Italy by Philip Greenspun; created 1995

Home : Travel : Italy : Florence


Bicycles. That's the first thing you'll notice if you've come up from Rome. People in Rome don't ride bikes because they would get killed by the cars. Florence is just a little more courteous. Furthermore what seems like the entire tourist downtown is off-limits to most traffic. Pedestrians and cyclists have most of the town's most interesting streets to themselves, with occasional intrusions by mopeds.
Julius Caesar founded Florence in 59 BC as a retirement community for Roman army veterans. From the 11th century onward, Florence prospered and grew. It was one of the largest cities in Europe by1348 when the Plague killed more than half the population. Although there is a lot of industry in and around Florence, its spirit seems to be reverting to its retirement community roots. Tourists come here to look at the past; locals spend their time restoring the past.

If you go back to Rome, don't tell your friends how much you loved it up here. The Romans are convinced that all Americans love "Flahwrence" (as they satirically pronounce it) far too quaintly. For their Florentine perspective, I told a cab driver that I preferred Florence to Rome and was trying to say Rome was too noisy ("troppo rumoroso") but struggled for the words. He finished the sentence by saying that the problem with Rome was "troppi Romani" (too many Romans). A gypsy begging on the steps of Florence's San Lorenzo