Monday, February 13, 2023

A Valentine's Surprise


Despite the state of the world, love is alive and well in Florence, Italy, as can be seen in this 
 piece of wall graffiti, unsigned, in the Monte Oliveto neighborhood.

In English it reads

(or more poetically)


Well, I came across this romantic inscription after having walked unintentionally for miles.  I simply meant to renew my car insurance at the Unipol Sai office across from Piazza Tasso.  I had forgotten, however, that the 36 and 36 bus lines had been rerouted since Christmas due to a sinkhole in Borgo San Frediano.
So I walked there from Porta Romana. After signing the appropriate documents, I asked how to get to my office in downtown Florence located between the Cathedral and Santa Croce.  Walk straight ahead, I was told, hang a left at the Esselunga supermarket on via Pisana, and continue to the Paolo Uccello tram stop.
The tram would take me to the Station, not exactly the best solution, but it seemed the only option.

Like everything in Italy, it was not.
This is the land where the art of arrangarsi (finding an alternative)
reigns supreme.

Lo and behold, I saw a #6 bus roll by.

I quickly asked information of a random person walking by who told me to keep bearing left.  Past the road leading up to Villa Strozzi, once the home of Polimoda, a long way before the Paolo Uccello tram stop, I found a #6 bus stop.

I also found the romantic writing on the wall, obviously intended for Elena to lay eyes on every day.
I barely had time to register the loving message when I saw a #6 turning a corner.  I only had 
a split second to take the picture 
and managed not to drop my I phone before jumping on the bus.
And no time to check the bus route.  So I asked the good looking, 35ish bus driver, where 
bus #6 was heading.

Al manicomio (the insane asylum) he answered.
Say again, I said.
Same answer.

Figuring he was having a bad day, I then asked where I could get off in downtown Florence.
Via Vecchietti, near Piazza Repubblica, was his answer.

Upon arrival in the office, I repeated this anecdote to Magenta Publishing intern Parker Hurley, 
who, being a newcomer, was deeply intrigued by the mysterious ways of Italians.

Well, the mystery was revealed later that week by my hairdresser, Federico of BZ on via Senese.
The hair salon is located near Porta Romana, so the story goes full circle.

"The end of the line of the #6 is the former insane asylum at San Salvi," he told me.
He thought me not understanding the bus driver's answer hilarious, as you can seen from his smile.

San Salvi slowly closed, like all psychiatric hospitals in Italy, between 1978 and the 1998 thanks to the Basaglia law.
In fact, in the '80s I lived in the adjacent Bellariva neighborhood and clearly remember former inmates aimlessly walking the streets trying to bum a cigarette from residents.

San Salvi is now home to a theatre group, Chille de la Balanza, whose members reside in one of the pavilions. Chille de la Balanza's mission, funded by the Municipality of Florence, is to create performances and community projects that keep the sad history of San Salvi -- once home to 5,000 inmates -- from slipping from mind.

Indelible, like the message to Elena.

Well, the visit to the hairdresser brought two other revelations, furnished by Federico's mother, Laura, who does the shampoo before the cut and blow dry styling.

She reminded me of what I already knew, that many of the buildings at San Salvi today host offices of the  Health Department, the Asl.

"San Salvi where you go to get your physical and eye exam to in order to have your driver's license renewed at age 80 and up," she said.  

Federico and I burst out laughing, and I said I would keep this piece of information in mind.

Returning to the photo of the romantic message on the wall next to the bus stop, which sparked the conversation, I said, "but it had no signature," which I thought strange.

"Of course not, said Laura, ever practical.  "Graffiti is illegal.  If signed, the police would track down the author, and he would be fined."

Later I learned, from a Repubblica article, that the fine ranges from 5,000 to 15,000 euro and
the anonymous poet also risked up to five years in jail.

Once again, the art of arrangarsi!  Hence the silence.

True love, however, overcomes every obstacle.

The message is loud and clear, despite the law.

"You are my first thought every day."

Happy Valentine's Day!

                                               reporting live from Beautiful Florence


1 comment:

  1. Lovely story. Happy Valentine’s Day! AGM