Dana Mladin

“Florence is all yours!”

Reading Time: 28 minutes

That’s how I started my trip to Florence, one of the places that fascinated me from the first visit (now I’m on the 8th!). When I checked in, the woman gave me the key and, instead of “bye-bye”, she said: “Florence is all yours!”. God, how good I felt to hear that!

Once out on the street, that’s how I felt, as if the city belonged to me entirely…

FLORENCE DURING THE PANDEMIC

When you have been to a place several times and you saw it crowded, suffocated by tourists, its image during the pandemic is undoubtedly shocking! I said it during my previous trips to Paris, Istanbul, Paris again, then Rome, Venice, Milan.

Not to stand in queues at tourist attractions, not to crowd to take a selfie at I don’t know what statue or church, not to step on each other’s feet you and other tourists on the crowded streets, it’s a luxury! A luxury generated by a misfortune, it’s true, but if you manage to get over the fear that you are the only tourist left on the planet due to the pandemic J, you are happy as a child that you are the only tourist on the planet due to the pandemic…

Florence, located like all of Tuscany in the red zone at the time of my visit, has closed the gates of museums, the restaurant doors and many of the shops.

But it seems much more relaxed than Venice, for example, where a tension seemed to float over the city. The stress there perished here right from the first minutes, when I noticed that the police do not come to you to scold you if you take pictures, you can eat in the shade of tourist attractions and you can lie in all the famous squares without fearing you’ll be chased away.

I walked through the historic center, which I saw from one end to the other every time I got here. You can’t imagine how curious I am to see now, during a pandemic, the famous places!

THE CATHEDRAL OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE

No queuing at the entrance to the Cathedral, no crowds at the Baptistery, just passers-by here and there, a few people jogging and many deliverers. Oh, and the army, which is in a strategic position, carefully watching the market.

At first I’m afraid to spend too much time there, to film, to take pictures, but I see that, as long as I have the mask put on properly, no one cares about me.

The stone benches on the edge of the Dome are the perfect place to eat something. I choose ice cream – an opportunity to get rid of the mask for a few minutes.

A police car passes by us, all those who are eating. The policemen in it look at us attentively, they see our masks hanging from our elbows and leave us alone, to enjoy the tastes…

It is difficult to describe the silence in the Dome area, an (forcefully) abandoned city silence.

People still stop to take pictures from time to time, because it is a “landscape” that must be remembered.

I heading to Piazza della Repubblica, a place always full of life thanks to tourists, stall vendors, street artists and fans of the carousel.

I remember evenings when you could barely move around. Evenings when the terraces were full of customers eager to eat and drink, staring at the strangers roaming in the square, full of joy.

Now… the wind is blowing here. And some workers arrange the cubic stone, to make the walk of the future tourists smoother. That’s about all the noise. That of a construction site.

However, as in other cities, here too they full advantage of the pandemic, to repair the streets, to restore the buildings or to recondition certain spaces.

That is no problem for me at all. I explore the city with an even greater curiosity than in the past, because now I see a really unique face of it.

PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA

I admit I had a shock. No, not when I entered the square and saw how deserted it was (I suspected it would be so), but when I searched my archive and saw videos made here on previous trips. You must see the video at the end.

It is one thing to remember the echo of the noise of the past and it is another to hear the commotion, to understand what times we have lived and what times we are living now! It’s like I’m in the middle of a demonstration and I suddenly wear headphones!

I walked and I rested in Piazza della Signoria so many times, in different years, in different seasons, in the morning, at noon and in the evening. I have always lived the same joy of a tourist on vacation, who does not care about the hustle and bustle.

Now everything is different, from what I see to how I feel.

Oh, sorry, there is a constant: the crane hihihi.

Seeing the pictures taken with Palazzo Vecchio in different years, I noticed the eternal crane in the frame and I feel like planning a new trip to Florence, just to find out what in God’s name is that crane working on that never ends? J

pandemic

The famous “loggia” in the square, full of valuable statues, is now closed to the public. Not that there was a public to visit the statues:

On its edge, a few of us rest, some with the phone in hand, some with an ice cream (guess who…), some known to the guards – as they talk to them.

For me, Piazza della Signoria is the place of a million pictures hihi. Considering that, every day or evening when I pass by here, I stop to take some more selfies or to photograph (again!) the palace, the loggia, the buildings, the statues, the cisterns, the police and… that is all, because I feel like they are going to take me to the police station.

