Florence: Friday 3.00pm (ish). Beneath the pomegranate tree, a pleasant softening of focus after lunch of melon, bought in the market at the far end of our street, prosciuto from the scary supermercato way over the railway bridge, and a glass of red wine.
Day 4 and I’m warming to Florence. Despite the night-time attacks of the fearsome tiger mosquitoes. And not just because of the warm weather and bright blue skies above the yellow houses of the Cure district where we are staying in the Florence equivalent of a tenement house which, in many ways, turns out to be very much like tenements back home in Edinburgh. We’re in a basement flat but it’s a basement with a pomegranate tree in the back yard.
And those insects.
No-one tells you about them. Or at least no-one I have heard talking about Florence. They do not say, “Look out for the marvels of Michelangelo, Masaccio, Bellini, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Fra Angelico…but it’s a bugger about those wee tiger mosquitoes.”
In fact we really only discovered them the night before last after I woke with boiling red bumps on feet and hands, like stigmata (I feel like that painting of St Francis being zapped with divine lazers). Oddly, there are none on my face unlike the poor blogger I found via Google this morning who counted 79 bites on her face and neck (and then went on to receive the insult of being hit in the eye by a flying chocolate at the finale of a singing act in a city cafe). That’s just one of a whole string of blogs and online forum discussions full of comments and advice on surviving mosquitoes in Florence.
“Avete crema per la puntura?” I cobble together a phrase with the help of my brand new Collins dictionary which seems good enough for the woman in the chemist who sells me a tube of hydro-cortisone cream for €7.30 to add to the international collection of ointments in the medicine cupboard back home. It being near the end of October, I never though of insect repellant when I was packing. My travelling companion, whose skin is made of sterner stuff, baulks at the thought of paying another €7 for a repellant spray though we might well be back tomorrow if the two poison pots at work in the bedroom fail to do their fatal bit.
The market is more fun, a great place to shop (I feel a blog brewing about street markets in Leith when I get home), and we come away with new season clementines, white peaches, gold melon and two bottles of wine (bianco e chianti, grazie mille) all for something like €6.50 in total. Won’t keep the tigers at bay but it will help us to forget about them.