FLORENCE, Italy—Another art happens in the people’s faces. They crane up to gaze at him, bored, amazed, glazed-over. I ask the khaki-suited man who works here what it’s like. He shrugs, uninterested. “Io, e lui,” he tells me. “Sempre lui.” Me, and him. Always him. He gestures to the crowds around the lui in question with a sloppy motion of his salt-and-pepper head. “È troppo casino,” It’s too much chaos, he says.
The guy wanders off to his lunch break and I am left with lui himself, who is marble and won’t tell me anything, and those who stare up at him, who are made of flesh and skin. It is a casino, I think, some of it—after ten weeks of travel, two months of which as a travel writer, I have grown sick of the guidebooks and lines and endless repeated conversations, the forced merrymaking and illusory “authentic,” all the tired tropes that travel inevitably brings.
Yet I am touched, suddenly, by the incredible tenderness of the tourists’ arm muscles, the veins in their hands. There is a craftsmanship to their neck sinews I can only see now as they crane their necks as children might, when looking at a sky of stars. Even here tired and half-heartedly, more out of obligation than poetry, as some undoubtedly are, they are more finely wrought in their sunburn than the marble David, a tepid curiosity on their upturned faces, soft throat-skin and thrown-back heads.