Firenze Files: Arrival

We got off the flight at the equivalent of 3 am.  We had just spent eight hours waffling between nearly-unlimited movie choices, uncomfortable sleep, and the sound of constantly-crying babies.  The Munich airport was modern and bright, and I immediately adjusted to living in the daylight.  Despite not being hungry, the morning light signaled for me to find breakfast, and I browsed little cafes and shops on the way to the gate.  We passed a Hugo Boss and a Hermes store, and many of the boutiques had well-dressed greeters standing out front.  The shops and the overall atmosphere was all very sophisticated—much more so than in America.  It seemed like Europeans valued class and style with shoe shining stations, pillow-filled lounges, and complete spas tucked right in the middle of the airport.  The cafes were what impressed me though.  There were no chains here.  Handwritten signs, fresh pastries, and assorted fruit and yogurt lounging in ice displays were common, and the coffees were all served in real mugs to be consumed while sitting at a table or bar.  There were no “to go” cups, and when I bought a bottled water, the clerk not only asked whether I wanted regular or sparkling, but also whether I wanted a glass to pour it into.

I decided on a plate of smoked salmon and horseradish cream for breakfast, and my meal was handed to me on a tray.  I sat a high stool at a bar and watched the other people around me, seated at ease and enjoying a simple cappuccino or espresso.  An English-speaking couple across from me did order two beers, which seemed an odd choice for eight o’clock in the morning.  For the most part though, people were seated peacefully, absorbed in a newspaper, book, or phone, and everyone seemed quiet and respectful.  It was quite different from the American airport from which I had come where everyone rushes along to their destination and speaks loudly and doesn’t pause to enjoy their food.  Time seemed to move more slowly for Europeans. They savored the moment and truly lived in it, rather than just rushing onto their next destination.

After a refreshing layover in Munich, it was back onto a plane for the quick, hour and a half jaunt over to Italia.  While taking a bus to our plane waiting on the tarmac, I could see that the airport personnel drove around the runway in Porsche Cayennes in stylish black.  It was quite a change to see neon security vested people behind the wheel rather than perfectly put-together women in oversized designer sunglasses.  The fashionable vibe was continued onto the airplane, where the signature color was a vivid, retro teal, and all the stewardesses spoke German, Italian, and American while sporting neck scarves.  All the passengers were given “refreshing towels” upon sitting down that reminded me of the hot towels you sometimes receive at the end of a fancy meal.  Once we were in the air, the stewardesses came around with refreshments and immediately handed us heavenly brioche sandwiches with a dainty piece of ham tucked inside.  I asked for a water to drink, but the older woman next to me knew immediately to ask for sparkling wine.  A bottle of prosecco was already open on the drink cart, and it was presented to her a tiny champagne glass with a truncated stem (for stability on the plane, I supposed).

Out the window, I watched as we left Germany.  Many of the houses I could see from the plane had salmon colored roofs, like the ones on Mediterranean or Spanish style homes, which gave the sense that we were flying over some suburb in southern Florida.  I would have gotten that feeling if it weren’t for the mountains.   These were not rolling hills like in Virginia, but steep mountains that scarcely a road passes over and that still has powdered snow clinging to the tops.  The houses were clustered in the valleys in between like little highland villages.  As the mountains became taller and more pervasive, the snow upon them changed from thin ribbons to thorough dustings, set off by the dark black of the trees on the mountainsides.  Occasionally, there would be a gem of blue, a small lake or spring nestled in the crevices between mountains.  It seemed like a pure, untouched oasis, surrounded by natural walls, gently cupped by the earth as if the clear blue water would spill and flow away.

Gradually, it grew cloudier and I could watch the countryside no more.  I started reading a book I had packed, called Lunch in Paris, a Love Story with Recipes.  The author was detailing the ancient charms and appeal of the historic city of Paris, just as the pilot announced our descent into Florence.  My head was filled with images of cobblestone steps and romantic, cozy cafés, and I couldn’t help but imagine Italy being just as magical.  I squinted out the window, aching to see below the clouds, but I was surrounded by white.  I watched the streaming blots of denser clouds stream by dreaming that they were rolling waves or clumps of snow on mountaintops.  All the while I was attempting to translate in my head an imagined conversation about whether italiano or francese is the “lingua di amore,” or the language of love.  Still I was contained in a sea of white, feeling like I would never see Italy.  Florence could be denied to me as if the sight of it would be too good to be true.  And then suddenly, there it was!  No waves or snow here.  It was still thousands of feet below me, but I could clearly see farmland and villas and clusters of stucco houses.  There were impeccable rows of bushes and trees, perhaps fruit groves or vineyards.  The flatland was dotted with weathered-brown and red buildings and appeared lush and green despite the dark clouds.  Suddenly, the buildings from the ground popped up on either side of the plane, and I was staring at the giant blue block of an Ikea just as we landed.

the street in Santa Croce where I'll be living for the next 6 weeks

the street in Santa Croce where I’ll be living for the next 6 weeks

One Response to “Firenze Files: Arrival”
  1. Mom says:

    So nice to read about your trip and as usual, your writing is beautiful. Can’t wait to join you in July as you will be a ‘local’ by then!

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