I can’t bring myself to use the term “new normal” for what life will be like beyond this pandemic. It bothers me. I want the life I had before. The old normal was jumping on a flight to my beloved Florence, checking into my favorite room in the Pitti Palace Hotel, walking along the Arno River as I chatted on my iPhone, wandering through the wonderful piazzas dodging annoying tourists, taking a few minutes to slip into the Uffizi Gallery to get a quick glimpse of some of my favorite paintings, sitting in my favorite trattoria 4 Leoni eating spaghetti con vongole, drinking chianti and exchanging funny stories with my friends, and last but not least, stopping into my favorite shops - Studio Puck, Giulio Giannini & Sons, Bianco Bianchi, Solo A Firenze, Le Antiche Mura, Bottega del Oglio — to exchange stories with amazing artisans who have become my family in Florence. I took it all for granted.
A few months ago I could not imagine life being any different. Florence had been there for millennia and it would always be there to welcome me. But now I am at the mercy of my iPad if I want to see and talk with the people I miss so much. I am pained when I see images on FaceBook of the usually-packed Centro Storico now devoid of people, shops closed, fruit stands empty, and restaurants barricaded.
My friends in Florence recount their daily experiences to me on WhatsApp. Up until a few days ago, they could only go out to buy food or medicine......no strolls around town, no stopping to talk with neighbors, no family visits, no dog-walking. Daily Florentine life ground to a halt for two and a half months. Thankfully the strict lockdown has now lifted slightly and hopefully Florence - and all of Italy - will rebound quickly from this dreadful disease and the Ponte Vecchio will once again be full of happy visitors (as below in 2019).
Being in lockdown for 8 weeks in the US has made me appreciate many things. I will never again take for granted boarding an airplane and landing in a different culture. Nor will I walk along the Arno looking down at my iPhone rather than appreciating the architecture on either side of the river. And rather than just wandering through the piazzas between meetings, I will sit for long periods over a cappuccino at Cafe Rivoire in the Piazza Signoria and appreciate the hordes of tourists who love Florence as much as I do. I look forward to spending time really appreciating my favorite Botticelli or DaVinci after being away from the Uffizi for so long. And most of all, I will never again sit with my many wonderful friends without telling myself how lucky I am to have been given this opportunity to spend time with them in Florence.
I can cope with the “temporary normal” as long as I feel there is “normal” down the road. It is what I need to focus on right now to get me through this period of sadness. Florence will always be my happy place.....as it is for so many millions of people around the world. Very soon this magical city will be welcoming all of us back again ........of that I have no doubt.