This is a sample article that meets the criteria for our crowdsourced issue. I would love for you to submit your own article at about 350 words. The deadline is May 27, 2020. I chose to write about an experience I had on the Florence episode of Dream of Italy. Everyone who submits content will be entered to win either a 3-night stay in Florence or an Italy itinerary personally planned by me. If we publish your entry, you will be award with a 6-month membership to Dream of Italy! — Kathy McCabe
When I Dream of Italy, I Dream of…
The stillness and silence under the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.
It’s a stark contrast to the hub bub of the tourists and locals speaking a mélange of languages as they cross the cobblestones above on the iconic bridge that Hitler reportedly deemed so beautiful it was spared from bombing.
So how did I get to experience this moment of zen so close to the chaos?
Very few boats – save the occasional scull or crew boat – are allowed on the Arno River.
One exception is the historic boat I am on this day – made of wood, with a flat bottom – that was traditionally used to carry sand (rena) along the Arno. The Associazone Culturale I Renaioli has brought these boats back to life. The renaioli are the men who dug up the sand and who steered the boats with long wooden rods.
“They used it (the sand) to build the Uffizi, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Ponte Vecchio,” explains my friend Federico who has joined me for the boat ride. Florence was literally built from the sand of the Arno.
As we float next to the Uffizi, I realize I have never seen it from this vantage point, its massive presence regally sitting on the river; the usual lines of tourists hidden from few.
As we approach the Ponte Vecchio, the anticipation builds as the yellow-hued jewelry stores, which in their former lives were butcher shops, get closer and nearly on top of this.
Federico and I are giddy with excitement as we come under the bridge to something totally shocking: nearly complete silence, all we can hear is the lapping of the water as our renaiolo steers us through. It feels like for just a few seconds we’re in a bubble. The bright sun is behind and in front of us but we are in the shade.
I always say, “When in Italy, look up.” And so we do, to see the bridge from the bottom and a totally different perspective.
We laugh at how millions see the Ponte Vecchio from above but we are among the few to see it from underneath.
You can too! From April to October, you can enjoy a 45-minute boat ride with one of the renaioli. For more information, visit www.renaioli.it