Have you ever had a Deja-vu? A feeling of something being so incredibly familiar that should not be at all since you never saw it before? That is Florence for me. Firenze. Even though I never once thought about it, it was the first time in my life where I started wondering about reincarnation. Not sure I believed it, but I did not know what else to think. A few years later I got the same exact feeling about Boston. Even though I’ve never been to Boston, anytime I see a postcard or a picture of Boston and the name of the city is not mentioned, I *KNOW* it’s Boston. There is no ‘wondering’ or questioning, I just know, and I am certain of it. How the heck is this possible? So… if reincarnation is a possibility, would it explain why the English language came so easy to me, as if I knew it all along, and it laid dormant in my soul until I re-awakened it? After reading the amazing books of Michael Newton and Brian Weiss now I know there is definitely something to this. But, I digress.
I wanted to write my experience of Firenze’s DeJa-Vus because it truly stands out. It was a moment in my life that defied explanations. After you read this, maybe you will recall a moment in your life that also did not make much sense and perhaps you might rethink things in your life a bit.
It was 1980, I was 15 years old and in 9th grade when my class decided to go on a field trip to Firenze. We were studying the Renaissance, what better place to go than the heart of the Renaissance itself? On a side note, how LUCKY was I to grow up in such a place full of history and so completely fascinating, with history at every turn?
At any rate, my class consisted in 30 or so girls, and not all of us went, maybe only a dozen. We had to take the train there and some parents were not comfortable doing that for some reason. My parents trusted me. I’ve never been this crazy chick, they knew I would follow instructions and stay with the group.
We arrived in Firenze one evening, fairly late. The train station is in the middle of the city, so we took our luggage and walked to the place where we would sleep for the next couple of nights. This was not exactly a hotel or motel, it was actually considered a hostel, where students and groups stay that travel a lot. The building itself was hundreds of years old, they had maybe a dozen rooms and each room could sleep 4 girls. We quickly settled that evening with an early wake-up call. The following morning I was the first to wake up and I opened the large window to let some air in. It was late March, so still not exactly warm, but it was stuffy in that room. As I looked out, resting my arms on the window sill, I was mesmerized by what I was seeing. I felt strangely ‘home’. The street the Hostel was on was not very wide and paved with cobblestone, I could smell the Coffee from the Cafe’ below and there were several people either on bike or on foot doing their errands. It was quite the view. It made such an impression on me I vowed to come back here for my honeymoon. Right. Now, that’s funny remembering that. I did go back to Florence afterwards, and to this precise Hostel in 1998, but never with my husband. It’s still on my bucket list, I guess!
Our first stop that day was the Basilica di San Lorenzo, a 500 year old church. From the outside it wasn’t too much to look at, but the inside was magnificent. I was waiting for the girls to be done by the gardens, and when, after a while, nobody was coming out, I started to get worried. Where is everyone? I walked everywhere and then outside and, make no mistake, my group had left. Left without me? What the heck?
Here’s the kicker. I was upset for maybe one minute, then I thought to myself: I have one day in Firenze. I want to visit it. I guess I will have do it by myself.
This is SO unlike me at the time, it’s mind blowing for me to even remember it. I would be apprehensive, even afraid to visit any city by myself today, but not me, not on this city, not on this day. I picked a direction, and… off I went. I wasn’t upset at all. I was walking as if I knew where I was going, pulled magnetically where I was supposed to go. Almost in a trance. So bizarre I can’t even explain it.
Before I knew it, I turned a corner and I was standing in front of the magnificent Duomo. The Piazza in front isn’t big, so to see it you have to look up, way up. The Duomo was… colorful. Big. Amazing. Still to this day, it’s my favorite building, ever. As I walked inside I noticed groups with a guide that were explaining the history of it so I stopped nearby to hear what they had to say. It was all so incredibly familiar, as if I had been here many, many times before. As if guided by an unknown force, I walked toward one of the back side entrances and as I opened the door, my group was actually entering the building. From THAT door? The Duomo had several doors, why that one? And at the same time? How bizarre is all this? I was relieved and upset at the same time. I don’t know why. I felt almost as if my trip down some unknown memory lane was cut short.
Our group then trekked up the dome of the Duomo, something not for the tame. These 463 steps, many times around a tight swirly staircase, are a lot harder than one can imagine. It’s a workout in itself. Once on top, of course, the view is spectacular.
I won’t bore you with the details of the rest of the places we visited, but a couple of more things are worth describing because it’s more major weirdness. Later that night, after our visit to the Pitti Palace and seeing the exhibition of Picasso’s art, our group went to a local Pizzeria. We stood in a line and the guy took our order. In Italy everyone orders their own pie. We all sat in a banquet-style room waiting for our food. Some of the other groups, more girls from other classes that came to Florence with us, were already almost finished with their dinner. The waiter had already delivered the pizzas to half of our group, and I knew my pie was coming next. The waiter entered the room and asked for ‘Silvia’. I was so shy, I mean, what were the chances he was looking for little old me? But nobody else was coming forward, so I raised my hand. When I did, he delivered to me a heart-shaped pizza with a ‘A’ (for Amore, Love in Italian), and he said it was from the “pizzaiolo” (cook) with love.
Ok, this trip was freaking me out. OK, did the cook even see me? Or was it from someone else? I had no boyfriend at the time, and my class was girls only. We had made friends with some boys earlier, but I am not even sure they knew my name. What is going on here? I thought there was some mistake. I did not want to touch it until I knew for sure this was for me. Everyone else got their normal pizza and there wasn’t an extra one for me, so this heart pizza was really for me. I still don’t know who sent it, why or whatever. There was no note, no hint. No nothing. The Pizzaiolo never came up to introduce himself either. Hmmm… Oh, and, yes, the pizza was delicious.
Before we left the next day there was one more thing I wanted to do that I thought was a complete fantasy, considering I was with my school class. The previous day I had seen these carriage rides in Piazza della Signoria and, my romantic me, was dreaming of taking one of these rides around Florence. Law of attraction in action? I don’t know what it was, all I know is that after we spent a few hours visiting the last few churches, markets etc, our teacher matter-of-factly asked us who wanted to take a carriage ride with her as a farewell to Firenze. What? Boy, am I IN! I could not believe it.
That ride was major cool. Mind you, horses and carriage were the main mode of transportation for centuries, and that felt also totally deja vu. As a matter of fact, anytime we would enter a piazza during this trip, I could distinctly picture in my mind what it must have looked like way before cars entered the picture. Cars in these streets looked like a giant anomaly to me, and also any vespas, mopeds or motorcycles.
I’ve been back to Firenze twice since early 1980, my last trip there was in 1998 with my sister, I BEGGED her to take me when I went to Italy for 8 months so my parents could help me with Nicky. This time I had a videocamera and a camera that was better, so I took quite a few great photos and also videos of the street below the hostel, the stairs of the Duomo and… so much more. I treasure them. Someday I will take Greg there. Afterall, I promised myself I would do that… 32 years ago!