While watching The Young Pope, I found myself impressed by how well the cinematography captured the golden glow of Italy’s streets at night. I remembered an essay I wrote last fall that captured my memories of those streets, which I walked during my honeymoon in 2015. Below is that essay, and I plead the fifth on how much chianti I’d had before writing it. Enjoy, and have a good weekend, everyone.
The Golden Streets of Italy
It is a dark autumn evening in Arlington, and I remember the rain-soaked streets of Florence. The nights were dark but the streets were illuminated in golden light, bathing the sidewalks in a shine only magnified by the rainier weather of fall. Leaves clung stubbornly to the trees, but autumn appeared in the chill of the wind and the huddling of pedestrians close to one another.
Every day I walked beside my love, crossing the path along the River Arno into the Florence square. Though a bustling city, it wasn’t reminiscent of the smog and hardness of American equivalents. It had a warmth, exemplified by how beautiful the city looked by lamplight.
Our first night in Florence, I saw this beauty firsthand. We rode in a taxi through narrow alleyways and across cobblestone streets. Everything looked like a country dreamer’s dream of what a city should look like, or a romantic historian’s notion of what the past was. But this was very much the present, and Florence did well to preserve its allure.
We drove by a building that even in nighttime was almost too beautiful to comprehend. It was black and white with perfect tiling. A design with soul, architecture done with love – not simply a space, but a place to see. I gasped audibly and asked, “What is that?” The cab driver chuckled and politely told me it was the Duomo. One of Florence’s most famous places. I could see why, even at night.
Many of our dinners took place outdoors and by candlelight. Two restaurants we visited had seating where you could see an ancient church while you dined. Candles lit the tables as waiters brought wine darker than the sky around us, and we dined on pasta and bruschetta much later than we’d ever eat at home. There was a quiet to the city despite its popularity with tourists. You could almost hear the stars blinking in the sky. Or maybe it was the wine. Whatever it was, there was a magic there that couldn’t be denied.
The magic extended into neighboring cities. We walked the streets of Siena and made our way over hills of brick, illumined by street lamps in the dark of night. I felt as if I walked upon man-made fields of gold, Italy proving to me that man was capable of the beauty nature came by so easily. Corners dark and sidewalks bright, all were beautiful.
It was a beauty I’d never forget. The final golden light came from the runway as our plane departed from Florence to Paris, and Paris to Dulles. I felt my soul ache with joy as we descended into a red sunset. I was home, and it was beautiful.
But even though home is beautiful, I find myself walking the golden streets of Italy in my dreams. The cobblestone wears on my shoes, the rain gets in my hair, and I kiss my husband with wine-soaked lips, taking in the beauty that a night in Italy has to offer. It’s a night that is too powerful to be interrupted by dawn. It’s a night that lasts forever. It’s a dream I need not wake up from. It is golden.