Few informatically-updated travellers today would opt for places without a Wi-Fi connection. Hotel managers tell me that the second question prospective guests ask after “is there any room”, is “is there a Wi-Fi connection?”. Sometimes, even the order of questions is reversed. After all if there’s no Wi-Fi what’s the point of staying or even having a cup of coffee there?
When I first started travelling on an intercontinental scale the fastest method of communication (after the expensive and to-be-avoided phone call – if a reliable line could be found, that is) was the aerogramme – the blue-coloured air-mail letter-cum-envelope which, hopefully, would reach home within the week.
Now, sadly I know, I begin to have withdrawal symptoms if I can’t get to a Wi-Fi point within the day. Blessed are the communication dinosaurs of this world!
In Florence, I discovered the other day, there is no need, if you don’t have your laptop with you (as yet I have to purchase a tablet), to sniff out an internet point (and pay for your time on it). All that is required to enjoy a relaxing session catching up with your telephone bills, facebook messages, emails, bank account balances and the rest of the paraphernalia of virtual friendships and businesses is to join a local library.
This is what I did and a fine, state of the art, place it was too with friendly staff, a nice collection of books, current newspapers, a row of the latest computers, apt wall-art quotes and studious users. I just presented my Italian ID card and it didn’t even matter that I was not a resident of the comune di Firenze – within a short time I was the proud owner of a library membership card and internet access password – all absolutely free and all available at any other library I cared to use in the entire Tuscany region!
I’d loaded the files I wanted to put on my blog in my telefonino and it was no problem to connect a line to the USB input on the flat screen and upload its contents. The hour’s navigation time allotted daily to library users was more than sufficient for me to complete my tasks.
The library is dedicated to Mario Luzi, a great poet born near Florence who died in 2005. His portrait hangs on a wall in the library.
Here is a beautiful poem by Mario called Amanti (Lovers):
Che mi riserva rivederti, amore,
quale viaggio t’hanno dato i venti?
L’oscuro avvolge questi giorni chiari,
circola forse in questa luce densa
qui dove a macchie dondolanti o ferme
filtra oro ed il vino matura.
Spicco dal cielo questo frutto splendido,
chiudo gli occhi su quel che porta seco,
o lo stare sulle spine
o il dirsi addio a cuore gonfio,
questo tempo nel tempo senza fine.
This is my translation of it:
What brings you here, love,
what journey has the wind given you?
Darkness surrounds these clear days,
flows perhaps in this opaque light
here where in unsteady or in stable spots
gold filters and wine matures.
I pluck this splendid fruit from the sky,
I close my eyes to what brings it,
or being on tenterhooks
or saying goodbye with a heavy heart,
at this time in endless time.