Florence is a beautiful city and it will always have a historical aspect to it. It is interesting though to read a book about Florence in a different time period. It allows you to look at the city from a different perspective and as you visit historical sites you are able to see all that has changed not only to the city, but to the culture. In the book, “A Florence Diary” by Diana Athill a 1940’s Florence is amazingly described in a post world war II setting.
When reading this diary it is clear that the author loves to travel and gets extreme joy from it, as well as enjoying the beauty in Florence. One thing that I connected to in the book was this idea that she had never written a diary before and her mom wanted her to document her travels. I had a similar situation occur, on other trips although i’ve tried to keep track to it I did not journal while we were traveling. This caused for a lot of confusion when trying to go back to make a scrapbook later. In Florence I decided to start my own travel journal and whenever I visit a new place or go sightseeing it all goes into my journal with some pictures and maybe some ticket stubs.
I also find it very interesting how relaxed the author seems to be with travelling. When reading the diary it is expressly shown how relaxed and non stressful it was to travel during this time period. This could’ve been an effect of the war and how everyone was trying to remake their cities and get along. There weren’t particularly large amounts of people trying to sightsee after the devastating war, instead devoting their time to their own countries. As I have talked about before in my other blogs, Florence has become a tourist hub and it often seems like the city survives off of tourists. However, during 1940’s there weren’t many tourists visiting these places for mere entertainment like the author was doing. The duomo and many squares were tourist free and could be appreciated more for their history and beauty without the rushing crowds and street vendors. It is also amazing to here about the historical aspects and how a lot of the art was being restored, it truly would’ve been an amazing time to be in and there would be some amazing sights to see. I especially relate to her description and reactions to a lot of the foods of Florence, she has a sweet tooth like me and seems to get a lot out of it and enjoy every bite.
As for the people of Florence, the culture in the context of the diary was more welcoming and relaxed towards outsiders for a place not surrounded by tourists quite yet. Often times the Italians here are a little too friendly and can be creepy rather than seeming charming, it can sometimes feels like an unsafe atmosphere. The Florence described by Athill is one of noblemen and those with honor and respect, those who were very charming. Even in the process of travelling the way it is described in the book is probably new and for being very nice is cheap and accessible. It is such a different experience to how trains are now, they’re overpriced and gross and always running late.
Athill describes Florence in such a beautiful way that will have people running here from all over. When reading her diary it is obvious she loved all parts of traveling and of Florence itself. She points out every good thing she possibly can from the food to the desserts to the art to the people. She even goes to point out how cheap it was for her to stay in Florence even having money to buy some nice souvenirs for herself. To read about the differences from Florence now to the 1940’s and to experience it in some ways is truly incredible and it helped to show me to see the beauty in some of things I may have missed at my first look of Florence. I will say though even though Florence has churned into a bit of a touristy area with overpriced items and crowds it will always have an alluring beauty that will continue to bring tourists here for an infinite amount of time.