Having spent three days in Firenze before coming south to Rome, the cities’ personalities differ at their extremities. Florence uses its arms to embrace you, while Rome simply flexes.
Firenze suggests acoustic guitar on the Ponte Vecchio, where sunset means a thousand couples wrapped around each other in poses more bacchanalian than virginal. Firenze means two hefty Italian women in the kitchen singing and laughing as they taste your al dente fettucine until it is olive-oiled to perfection. Firenze means Giotto’s Bell tower steps, which will kick your un-oxygenated ass, and the Uffizi museum where Caravaggio’s dark colors take you inside your soul. On the streets, Firenze means accordions and violins echoing down cobblestone streets as you search for the perfect Panini con afumicato before licking the sweet, sugary gelato from a too-full cone. Firenze means Piazzele Michelangelo’s hillside cafes where one can witness Brunelleschi’s dome atop the Duomo in the distance. With yellow and orange buildings, brown streets, and Crayola box fruit-stands on every corner, Firenze is a shade for all hours, and if one sits long enough, the days sharpness fades into twilight and pastels change like autumn’s leaves. Firenze’s blood is the Arno, a river, which carries widows’ tears, ripples with lover’s laughter, and nourishes the soils of the next generation of Florentines. Scents of garlic and fresh baked bread drift throughout the city and you can’t help closing your eyes and sniffing the air in even the most formal moments. I am in love with this city.
Rome is massive, meaty, manly. The Palazzo Venezia towers over exhaust-producing Via del Corso while the Colosseum’s bloody stones maintain vigilance in the background. Trevi’s Fountain is swimmable and there are enough steps in the Piazza di Spagna to wear out Rocky Balboa. Rome means thick Bolognese sauces with bulky Pici pasta and large loaves of stiff bread. Rome means leaving the table with an unbuckled belt and considering a week without shaving. There are gladiators here, bearing swords and the type of aggression that makes you re-consider jaywalking. Rome means drums and electric guitars in piazzas the size of football fields and white stone with hard-angled facades. Through Rome runs the Tiber, a muddy brown river that carries away blood of ancient wounds, the shame of Caesar’s slaves, and which cools the skin of modern-day warriors. There are drunks, and homeless and eighty-foot brick walls with enough cement between them to make you think Soylent Green. Scents of Parmesan and bacon flood the nights and you can’t help closing your eyes and wishing for the smell to dissipate. This city might not be right for me.