What isn’t the least bit surprising is that little Florence attracts far too many tourists. She has always has been a magnet for those seeking beauty. What is surprising is that they no longer leave when summer turns to autumn. In fact, they don’t even go home when autumn turns to winter and the weighty cold humid air settles over the Arno valley like a heavy gray blanket. Perhaps global warming is to blame for the insanity of these shifting migratory patterns?
I have a rather emphatic suggestion that you do not come to Florence off a cruise ship and find yourself dumped 40 people deep into Piazza Santa Croce. Maybe you would be cool rolling into a club 40 deep, but I can assure you that is not the case in this instance. When you are given earphones because your fearless leader is too far away to hear, this should raise a red flag. And no, not the flag that you are following way off in the distance. And really, do you want to walk around the city that gave birth to Gucci and Ferragamo with a giant neon number sticker plastered to your chest unless you are a child getting on the school bus for the first time?
While Florence survived the rats infested with plague laden flees that worked their way into the city from ships sailing from the east into the Mediterranean, these days I highly doubt that she will survive this new invasion. There is a reason why the elegant statue of Dante looks down with acrimonious scorn at the sea of selfie sticks at his feet. Do Dante, yourself, and the Florentines a favor. Believe me, there is a better way to see this stunning city. Basically, any other way is better.
If you are insistent, I do have some advice. Don’t walk in the road. The buses can’t pass and neither can the people who call this place home. No, you cannot go into the national library and disturb the researchers to use the toilet. No, the gelato shop is not open at 9 am but, in happier news, you can use their toilet when it is. That leather coat that you are considering really is a bad idea. You shouldn’t buy a “Venetian” mask which was made in China at a kiosk in Florence because it has a cruise ship approved sign. Please, for the love of all things holy, don’t go into Café Oibo and demand drip coffee to go. And last, but not least, me using the buried dumpsters to dispose of my household trash is not a National Geographic photo opp of a native in action. I promise you that the final result will in no way resemble the poetry of the Afghan Girl no matter what filter you use on Instagram.
I used to tell my students that there are no stupid questions, but if you stop me to ask me a stupid question about any of the above, especially if I am sorting my trash and I don’t think you actually want my answer, I will smile and explain in my best Tuscan accent how sorry I am that I don’t speak English. Call it passive-aggressive, but I call it saving my sanity one day at a time in the city that I love.