Steve and I have been wanting to visit one of the roof-top bars in Florence. Several of the fancy international hotels have these spaces where, I’m told, the views are amazing (duh), and the privilege of drinking upstairs al fresco will set you back, at a minimum, 20 euros per basic cocktail served by a surly waiter. Surely we could do better than that.

Steve found the perfect spot in the Santo Spirito neighborhood. Last night, we had cocktails at sunset on an upstairs loggia that is part of an Italian hotel housed in a palazzo built by a silk merchant in 1505. The service was warm and friendly and the prices did not shock my conscience. We have found our sweet spot! In fact, we are going back tomorrow night, when we will have some friends visiting.

We sat near a darling couple with a three-month old baby boy and two little pugs, and chatted with them for about an hour. She is American, he is British and they live in London. They are here for a couple of months, in the middle of his six months of parental leave from Goldman Sachs. They asked us what we thought about Florence, so I’ve tried to pull together a few impressions here at the 5 1/2 week point.

We absolutely love it here and feel grateful every day that we are actually living in this beautiful, historic and special city. The people are so kind and helpful and take pride in their work. We have made repeat visits to a handful of restaurants, and they are starting to recognize and remember us. A couple of days ago, a waiter brought us two small flutes of prosecco, just for fun and to thank us for being repeat customers.

Curiously (to an American), many shops and restaurants here keep unusual hours, or no hours at all. There are some little businesses right on our street that appear to be going concerns, but are rarely or never open. Pro tip: If Google tells you a place you’d like to visit is open on a particular day or at a particular time, you should regard that advice as aspirational. I think this is just how the Italians roll, pandemic or not.

For example, we would like to try a Mexican place that gets good reviews. Both Google and the big “Aperto” sign right on the front window say it’s open, but that is fake news, amici miei. It is never open. (We did find another Mexican place and it was surprisingly authentic and very good. Right in the middle of Florence!) It took us about three weeks to get a reservation at Sostanza, famous for its butter chicken, because they just don’t answer their phone. We have tried, more than once, dropping by during the lunch hour to make a reservation in person, but they were closed. Steve’s favorite wine store closes for a couple of hours in the early afternoon, but when it reopens on a given day has proven … unpredictable. Fortunately, it’s down the street from a pastry and gelato shop that has banana & chocolate tiramisu and never seems to close, so I’m willing to take one for the team and wait.

Other random thoughts in no particular order: I’m so glad we came here in quiet February. Even though it’s still early March, the crowds are building. Lots of people here strut down the avenue with little bulldogs and they are so freakin cute, I can’t even stand it. It’s wall-to-wall white folks, far less visibly diverse than D.C. I’m surprised by how many people here smoke cigarettes. Not vape pens, but actual death sticks. Some businesses are starting to skip asking for a Super Green Pass (covid vax card showing two shots and a booster), but we saw a woman get turned away from a museum the other day because she got her booster shot more than six months ago. We still have to wear a mask indoors everywhere. I read that Italy may make some official changes to loosen the restrictions this month. We shall see.

We are leaning into slowing down. It’s not such a big change, given that life as we knew it has been altered by the pandemic for two years and counting, but it is a big change from how we would typically move through a city. Some of our favorite days have been spent just walking around, exploring, window-shopping and taking it all in. In other words, flânerie.