Strings of lights flickered to life as dusk settled over Florence. Sitting in an open-air courtyard after dinner, tables cleared except for tumblers of Tuscan wine, I watched imaginary lines between groups dissolve and strangers start to talk to one another. Instead of a restaurant, the courtyard began to feel like a dinner party.
Someone translated for those who didn’t speak both English and Italian. People talked about politics and travel, made jokes, and kicked off sandals under the table during coffee and dessert.
Ten years earlier, I wouldn’t have splurged on dinner here. I’d have looked out over Florence’s rooftops from Piazzale Michelangelo with a paper bag at my side. In that bag would have been dinner: some crusty bread, a hunk of cheese, and a few slices of prosciutto.
Traveling on a bigger budget
During my first trip to Florence, straight out of college with a heavy pack on my back and not much money in my pocket, an evening’s entertainment was people watching on the piazza and counting coins outside a gelato shop to see if I had enough for a single scoop.
A decade later, in 2018, I found myself in Florence again. Some travelers avoid returning to a place they’ve visited for fear of spoiling their memories of it, but I wanted to find out whether a return trip might reveal unsung potential.
Since I’d seen the major sights, would I connect more with the Florentine people this time around? With the confidence of age and at a different stage in life, would I observe from the sidelines less and interact more?