I think that it is time to address one of the things I fine most interesting about Florence. It could be a nationwide phenomenon, but I really only know Florence. It’s not the amazing architecture of the city, even though some of the greatest European structures have been built here. It’s not the large collection of historical and contemporary art (it can’t compete with the Vatican, but hey, who can?) or the vibrant artists’ community that thrives here. It’s not the religious rituals that every tourist can experience. It’s not the great food and wine, although this does make the top two favorites. (I’ll save the food and wine for another day.) All these things are plentiful and evident here in Florence, but not the thing that fascinates me most.
It’s the kissing.
People of all ages do it everywhere. Yes, there’s the kiss on both cheeks when meeting or parting from someone, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Yes, Italy is a romantic country and tourists are occasionally overcome and kiss, but that’s not it either. It’s the young parents who sit on a bench in the park on a warm day and kiss like their baby is in another room, not next to them in the carriage. It’s the teenagers who kiss at the bus stop waiting for the bus. It’s the younger adults who while away the time waiting for the street light to change by kissing. It’s the older married couple who stop to kiss before entering a restaurant for dinner.
Whenever this much kissing happened in the Minnesota I grew up in, there were stern looks all around. Someone would get a talking to. Here in Florence it is a little different. Those who aren’t actually participating in their own love fest seem happily amused by those who are. They respond with tolerant smiles and a gentle throat clearing when lovers are blocking the way.
I probably don’t need to say that I thoroughly enjoy kissing and being kissed. It is, for me, the simplest and most enjoyable way possible to show someone that you love them. And so I have kissed my love in as many places in Italy that I can. Yes, in parks, at bus stops, traffic lights, and restaurant doors. Also at almost every door we have entered together, inside restaurants, on the sidewalk, in the street, on bridges and buses and trains. We have kissed each other from the banks of the Arno River to the top of the bell tower to the hills above Florence. All this kissing and not a stern look to be had anywhere, just little smiles and the occasional cleared throat to let us know we should perhaps move to the side of the street. I am one lucky woman.