Story and Photographs by Melinda Rizzo
Florentines are accustomed to waiting.
From Michelangelo to Botticelli, DaVinci to Galileo, Florentines have cultured their passions into pearls, like a single grain of sand nestled deep inside an oyster and emerging over time to become a gem of the sea.
This year was my 30th, or Pearl, wedding anniversary.
To celebrate this milestone, my husband and I opted to take a trip to Florence, the heart and breath of Italy’s Tuscany region.
In January, we made the decision to travel to Italy at the end of November. Planning and executing this trip—one in which we’d invited a cousin and were traveling with our 12-year-old son—took time and patience. Patience, you might say, of the Florentines.
I’ve never considered myself a patient person.
Cathedrals take time to build, often centuries, still Florentines seem content to wait knowing their labors are never in vain.
As Carl Jung, a 20th century Swiss psychiatrist would contend, any work with purpose regardless of its nature, ultimately provides satisfaction and even pleasure for the worker.
Prosciutto crudo (air dried and cured pork) from Parma and arguably the pride of its area, can take as long as two years from start to finish to be ready for consumption.
Two years for a ham and cheese sandwich, but what a sandwich it makes! Prosciutto for me, and my son, is porcine transcendence.
Does anyone ordering a prosciutto focaccia pressed and toasted, consider the amount of time it took to create the ham? A moment of mastication melts these buttery mouthfuls, and they are gone.
Florentines linger over osteria menus . . . along alleyways . . . and outside the windows of leather shops.
Street performers sing operatic arias. They pump life into an accordion’s complication.
They strum a guitar or play the love theme from Florentine Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film Romeo and Juliet in the Piazza Signoria, where I rented our apartment. They spend time and care honing their musicianship. For those who love music, they offer kinship without translation.
Street performers share their art in exchange for spare change dropped into a basket poised at their feet. Skilled musicians bear witness to patience and waiting.
Witnessing the patience of Florentines: to execute a 17-foot-tall statue of David in marble, paint the mythological birth of Venus over the ocean waves or slice tissue thin prosciutto from the seasoned hindquarters of a pig, taught me a thing or two about this most elusive of virtues.
Consider the amount of time it takes for someone to carve mounds of
Nutella, vanilla or tutti fruitti gelato, into tempting, irresistible towering creations
decorated with fruit slices, nuts or plump, glistening blackberries and shiny
Consider the Baptistery doors adjacent to the Duomo.
One artist, Lorenzo Ghiberti, spent 50 years—give or take a few months and a series of assistants—working on two bronze doors for the Duomo Baptistrey just after the time of Europe’s Black Death (the Bubonic Plague).
Ghiberti depicted biblical scenes cast in bronze. On one, the life of John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence. On another, Old Testament scenes including the story of Abraham and Issac and the moment that the ultimate sacrifice was stayed by God’s hand.
Lorenzo must have had the patience of Job. Lorenzo dazzled me with his story, his devotion and his patience.
His appointment to create the doors was by chance: He’d won a local competition for the privilege.
The Uffizi Gallery, a towering testament to Renaissance art, offers testimony to waiting.
Lines can snake outside the doors by 9 a.m., even during the off-season. Buying a timed and dated ticket is recommended, but the ultimate ticket to artistic nirvana is a membership to the Uffizi through the Amici Degli Uffizi, or Friends of the Uffizi.
The Uffizi membership allows impatient foreigners to use a separate entrance into this sacred treasure trove.
Members stroll the museum without the irritation of queue standing and enjoy the art any time during the museum’s open hours: from 8:15 a.m.until 6 p.m. Go when you want, where you want, without delay.
Florence and its inhabitants are mostly patient people.
Time after time I was told, “Florence will wait.”
This simple statement from the friendly sweet shop owner across the Arno River and the man who sold my son and husband T-shirts and Italia sweatshirts. They both assumed my Italian love affair had just begun.
At the Uffizi museum office, my new Italian acquaintance probably put it best. She boldly went a step farther after hearing I had one last day in Florence before returning to Pennsylvania.
“Florence waits for you,” she said smiling kindly, then straightening her shoulders she added, “the Uffizi waits for you.”
And I believe her.
Melinda Rizzo is a professional freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years experience in the publishing industry.
Rizzo’s travel journey began in 1998 with a trip to Paris with her 11-month-old son. She and her family have visited Belgium, the United Kingdom, France and Italy.
Rizzo’s work appears in Lehigh Valley Style, Berks County Style, Susquehanna Style, Pennsylvania Magazine, The Morning Call, The Philadelphia Business Journal, The Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal, Rodale books, The Express-Times and other publications.