Have you ever planned and saved for and built up a trip in your mind for so long that when it actually happened, it was…well, disappointing? I’m not talking about the sort of travel-related disasters I’ve discussed before (“What can go wrong…..“), but everyday, ordinary annoyances that make you go “Wait. What? Really?”
Take Florence, Italy, for example, a city renowned for centuries for its culture and beauty. As I’ve probably mentioned, I spent two weeks there for a graduate writing class. I had always wanted to go to Italy and my husband and I saved up for a year.
And then I got there and it was lovely and historic and romantic, but it was also dirty. Really, really dirty.
In guide-book photos, the city, the birthplace of the Renaissance gleams and sparkles in the sun, but in reality, the massive pink- and green-marbled Duomo was covered in grime (In all fairness, it looked like a restoration might be underway.), enough graffiti decorated the city’s centuries-old buildings to make an inner-city slum jealous, trash blew around Florence’s famous squares and worst of all (to me, at least), dog poop turned the narrow sidewalks into a minefield.
It seemed like everyone let their dogs poop and pee on the sidewalks – even in front of major landmarks like the church of San Lorenzo and the Medici’s famous Boboli Gardens – and then just walked away, leaving the mess for someone else to remove. Or step in.
No one even had the grace to look embarrassed.
I get that picking up poop is disgusting, but stepping in it is even more so. I always, always clean up after my 85-pound yellow lab. Constantly looking down got annoying fast.
Perhaps it’s a cultural thing that I don’t understand. It sounds as though the graffiti, at least, is a centuries-old tradition, one the city of Florence has tried, unsuccessfully, it seems, to direct towards walls specifically designed for this form of “art.”
Call it what you will, each time I passed spray-painted walls or avoided a steaming pile of poop, I couldn’t help but wince. “How sad,” I thought, wondering how the residents (and probably tourists) of Florence could have so little respect for the city that was the birthplace of the Renaissance.
I had a great time overall (despite a rather violent stomach illness), but the filth left a…bad taste in my mouth, as my mother would say. And somehow I feel guilty admitting that, as though I should have fallen instantly, irrevocably in love with Florence.
I didn’t. But the Tuscan countryside? Now that is a different story….