Before I had a boyfriend, I had Florence.
And man, I dated that city hard.
I would take myself out for a prosecco each afternoon. Lovely lunches on sunny days with fresh bruschetta, fine cheeses and a good a book. I walked with my thoughts to my favorite faraway piazzas, often toting a picnic of baguettes, pate, and sweet, dried figs. I strolled through art museums, wrote colorful stories on cathedral steps, ate plenty of gelato, and always stopped to enjoy street music.
I had my regular spots. The go-tos where everyone knew me by name. But nothing compared to the Basilica di Santa Croce: A 632 year old church.
Now, I am by no means a godly woman. I drink and cuss and make love and never feel the need to repent for any it. But by some force of nature or art or god knows what, an old, Brunelleschi designed basilica became the most romantic place in town for me.
I used to go in the late evenings, when the hordes of tourists had long since began their 4pm suppers. I would take my novel of the moment, an old sketchbook and my eternal well of wonder. I would admire the frescos first. The massive works in the chapels. I would stand before the Cimabue –the 15 foot crucifix carved and painted in the 13th century — and I would imagine the Florentines of 1966 saving it from the devastating flood that hit their city, and I would get goosebumps every time. I would linger in the pews and let inspiration wash over me, filling sketchbooks and journals with art that I only dreamt of being as powerful as that which filled the space around me. But I always spent the most time with the tombs…
The most magnificent part of Santa Croce is that it acts as the final resting place for some of history’s greatest Italians. Machiavelli, Galileo, Dante (although his remains lie in Ravenna, long story…) and my main man, Michelangelo, dwell within beautifully crafted, highly personalized, tombs that line the church’s walls. And that is where the magic of the place comes from. That is what I like to believe in.
With the energy of the past’s great thinkers, artists, poets, and scientists palpably vibrating through every inch of it, Santa Croce transcends religion. For me, it has always been the place where the open minded and the dreamers can go to be reminded of what is achievable when we renounce societies limitations.
When I went back to Florence last month with my boyfriend, Santa Croce was the place I wanted him to see the most. It was the place I wanted him to feel most. I had been so many times, I was itching to see if for the first time again, through his eyes.
And so I took him on a date to the place I had always best dated myself. I took him to meet my main man, Michelangelo.
And it was magic.