From Palazzo Vecchio, I go to Ponte Vecchio, passing by the famous Uffizi Gallery. The Gallery once boasted with endless queues of art enthusiasts. Now, nobody is here. Me and the statues are the only ones that still populate the space…

On a nearby street, where people pass by, I see the only beggar I’ve met since I’ve been here. He’s a young man in power (at least he seems so). He sits on the sidewalk, legs crossed, with a dog as an “accessory”.

His way of begging is original: on the cardboard meant to arouse the pity of passers-by, he wrote “For beer and weed” J)). People are having fun, but I don’t see anyone taking any money out of their pocket.

(I was embarrassed to photograph him).

PONTE VECCHIO

I love this place, even if I don’t have a gold ring attached to it… (I often did “window shopping” in front of the shops with hundreds of more and more precious jewelry.)

Ponte Vecchio has always given me a good vibe. Maybe due to the permanent hustle and bustle, maybe due to the talented singers that perform in front of the tourists, maybe due to the view, I don’t know…

I admit that now the wilderness here hits me hard! Man, you might think that someone hit the “erase” button and, one by one, the people on the bridge were wiped out.

I’m also afraid to step on it. What if I disappear into another dimension? J

Jewelry stores – closed. Some even with locks on doors!

Several people cross from one side to the other, carrying shopping bags or answering a business phone, the suppliers with the colored backpacks pedal to the hungry crowds from other neighborhoods and two policemen are watching.

I film quietly next to them, but with a limit, so as not to force my luck…

Two cyclists stop to take a picture of the river, in a place where, until the pandemic was heard of, it was full of tourists, so you somehow stood in line to reach the edge for a good selfie:

Now you can take pictures in whatever way you want, you can also film yourself jumping around; and I think you could also fish, judging by the peace and good place you have here.

At dusk, a helicopter flies over the city. I’m surprised to see how low it flies! I think he wants to see what drawings we have on the masks, we, these few people on the bridge J.

Anyway, it’s the dose of “noise” we have in a city that was silenced.

I take pictures of Ponte Vecchio from all the banks and from all the bridges, at any hour I get to this place…

Then I head to a place that has always fascinated me!

SANTA CROCE

In this Basilica are the graves of some Supermen!!! From Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, to Machiavelli or Rossini.

I always felt so small and insignificant when I came here and realized what these people left behind. Anyway… let’s avoid existential crises…

The square is like a quiet neighborhood square on a Sunday afternoon when people are asleep or out of town.

Some Italians are sitting on benches, some reading the newspaper, others are eating ice cream, the police explain something to some passers-by, the pigeons sway in the flowing water, because it is already too hot. The truth is that it’s 27 degrees at the end of March and you don’t know how to throw your jacket off faster to enjoy the sun.

In fact, I know: I lie on a stone bench as if I were on my own property and I lie like that until I feel like I’m frying. The sun is strong and I realize that, since wearing these masks on the face, “tanning like tractor drivers” gains a new value. God, how we are going to laugh at each other when we see one another with half-tanned, half-white faces…

OTHER TOURIST SPOTS DURING THE PANDEMIC

Every place I know looks like it’s hibernating now. And it’s not the first city where I feel that.

The closed gates, the lack of tourists, the disappearance of illegal water or souvenirs sellers give you the impression that time has frozen.

The street with the Galleria della Accademia – the site of Michelangelo’s original David and many other masterpieces – reconfirms me the new reality.

The last time I was here, there was a long queue, plus many guided groups, waiting to enter the museum.

Now it’s just me, no queues, no guides, no access.

A small bookstore near the Gallery is open. Yey, there is life on this deserted planet!!!

I’m glad to go in to buy… anything, no matter what.

The seller looks at me as if I were something precious. It makes me feel special J, a feeling I had in any store I entered.

SHOPPING IN FLORENCE. THE PANDEMIC FLORENCE…

The streets full of shops are no longer a promenade, nor a buyers’ paradise. They seem to be a passing aisle for some locals or a surveillance area for the policemen on duty.

From place to place, between closed shops, you can enter certain stores. Those with “essential merchandise”, as we have seen in Venice and Milan. That is, pharmacies, stores with glasses or phones, those with panties, socks or sportswear, those with cosmetics, but also Disney Store. Long live the essential toys!

I also go to a pharmacy and leave quickly, when I see that a mask, a single mask, is 2.60 euros!

I’m amused to see the wine shops are still open, which means they are on the list of essential products.

