Coming to Florence on my own, I was unsure of whether I would find my way around, but as luck would have it, I had rented rooms just next to the Number 11 bus stop, which took me all the way to the Cimitero Evangelista degli Allori. In fact, the bus driver honked at me when I got off the bus, a stop too early and admonished me, saying that he was the professional and he had told me that the bus would put me down right in front of the cemetery, so I felt incumbent to do exactly as he wished. (I had intended to walk!) Door to door service on the bus for Euro1.20. Not bad.
It had rained in the morning, so the city was fresh, not too hot and no humidity – just perfect for digging up all the weeds on my family plot. The rosemary plant, which replaced the lovely golden rose we planted at my mother’s funeral, had survived the drought of this past summer, but to brighten up the grave, I bought a lovely flowering plant from a newly opened shop in the cemetery grounds. The florist assured me it would last for a few months and she lent me some tools, as well as giving me her phone number, saying I could ring up and order more anytime and she would place them for me.
It is rare for everything to go so beautifully to plan when you set out, not sure how you will arrive, nor whether you can find a trowel and a place to wash your hands, but everything went perfectly, and it was only when I went to leave the cemetery feeling that I had duly honoured my mother, my aunt, my father and of course John Tomlinson Baldwin, mio nonno, that I realised I had been bitten – more than once! Watching all the welts come up on my skin reminded me of past summers in Montecatini where all I could do was scratch and bleed. However, even here, the gods smiled on me and within about 15 minutes, the swellings subsided and the itchiness went away. Marvellous, some immunity after all those months of bug misery.
After that I happily took buses all day, visited places, chatted to shopkeepers and generally loved leisurely wandering around a city my mother always regarded as home. The Ponte Vecchio was full of Chinese and Arabs looking in the jewellery shops, and the queue outside the Duomo was certainly enough to make me skip that and simply enjoy the outside architecture.
I spent an hour talking in Italian to a lady in a gelateria, whilst eating my pistachio ice-cream and drinking cold white wine. She told me all about her views on Florence – the best city in the world bar none – and Donald Trump – mad and dangerous, but nothing would happen to Italy, because nobody bothered about him here.
And finally my photo in front of the Arno, taken by a tourist who asked me to take hers. You don’t need a selfie stick when you can simply strike up a conversation with someone standing next to you. La Dolce Vita indeed.