Tuesday, April 09, 2019


Along with Rome and Venice, Florence is one of the primary tourist destinations in Italy. This is, of course, problematic, since tourists are a disaster waiting to happen (if you’re lucky), or a disaster currently in the process of happening (if you’re not). They don’t know what they’re doing, where they’re going, how to read street signs, how to order coffee or do much of anything other than stand around blocking busy pavements while reading a map or gawping at a Vespa.

They do also know how to take selfies, or take selfies for their fellow tourists. However as skills go, this is about as useful as advanced bear baiting, and fractionally more abominable.

We saw a Japanese man striking an odd pose in the Piazza del Duomo, with one leg slightly extended forward, his hands turned with the palms forward, head lowered to his left and eyes closed. He looked like The Sensitive One on a boy band poster, but, as I’ve learnt from an Indonesian friend who is a professional photographer, that this is how Asians like to take photos. When we Westerners take photos, we want the picture to capture our unique experience of being our individual selves in that time and place… even if it ends up being a cliché that ten thousand people have snapped before us. But for Asians, the cliché is the point. They don’t want to capture their unique outlooks – they want to demonstrate that they know how to do The Thing that everyone who is anyone is doing. The Japanese man was doing Sensitive Boy Pose No. 6, and dammit, it was going to be the best Sensitive Boy Pose No. 6 that anyone has ever done! His friends will all be saying, “Ooh, Sensitive Boy Pose No. 6! Good choice for in front of the Duomo Baptistry. I heard that Hiro did Sensitive Boy Pose No. 4 there and brought shame to his ancestors.” Although of course there’ll be one naysayer who sniffs that the hands are too low or the sneakers are the wrong colour, or, even worse, that Sensitive Boy Pose No. 6 is so last year and everyone is doing Arrogant Strut No. 2 now.

Benny demonstrates Happy Spaceman Pose No. 1

We passed through the tourist throngs over the Ponte Vecchio, and, like 99% of them, largely ignored the beautiful jewelry and objets d’art on sale there in favour of taking selfies on the bridge.

Happy Spaceman Pose No. 2, in front of the Ponte Vecchio

Then it was up yet another long flight of stairs – we will return to Australia with calves of steel – to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which offers gorgeous views back over central Florence, especially when it’s a perfect Spring day as it was today.

Happy Spaceman Tired After All Those Stairs Pose No. 3

In the evening, on the spur of the moment (literally – we arrived just as the musicians walked on stage), we went to see a brass quintet perform at the Chiesa e Museo de Orsan Michele. Under vaulted ceilings painted with the 600 year old frescos that are more common here than McDonalds in Australia, we listened to music both classical and modern. I loved the Bach and the Verdi, others loved the theme from ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’: to each their own. But we all agreed that the woman in front of me, who actually spent half the concert filming herself and her husband enjoying the concert, was a colossal wanker.


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