"Il dolce far niente": The sweetness of doing nothing. Pleasant leisure. The joy of relaxation.
Rome was a mighty city; an ominous feeling swept through the maze of narrow cobblestone streets and left me with goosebumps. Its power was once measured in conquest. Its wealth marked with slaughter.
Countering evidence of the city's extravagance was its Dark Age – despite the opulent monuments and pompous relics, Rome's downfall was palpable. Were the grooves in staircase steps worn by invading barbarians? Did stones from statues still lie in the same locations on which they were destroyed?
Including my visit here, all good things must come to an end.
I ran myself ragged in Rome. Cramming almost 3,000 years into three days of sightseeing was taxing – on both my body and my mind. Add a blanket of heat and a thick layer of grime and I was left drained, sunburned and spent. The coin I threw in the Trevi Fountain must come through. I need to return to the Eternal City to view the marvels I left behind.
After a three-hour train ride through green-laden trees and vast stretches of Tuscan farms, I am in Firenze (what we Americans call Florence). The heart of the Renaissance. A city whose Golden Age continues. Though once plagued by a Black Death that killed more than half of its inhabitants, this glorified museum still feels very much alive.
Along the flowing River Arno, there is a marriage of history and nature. Panoramic views include rising cathedrals and lush, carpeted mountains.
Florence was a land where intellect became sharper than the sword. Ideas outsmarted armies. Mastery meant more than just the triumph over enemies. I do not feel like I have to conquer this city but to simply enjoy it. I stroll rather than scramble. Saunter rather than sprint.
Yesterday I wandered along the Arno shore, collecting rocks, braiding a flower crown and eating gelato. I climbed the 500 steps to the top of the Duomo and the 800 steps to the overlook of Piazzale Michelangelo, yet do not feel stressed. I aimlessly roam. My evenings are spent watching the sunset and drinking many bottles of Chianti with Whitney, a wedding photographer whom I met at my hostel.
This city feels rather carefree. A taste of home, and of wonderful Italian food, while still being so far from familiar. You can sit back and breathe easy here. You’re encouraged to unwind and swig wine.
So far, Florence has been my favorite city.