A cast of characters

It's nearly November, fall break starts today, midterms happened (as did the overly dramatic artistic crisis I've been overdue for), and this semester is already halfway over. Where did the time go? In my opinion, the best way to recover from midterms is to take a night to wander Florence armed with a camera, so that's exactly what I did last Thursday. I rely on color a lot in my photos, so it was a fun challenge to edit a night's worth of images in black and white instead. Even without saturated colors, the energy behind nights in Florence is still evident.

I think my favorite part about living in a city is the fact that I’m constantly surrounded by new and diverse strangers. If I’m in the right mindset, I’m the most comfortable when I’m completely alone in a crowd. Florence is great for people watching; you can leave me in the middle of any piazza with a camera and a notebook and I’ll be content for hours. On rare occasions I’m inclined to start a conversation with strangers, but mostly I just like absorbing the energy and the life around me. Florence has no shortage of life in its streets, and that’s part of why I love living here so much. However, it’s also small enough that repeat encounters with certain people are a common occurrence.

Something odd happens when you find yourself settling into a new city, or at least it does for me. I become so familiar with seeing specific people that I feel like we’ve become friends, even if I’ve never spoken to the person. There’s a handful of strangers here that I see often and I feel like I know quite well, despite the fact that they likely wouldn’t recognize me. I don’t know a single factual detail about their lives, but I feel like I have a sense of who they are when I pass them on the street. Essentially, this cast of real characters has taken on a fictionalized life in my head. Does that make any sense?

There’s the barista with the handlebar mustache in my favorite coffee shop. For some reason, he's gracious enough to put up with my butchering of the Italian language when we talk, even though he speaks perfect English. Speaking of cappuccinos, there’s another barista in the cafe closest to my apartment that stands out to me as well. I think started noticing him after seeing him, his wife, and his young daughter eating gelato together on a Sunday afternoon. There is a woman who owns a shop on Via Giuseppe Verde and is always seen either with her hyperactive dog or a bright-pink paperback. Despite (or maybe because of) the fact that she’s around my grandma’s age, I’d like to think that the paperback is a romance novel. If the man with the spiky hair is working at the supermarket by my school, I always know to avoid his line as he takes the longest time to ring people up. Still, I like seeing him there because he’s a familiar face. The leather shop next to my apartment is owned by a somewhat intimidating man who’s always lurking in the doorway ushering people inside. Although he’s a bit unnerving, I know I’m almost home every time I pass him. Lastly, there are two young children that I’ve never even seen that live in the apartment adjacent to mine. Because noise echoes through the courtyard outside the kitchen, I hear them arguing nearly every morning while I make breakfast and they get dressed for school.

I’m generally very curious about people, and I love figuring out quirks and foibles. It’s a major part of why I take photographs. However, in the case of the people listed above, I’m perfectly happy not knowing anything real about them because their role in my mind is already cemented. This thought pattern isn’t uncommon with me; I often joke that I’m involved in at least 3 mental romantic relationships that I would never want to come to fruition in reality. It would just ruin the magic, and I’m pretty sure whatever scenario I dream up is better than real life. This is why I like seeing these aforementioned strangers every day, but I don’t want to actually talk to them and spoil a well-established mental friendship. For whatever reason, there’s something that’s comforting about repeatedly running into them, and Florence has made it hard for me to ever feel lonely. It’s another bizarre little tidbit about my new life that I’ve come to appreciate.