November 25, 2006

CHICAGO VOICES: An excerpt from “After Italy,” by George Savino

I got so lost the first three months in Florence, with or without a map. I mean, you veer off the main streets and you’re a goner. Suddenly you’re lost in a medieval maze of twisting, turning streets that never, ever, ever intersect at right angles so in a matter of minutes you’ve lost all sense of direction. I had to teach myself not to get pissed off, not to get frustrated, but instead, look up, look around. My God, Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

And the scale of Italian cities is completely different from cities here. Italian cities are lower, but the buildings are more massive: huge, stone Renaissance palazzo with gigantic arched portals you could sail a double-masted schooner through – and that’s the front door! All the stucco buildings are painted in muted earth tones – tan, olive, rust, gold and ivory – and they all have dark green shutters. Everything goes together in Italy. You have no idea how much that means to a gay man.

And there’s an undeclared competition between neighbors to see who can grow the most beautiful, the most colorful window boxes. Ivy, older than your grandmother, wisteria vines with their grape-like clusters of lavender flowers hang from the arches that span the narrow passageways ... There are worse things in life than getting lost in Florence.

George Savino is a writer and story teller who created and performed his one-man show, “After Italy,” in 1999 once he returned to Chicago after living for three years in Italy. George moved back to Florence in early 2006.