From March 19 to March 23, 2012, I participated in the meeting Domes in the World, held in Florence. As a Belgian citizen teaching mathematics in Brussels, the capital of Europe, I was concerned about visiting Italy because of what movies and recent political events have portrayed.
However, the opposite of what my prejudices suggested proved true: Florentines turned out to be very friendly and helpful people. Not only I, but other colleagues were surprised by the Florentines' friendliness. For example, I often went to an inexpensive restaurant, where the meals were served on a kind of conveyor. The staff there was so kind, and even the restaurant's cleaning staff-every day, and until late at night!
My experience in leaving Florence deserves special mention. At the airport, I was having trouble finding the place to return my rented car. I started panicking, fearing that I would miss my flight. I asked the woman at the airport parking terminal desk, but she was not able to direct me. As I very nervously headed back to the car, I saw the woman leaving her desk and running towards me. Had I insulted her? Was she coming to berate me? ‘Follow that shuttle!' she cried, and pointing to a bus going to the parking lot for rental cars.
Florence is a remarkable place, not only because of its well-known history, art and gastronomy, but also because of its friendly citizens. ‘Friendly Florence': it could be a new slogan!
Dr. Dirk Huylebrouck
Department of Architecture
Sint-Lucas, Brussels, Belgium