered.
Places I’ll probably never find again too…
Lost in the shadows.
Oh, and how blessed I was to see the Duomo once more.
MY favourite cathedral in all of Europe.
It was hauntingly beautiful to revisit old places I used to so often frequent.
Like the Biblioteca delle Oblate – a beautiful old library, tucked away behind the Duomo.
Here, sitting in the communal courtyard, I used to while away hours,
Reading a book, chatting with friends; often alone even.
One of those places I just like to be.
Another favourite haunt was the beautiful courtyard adjacent to the San Lorenzo basilica.
Walk up the main steps of the church, to the left, see the queue, walk right past it,
And enter that magnificent place…
The long queue of people is for the Laurentian Library, which, although stunningly beautiful,
has an entrance fee, and is altogether rather small.
Most tourists don’t realise you can skip ahead, enter, and laze around in the courtyard for free.
Here, you will find your mind taken back to a time of true artists, thinkers, and aesthetes.
Santo Spirito has always been my favourite part of the city to dine, or drink; or both.
Sit in the beautiful square, opposite the great church, smoke a cigarette,
and lose time sharing heart and laugh with ones much loved…
Find it south of the river.
The area has plenty of little antique, vintage and trinket shops to satisfy the browsing eye.
Although I always prefer one of the city’s many flea markets for browsing.
And there are many fountains too… if you’re into that sort of thing.
By chance, my dear old friend Eva was back in Florence during my visit.
Can you imagine my delight!?
Eva was one of my housemates when I lived in the city.
She was back in the city teaching for a while.
The three of us went for dinner in what has probably become my favourite place to eat…
Be sure to book, and do try their pizze!
Another nice place for pizza is
I met up with a few old pals here whilst in town… it was raucous. I was the worst.
“La familia!” “La familia!” “Siamo insieme ancora!”
There was a lot of wine – and far too much food!!
But it was so great to see my old Florentine family again.
Eva, Xenia, Tatiana, Maurizio (who taught me Italian at the old school), and of course Rose.
After the meal, whilst dancing the food off in the busy square behind,
I grabbed a megaphone from one of those sellers on the street and started singing, loudly –
“Volare! Wooah! Cantare! Wooah!”
You all know that song, right?
Well, all the Italians in the square did, started singing along.
The guy selling the megaphone wasn’t so keen though.
Anyway, then I bumped into Olivia, an old friend I used to know in the city.
“James! I thought that was you singing!”
“La Familia” made its way next to Maurizio’s house,
for a little more wine, and a little less crowd.
I think I eventually passed out on the sofa from exhaustion, over-excitement and too many cigarettes.
You wouldn’t find that experience on TripAdvisor!
The next morning Rose and I took a hike up San Miniato al Monte.
This place is a must see.
Really, if you only do one thing whilst in Florence – climb the mount, see that view…
On my last night, after making a trip to my old church, to sing a bit of Gospel
(click the link to hear)
Rose and I had dinner with a couple of her friends in Santo Spirito.
Stefano and Suzan it was such a pleasure to meet you both.
I hope we cross paths again… somewhere out there.
However, it was the sunset that night which really stayed with me…
My last Florentine sunset.
I went and sat down by the river, the Arno,
and watched that golden miracle move slowly down the sky,
bleaching everything it touched with a golden orange.
I sat, unmoving, until everything darkened, and I was left,
with only my thoughts, this overwhelming element,
surrounding deep blue on all sides,
my body forgotten, thoughts of the journey on
thick in my mind.
That is the way I’d like to say goodbye to every lover.
As night falls down we take our bows,
Our eyes held high, beyond the clouds,
One cherished smile, one last goodbye.
One kiss, embrace; two souls, one heart.
One difficult climb.
To the stars.