Carol the Pilgrim heads to Florence
Carol the Pilgrim was heading back to Switzerland after her Via Francigena adventures in Tuscany. A weird mix of events led her to become ‘Lost in Florence at Midnight’. It all began with the train trip from Orvieto to Florence. It was one of those usual delays where the train just suddenly stops – for 3 hours! The delay was due to a ‘border control’ issue! But we were pacified by the delivery of a bag of snack food and a drink!
The train delay meant that Carol arrived in Florence in the late afternoon and she checked into her usual hotel. She had two objectives in Florence – to buy a train ticket to the Via Francigena in Switzerland and to visit the Apple shop to get her i-phone to take photos again! The train ticket was an easy purchase. But she had to run to reach the Apple shop before it closed. With 10 mins of closing she ran through the streets of Florence arriving at the Apple shop at 7:50 pm. Fortunately they let her in and very obligingly, and in English, got her phone working again. And so, very relieved, she left the Apple shop at 8 pm and with a mixture of exhilaration and disbelief headed towards the Duomo.
No matter the season or time of day, Florence is always vibrant. But this particular night, the golden image of Jesus in the facade of the Duomo elicited a brilliant invitation! And Carol was thrilled to capture the golden glow with the now working i-phone! Then she noticed that, despite the late hour, the Duomo was filling up with people, some dressed in strange medieval clothing. So she bravely approached the Italian men guarding the doors and timidly asked if she could go inside.
“You will need to roll down your shorts and put your camera in your handbag!” was the order.
Feeling extremely tired and hungry she headed for the nearest restaurant. But the costume clad figures and the crowds heading into the Duomo won the day. So she rolled down her shorts, stuffed her tiny camera into her tiny handbag and headed into the Duomo. Then she sat very meekly in a pew, pulling her shorts over her knees, looking innocent, and trying very hard not to feel hungry.
Feast of corpus Christi
Carol sat absorbed in the splendour and majesty of the Duomo and the pageantry surrounding her. She figured this was going to be a very big deal! It was a very popular event! Eventually the apse filled up with choirs and musicians, the altar with heaps of clergy and officials of all kinds. And standing for the entrance procession she was sure one of the Pope’s Cardinals was at the helm. And so she sat absorbed in hours of heavenly liturgical music emanating from the various choirs, and all the pomp and ceremony of this illustrious occasion.
Eventually she managed to understand enough Italian to discern that it was the Feast of Corpus Christi. And after several hours, everyone stood up and headed outdoors with lighted candles. The crowd passed the Baptistry under the threatening gaze of a guard. And then, swaying to the rhythm of ‘Preghiamo!’ processed through the streets of Florence behind the cavalcade of clergy and fraternities in traditional dress. Carol was so mesmerised and caught up in this mystical moment that she failed to take notice of where the procession was going.
Lost in Florence at Midnight
Then, suddenly it was almost midnight. And like Cinderella about to turn into a pumpkin she looked around in a panic with no idea where she was! Carol the Pilgrim was lost in Florence at midnight! So, she figured the safest course of action was to head back to the Duomo and try to walk to the hotel. She failed dismally! She was even more lost! So, she stood helplessly gripping her candle, in front of a hotel attendant begging her to phone a taxi. She tried in vain, so Carol continued on her way and eventually found a taxi. With intense gratitude she arrived at her hotel with just enough cash to pay the taxi fare and even better the hotel concierge was still there! Then she raided the tiny hotel fridge for a small bottle of wine and snacks!
Next time Carol the Pilgrim visited Florence after one of her Via Francigena adventures, she was very embarrassed to discover that the procession had ended near the river Arno in the Piazza Santa Trinità. The dignitaries had disappeared into the Basilica di Santa Trinità. Mostly, she was very embarrassed to realise the procession ended a short walk along the river to her Hotel!
Carol the Pilgrim never fails to have an unusual adventure in Florence! Join her this year in September for our Via Francigena Tours ‘Taste of Tuscany‘ tour which starts in Florence. This is going to be a very exciting art, food, wine Via Francigena walking tour in the UNESCO listed Val d’Orcia in Tuscany. Go to contact and sign up!