I crushed my thumb in a car door recently. Not deliberately, obviously, but the result is that I’m in a helluva lot of pain and the painkillers I’m allowed to take aren’t kicking in yet. I’m desperate for distractions, and I’m ruminating on accidents. How they happen regardless of how much we try to prepare for them, how guilty we feel when they do happen.
I went to Florence with my family at the end of April. I took some pictures. I took a lot of pictures, in fact. A lot of those pictures got erased from my phone when I thought I had downloaded them onto my laptop. Those pictures are unretrievable.
Such is life, or at least my luck on that particular day. I did have a notebook with me which I filled with drawings, so there’s that.
I really, really wanted Florence to be a lovely experience I can recount to my readers, but as it turns out, it was more personal (as are most journeys, actually). Probably less Instagrammable, but significant in another, more singular way.
We arrived well after dusk and came to our lodgings through a series of empty streets, the night before a Monday, when nearly all the local shops are closed. And while the heritage areas of the city were very much up and thriving – the streets around Uffizi, Giotto’s Tower, Duomo, Ponte Vecchio- the overall mood I associated with the trip was one of easy calm, one that I associate mostly with deep sleep and easy rest.
Like waking up in the morning before the rest of the world, and realizing that there is nowhere for you to rush to, nothing immediate to worry about, aside maybe from getting some breakfast.
I also seem to have picked the most gut-wrenching of holiday reads.
This little brick is a dangerous thing to carry around. Not only did I get stopped by security and had my luggage investigated because of it (true story, y’all!) it’s also packing quite a bit of emotional punch, to the point where I had to stop at times and jut breathe through the feels. I don’t think I’ve ever been so torn up about a book this year as I am over A Little Life. Unfortunately, there’s no way for me to talk about this without spoiling the shit out for you, (maybe in another post) so all I will say is this: if it hadn’t been for the last chapter, I would have been recommending this book right, front and center.
The last chapter, however, left me far more devastated than all the graphic depictions of drug use, non-consensual sex, child sexual abuse and mutilation, as well as debilitating disability that struck too close to home, combined. I mean, goddamn it!
(Said everyone who read this, I’m sure.)
Though of course postcards were picked up, as well as other beautiful souvenirs, the ones that really stood out to me were this art print I got at San Geminiano (a small town about an hour from Florence) as well as this lovely bracelet I got at the same place. (Those of you who read Val McDermid will know San Geminiano as that town with the Medieval Torture museum, although we didn’t see that.) It is very much an artisanal town, and if you find yourselves in Tuscany, my highest recommendation is to visit it. It’ll be the easiest trip back in time you will ever do.
Once, museum tours were the defining point of any visit abroad, but in recent trips, I find myself less and less drawn to the paintings and statues. Uffizi gallery was the obvious exception this time, and not just for Botticelli and Leonardo. There are always one or two artworks in every museum that impact me more strongly than others – in this case, it was the statue of Perseus with Medusa’s Head that rules over the piazza outside, “The Slaughter of the Innocents”, and all of the works on display by Artemisia Gentileschi which were on display. Brutality and suppressed talent were probably not in tune with the idyllic, picaresque trip I had, and yet those were the pieces of art that resonated with me most.
Who knows? Perhaps it was just my state of mind at the time. Or perhaps, as I came out of the gallery and wandered the small streets with my parents, past artists, bakeries, and leather goods shops, my eyes were seeking something to offset the beauty of the place, to convince myself I wasn’t living a dream all week after all.