Small sandwich shops and, to my satisfaction, ice cream parlors are still open.

The Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, where you could barely sneak into the leather bazaar, is now deserted.

Only the famous wild bronze boar remains here, waiting for the tourists to touch his nose, to be sure that they will return to Florence.

The asphalt of the streets surrounding the popular Mercato Centrale hall has not seen the light of day for years J.

Here, in normal times, the streets are full of stalls, stalls piled on top of each other, where Asian vendors – most of them – entice you with leather jackets, belts, wallets, bags or backpacks, souvenirs, clothes or kitsch products. You can stay for hours in this area around the hall!

Now is the first time I see what these streets look like “stripped” of goods.

Inside the hall, only the ground floor is still open, that is the market itself. The first floor is closed, a floor that is an extremely popular food court in normal times.

WHAT TO EAT IN FLORENCE DURING THE PANDEMIC

Forget about your appetite – seems to tell me the current Florence.

God, I came here with my mouth watering, thinking how I’m going to eat in the good places, already tested so many times during the other years!

Okay, I understand that restaurants are not open, but I have a Plan B in mind: to take the food with me.

Can you believe that I wandered around the city going to many of the well-known restaurants and I discovered to my great dismay that they are not even open for deliveries?!?

I was completely disappointed, I lost all enthusiasm and, despite that, I feed on memories. Because what I love the most is a Florentine steak:

Okay, I tick it mentally, because the restaurant has a lock on the door. Then I keep walking the streets to other places with good food, because I risk starvation…

The rescue are the famous sandwiches from Antico Vinaio – where there is always a queue, even now, during the pandemic, which surprises me!

For some hot food, I get a portion of pasta from a restaurant. I eat them standing up, next to the pile of tables gathered at the entrance, a sign that the restaurant only cooks for delivery.

“The police are coming for a control!” – I hear the waiter, panicked by the appearance of a car. With the fork in my mouth and the casserole caught between my fingers, I move quickly on the sidewalk across the road, so as not to create problems for them.

A good movement for the restaurant, but also for the dogs in the neighborhood, which immediately smell the meat (wild boar…). And here I am sharing the food with the four legged animals. Until their owners come, who, slightly embarrassed by the situation, take them from that place using a colorful Italian to talk to them and a guilty English to apologize to me.

I also use pizza for lack of other food. In addition, it’s even easier to eat on the street, because you don’t need cutlery…

I go to one of the popular places – Gusta Pizza – which, fortunately, is open.

Wow! It’s so quiet compared to the last time I came here and when I barely found a free place, crowded at the table with other people.

I talk to the boys while they make my pizza. For them, the deliveries were the rescue, but they are optimistic, they know that better times will come.

I eat pizza on the steps of a nearby church, with two young people having fun drinking a glass of beer and two others eating some food from the supermarket.

Long live the ice cream parlors! Because they are all open and you can enjoy ice cream of all kinds, until you explode!

And you have another advantage: there is no queue. You go straight in and take control of the store…

On this occasion, I decide to write THE GUIDE FOR THE ICE CREAM TESTED BY MLADIN, WHO TESTED THEM ALL hihi.

Soon…

PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO

It’s the first time I’ve walked to see the city from above.

When I was here before, I admit that I waited for the city bus, I took it all over Florence outside the historic center and, in the end, I arrived in Piazzale Michelangelo.

Now I said that I like a walk through an empty city, only… it’s hard to go up the hill J.

2021

This large terrace, from where you have a wonderful view over the whole of Florence, was always full of tourists, disembarking from dozens of coaches, minibuses, taxis or bicycles. For this reason, street trade was also flourishing.

Now, a single stand sells water, juices and ice cream to the few citizens who have ventured here.

Citizen David accompanies us, suffering, apparently, from loneliness…

The square is now a huge vacant lot, very good for those who want to play football or ride some ATV J.

It may sound mean, but I’m happy with the wilderness here. I sit as long as I want on the railing to admire every corner of the city, take pictures and film, even eat a good sandwich, while watching a mini photo shoot of some businessmen taking photos of shoes on the background of Florence.

It’s a friendly sun, a lot of peace – broken from time to time by the ambulances in the city or by the church bells. And I realize that for me it’s a special day, for which I’m totally unprepared, as that’s how it is during a pandemic. Something, however, I still managed to buy:

But about that, in another post…

Until then, see and listen a little to the Florence during the pandemic. It’s… unique!

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