After a late lunch of bruschetta and caprese salad and grilled brie and vegetables (even in Italy, we would be unable to resist eating tapas-syle) we would wander out onto the street, satiated and sleepy. The exquisite heat of the mid-afternoon would drive us in search of some shade, a little patch of cool. Inexorable forces would pull us towards the Duomo. All roads in Florence lead there. We would creep down the shaded side of an ancient street, turn a corner and, once again, the Duomo would appear, its terracotta coloured cuppola peeking out above everything, calling us. Inviting us.
Inside, we would find the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore stripped clean of its art and decorations. Perhaps it was the pirates. We would be told that for just a few Euros we could see the treasures of the church inside the nearby Museum Opera del Duomo. That afternoon, however, it was the cool that we would be seeking. Not the art. As we entered the cathedral, DP would worry about his almost-knee length shorts. The guards would not be even remotely disturbed by his naked knees but many girls and women would be handed a light blue paper hospital gown to cover what their shorts and mini skirts did not. DP would wonder if we could get some of those gowns for a similar use at our high school.
We would light candles for both of our families in Canada. Although I am not Catholic, I am comforted by these rituals, these lovely little prayers. Soon we would need to back away from the furious heat thrown off by the votives.
Retreating to a bench, we would watch how differently people visit a church. How some enter small and humble, eyes fixed upon the altar. Others, the young in particular, would appear indifferent to their surroundings. Their loud laughter declared that they felt completely at home in the world and were not too much impressed with old churches. They would not have learned that when this cathedral was finally completed in 1418, there was still a 42 meter wide space above the church’s chancel waiting for a cupola, for a dome. The people of Florence had faith that it could be built. A competition was held and the design of Filippo Brunelleschi was selected. Brunelleschi’s dome weighs 37,000 tons and contains over four million bricks. We would read our guidebook and silently celebrate Brunelleschi’s ingenuity and his optimism.
Later, we would slip out of the cathedral in search of another perfect cup of gelato that would melt too quickly in the heat. We would gaze back at the sun-drenched street we had just traveled, hungry for one last glimpse of the Duomo before heading home for a nap before dinner.