We bid Venice a fond farewell through the back window of a water taxi, as we sped off toward the train station. We can’t get over the ease of travel here. When we asked the owner of our small Venetian hotel how much time we should allow at the station before our departure, he said, “Oh, about-a ten-a minoots-a. Si…that-a should be enough-a.”
(I love the Italian accent on English.)
Ten minutes? Really?
But, sure enough, that’s all it took. We got cozy in our seats and watched as Italian countryside flew past our window. Green rolling hills, golden stucco houses with barrel tile roofs, tall straight cypresses pointing to the skies. Breathtaking.
Before we new it, we were disembarking the train in Florence, in beautiful weather, and piled into a taxi with a 20-something, stunningly beautiful, female driver. She began the drive through the narrow one way streets, and plowing through the people walking them with not a care in the world. That’s one thing about Europe: there seem to be no real traffic laws, but we haven’t seen one accident. It’s like a dance of organized chaos. All I can say is thank GOD we didn’t rent a car!
The lovely driver sped away with a “Ciao” and left us at our hotel, where we dumped our bags and hit the ancient streets of this cultural city. We found a cafe where we settled into a meal of traditional Tuscan antipasto and the most delicious bruschetta I’ve ever had, then we took in quite a few shops where they sell their famous leathers, soft and unbelievably supple.
We had arranged for a twilight walking tour with a local English-speaking guide, so we met him in front of the beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria del fiore. Bernardo was there with a sign and wide smile to greet us. A Florentine since birth, and an art history major, it was obvious he loved his city. In his own brand of English, he launched into great detail about each building, sculpture and monument, but not before he found out about us. When we told him we were from the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas, he lit up.
“Tex-AZ? I love-a Tex-AZ! I’m-a big-a fan of-a the CowBOYS!”
He told us how he was proud to have visited 40 of the 50 states, and then, throughout the tour, he would explain something about the famous people of Florence and reference famous Americans that were similar, to help us understand. During WWII, he told us, American General Mark Clark made a decision that spared Florence from being bombed, in turn sparing countless priceless treasures and the city, itself, heart of the Renaissance, dating from the 1200’s. They actually hold a parade here on the 4th of July every year to celebrate our military, and the kindness shown. He said he is always there, on the front row, with a large American flag and usually wearing his Troy Aikman jersey. 😉
After the tour, we sat with him, eating a gelato, and just talking. He said that he would call us when he is back in the U.S. (he goes often), and maybe we could enjoy a “football match” together. Then we could show him around our city, “Fort-a Worrrrth-a,” and maybe we could eat some “Tex-a Mex-a” together. Then, Kevin told him about our ranch and offered him a place to stay.
The tour was wonderful, but it was the exchange with Bernardo that I loved most. Two very different cultures honoring the other. Seeing the good in the other. Seeing the good in EACH other.
God is all up in the middle of human interaction. Right there, where two or three are gathered, whether you’re eating homemade pasta or hand-rolled tortillas.
Whether you’re eating at all.
“For where two or three are gathered together as my followers, I am sure to be there among them.” Matthew 6:34 NLT