A geometric hexagonal building in Florence. That was my interpretation of this week’s writephoto prompt from KL Caley at New2Writing.com. And that reminded me of Venice, where a couple went searching for something on steps. This is another woman I’d like to get to know better, I thought, as I checked back. So we are about to find more about her. It’s not essential to know the background, but if you want to remind yourself… And then when I got into it, it was heading towards 2000 words when I decided to stop. I’ve given you the first 1500 or so, and maybe there’ll be a suitable continuation very soon 🙂
Geometric in Florence
It was already a year since the puzzle we’d uncovered in Venice. Well, Simon had uncovered the clue, I’d uncovered the meaning, and I was the one who followed it up. Maybe that was why we’d split up. After five years together it felt strange.
Hard to describe what ‘strange’ means. I’d be walking along a road, I’d get the inkling to visit Venice again, and this sense of freedom flooded through me. Is that strange?
I’d worked the rune message into a piece of geometric art I had accepted at the local gallery. Simon had not only laughed at me, he’d poo-pooed the whole thing. Maybe the sulking when the artwork sold was the final straw. He went back to his consignments of glass, and I…
I had a postcard from Giacomo Poli.
Now, Giacomo was possibly the son of a famous Venetian glassmaker, but he had also initiated (I think) this riddle search game. The first message had instructed I replace his address with my own for the next person to find our cache on the Venice bridge, but he must have looked, and found it anyway. Now his message was even more intriguing. ‘There are more messages to be discovered, if you like the challenge. Start with the geometric hexagonal building of the city of power. You may be born again.’
Born again? Yes, that was pretty much the feeling, just from having got rid of Simon hanging round the whole time, and making all the decisions. I was perfectly able to make my own decisions, thank you.
Starting with the freedom to google ‘hexagonal building’.
Once I’d discarded Venice and Rome as cities of power, I hit on Florence, and there was the Baptistry. Born again. Oh yes.
So, was I going to head off to Florence, to a city I’d never been but always wanted to see? You bet. What did my calendar say? No chance of anything but weekend trips between now and October. Hm, weekends in summer in Florence. It’ll be crowded. On the other hand, if I have to wander round the outside of a building in the centre of Florence, in peak tourist season, looking in detail at any possibility of hidden messages… crowded is probably what I need. Less likely to be considered anything other than eccentric.
After a couple of hours checking rail options – which seemed not to include the overnight sleeper despite the rail guides advice, I opted to take a Friday off, travel on the morning train, get there in the evening. A small hotel for two nights, and I’d depart on Sunday afternoon. I would get into London in time for work, thanks to saving an hour on the time difference. Of course, it would be quicker and cheaper to fly, but that would wreck my climate change commitment, and everyone knows by now that carbon offsetting is rubbish, and always had been.
After I made the arrangements, I sat back, and wondered. What was Giacomo up to, and why have I just spent a couple of week’s pay on it?
Thursday finally came around. “I won’t be in tomorrow, I’ll be available online most of the day. Something’s come up at home.”
“Okay.” Only one of my colleagues did more than grunt. That was the thing about Covid, we’d all got completely used to remote working.
Despite the arduous routines of checking in, passport control, customs and everything else, once on the train, London disappearing into the distance, it was bliss. Even a change of trains in Paris, and a short night stop on the way back – it was still Paris, and it was good to be there. It was even better to be on the TGV at Gare de Lyon, leaving for Zurich. And of course trains in Switzerland run like clockwork, which meant arriving in Milan on schedule, and only a slight hiccup before getting the right train from there to Florence.
After a day of sitting on trains, where you can at least walk up and down, and peer at the beautiful scenery – Lake Geneva, the Alps, all the rest of it – I needed a walk to the hotel, which I’d carefully selected for that reason. After a light meal in a nearby trattoria recommended by the concierge, I was ready for some homework before bed. Mainly examining the map for my directions to the Baptistry. It would hardly be difficult to find, sandwiched between the Duomo and the Giotto Campanile. Apart from the art galleries, it was the most touristy part of town. Not like those steps in Venice…
I awoke relaxed and happy, and to the smell of coffee and croissants, which despite not being Italian, were very fresh. I also took advantage of the breakfast bar’s frittata and fruit, since it was included. Armed with a water bottle and my iPad, I set out.
It was impossible to avoid the very short line waiting to enter the Galleria dell’Acadamia. For heaven’s sake, it was on the way to my quarry. But such a short queue! I joined it, and was soon filing past Michelangelo’s David. How could I not stop and stare. Or just gawk, like most of those around me. I moved on… straight down to the Duomo. I went in. The day was warming up, tourist-wise, and I could do this then search the exterior of the Battistero with more cover.
My guidebook had said the outside of the Baptistry was worth admiring, and so it was. I’ve never seen anything quite so extraordinary. Although it looks black and white in the photos, the inlay is of dark green marble, and it is very striking. Striking, but I don’t think I like it. But it’s a geometric design on a hexagonal building, in which the custom is still maintained that all babies born of Roman Catholic parents in Florence are baptised there. What else do you do with the oldest building in Florence?
I could go inside for €4, and inspect the mosaic of the dome, which is well-spoken of. But instead I stayed outside, hugging the more shadowed side, tracing my way around the building to the north doors, and the famous bas-relief by Ghiberti. But these are replicas, I discovered. The originals are in the Cathedral Museum to protect them from winter weather. Very sensible. I’m sure the replicas will suit me fine.
I wandered around again, looking for some sort of sign Giacomo might have left for me. The tourist traffic was peaking now, as people who had arrived late, slept late, or just done other things first, thronged the centre and hunted for refreshments. Mmm, must have a gelato while I’m here. I wandered over to the seller in the shade, and stood not far from him with my purchase, looking back on the Baptistry. Was I on a wild goose chase?
Refreshed by the delicious icecream, I wandered across to Giotto’s bell tower, which had been making its presence known with regularity. It was something about Florence, I remembered reading. The bells. You can get bored with the bells, but nothing else in Florence is boring.
Not finding Giacomo’s clue would be boring. But had I dwelt in this location long enough. I felt in need of some space, so went down to the Ponte Vecchio and crossed over to the Palazo Pitti and the Bobolo Gardens.
It was busy, as you might expect on a summer Saturday. But it was good to slide past the palace of the Medici family, and wander around the greener spaces away from the main drag. There was even a bench or two to rest on.
Sitting in shade is good for meditation. What was I doing here? Why had I come? Did I really want to find some riddles and solve them?
I must have rested for at least an hour. I needed to plan the rest of my stay. I couldn’t come all this way and not make the most of Florence. I diverted to the Piazzale Michelangelo to look at the stunning views, and take photos like every other tourist there. I’m sure spending out on the postcard with the perfect light would be better, but…. I was still in time for a late lunch, so I indulged myself, then returned via the Ponte Vecchio for another look at the Baptistry.
The geometric designs stood out better in this light, and the tourist throng was thinning. Something in the symmetry of the lines on the marble drew my eye. Yes, here it was all correct, over there, it was… out of kilter. Why? I wandered over to look, and casually glanced over my shoulder to make sure nobody was observing me. Well, if they were I couldn’t spot them. This part of the design was written over in white, the sort of washable chalk you use for menuboards. I took a photo. Was this what I was looking for? I stepped back, searching the rest of the facade. Nothing else caught my eye. I toured the base of the building once more, stopping at each of the sets of doors, examining them carefully, and taking photos for good measure.
Enough. I went back to my hotel, had a nice shower, wrapped myself in soft towels, and took a look at my photos.
It took a long time to see it. But Giacomo had left a message. It was his email address.
© J M Pett 2023