This month, Florence is expected to have a special visitor as Pope Francis attends the final day of the Italian Episcopal Conference “Mediterranean, Frontier of Peace” on February 27. Bringing together 100 mayors from key cities in the Mediterranean and bishops from all the Churches on Mediterranean shores, the convention is a collective commitment to peace, the environment, cooperation for development and social inclusion. Coming at a time of difficulty for Florentines, the papal visit will act as a beacon for introspection. It’s an opportunity for us to analyze the roles that faith and spirituality play in our lives.
In this issue of The Florentine, we provide details of the papal visit on February 27 (page 5) with comments from the Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, Archbishop of Florence, and Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, and American journalists Ryan and Molly McAnany draw parallels with former “Saintly Mayor”, Giorgio La Pira, who organized the Conference of the Mayors of Capital Cities in the Renaissance city back in 1955 (pages 6+7). Deirdre Pirro profiles Elia Dalla Costa, La Pira’s peer and former cardinal and archbishop of Florence (page 31). A Canadian priest based at the church of Santi Apostoli, Fr. Kramer Cameron talks about his vision for Florence’s international Catholic community (page 8) and architecture photographer Davide Virdis provides this month’s extraordinary cover and images of the city’s aqueducts beneath piazzale Michelangelo as part of a project for Publiacqua, which manages the city’s water supply (pages 16+17).
Covid is still on our minds of course, although the Omicron wave is showing signs of subsiding, hospital beds are gradually beginning to be freed up and the Italian government takes further measures to protect citizens. Effective this month, the over-50s are legally required to vaccinate; failure to do so will result in a wrist-slapping one-time fine to the tune of 100 euro. On the other side of the same coin, the over-50s must be able to show proof of vaccination or recovery from coronavirus in the last six months (known as the super green pass or green pass rafforzato) to access the workplace; fines range between 600 and 1,500 euro. And there’s an additional step: this month, expect spot checks for the basic green pass in shops, banks and post offices (negative antigen test 48 hours before or PCR 72 hours before, proof of vaccination or recovery in the last six months). While business owners aren’t obliged to scan everyone’s QR code, they do reserve the right to check. I’ll be honest: it can be a bit of a pain. This morning, on my way into the office, Trenitalia changed our platform at the last minute and every single commuter was stopped for a green pass check on the chilly steps up to the tracks, causing consternation. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is aware of our collective exhaustion, especially for parents who have been continually faced with quarantined kids, even if vaccinated. As from February 7, that is set to change. “We want an Italy that is increasingly open, especially for our children,” commented PM Draghi, as his government approved measures removing distance learning for all vaccinated kids and otherwise halving the duration of distance learning from 10 to 5 days, with the exception of children between 0 and 6 years given their exclusion from the vaccination campaign. Other new measures include an unlimited green pass for people who have had three doses or two doses and recovery from Covid. Effective February 7, international travellers will be able to stay in hotels and eat in restaurant with the basic green pass (vaccinated, including with Sputnik or vaccines not authorized in Italy, or recovered in the last six months or negative antigen test 48 hours before or PCR 72 hours before). Florence, for one, cannot wait to welcome visitors again.
But now, as we emerge from a long winter of stunted social life and interrupted economic activity, it’s time to embrace the sentiment in 1 Corinthians 13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Which brings us to Valentine’s Day. Our usual gift guide (pages 20+21) concentrates on the city’s arts and crafts, while Ashton Saldana gives us the lowdown on romantic February 14 experiences, from heart-shaped pizzas to flower deliveries. Hershey Felder explores the palazzo behind the partially opened shutter in piazza Santissima Annunziata (pages 18+19), where the ghost of a 16th-century bride is still said to await the return of her husband, who was lost in battle. A more modern take on love stories is explained by Phoebe Hunt, who talks with Matteo Sani, founder of Fotoautomatica, about the vintage photo booths he restored and placed around town.