October 18th, 2006

I was worried about Florence. I was worried I wouldn't like it as much as I thought I would like it, as much as I remembered liking it. After all, the first time I visited Florence, I was an 18-year-old, wide eyed child who had never left the east coast of the United States. Since that time, I had travelled in eight different countries, I had seen bigger cathedrals in London and Rome, I had lived eight years. And I had just come from Avignon, which was stunning. Could it be possible that Florence wouldn't be as special the second time around?

I shouldn't have worried. The first time I saw the Duomo (again), I knew it would not be a problem. Brunelleschi and company's creation is the single most breathtaking building I have ever seen. It is so big, so ornate, and yet it gives a sense of such amazing simplicity. Despite all the decoration, there is never an impression of clutter. That's what impresses me most: the lines are so clean. And the rest of the city lived up to my memories as well. The red rooftops, the little crooked streets, the food. It's even stimulating (to a point) to see the way the caffes and vendors around the main squares try to rip off tourists.

I'm not posting any pictures of Florence, mostly because I didn't take any. I wanted to see the city through just my eyes, not through the digitized pixelated mind of Pentax. It's very easy as a tourist to fall into the trap of thinking the photograph is the goal. I watched visitor after visitor enter the Piazza del Duomo, and instantly reach for a camera. I wanted to shout, "Put the camera away and look for a minute! You're missing a great view." I decided to experience Florence senza camera. Even if I had taken pictures, though, they would tell you nothing. There is no way to experience the scale and feel of the city through photographs.

There is a book out now, called "1000 places to visit before you die," or something like that. That's obviously an idiotic premise for a book, since each person's list would be different, and many people are perfectly content to stay where they are. I will say this, though: if you're going to go somewhere, go to Florence. That's all. Go to Florence.

And leave the camera at home.