In March of 2019 Rebecka was invited to Florence by the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children. The Executive Committee of the Global Partnership had tasked a Working Group, chaired by UNICEF and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children. Rebecka’s role was to share perspectives and focus discussion on what type of knowledge is needed to select, adapt and expand/scale up activities to prevent and respond to violence against children globally.
UNICEF, also known as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide. It is known around the world as Innocenti.
Just a word about being allowed to travel with Rebecka as her expertise is requested at these international meetings and conferences. When we met in 1983 Rebecka was a community organizer in National City, California working to empower the Latino community. She had a bachelors in anthropology, with dreams of working in public health some day. And as the old cigarette ads read:
Rebecka had traveled ahead and I would meet her in Florence. I flew through New Jersey and spotted this young traveler who pretty well sums up how many of us feel at this point in the pandemic.
Our Stay-cation in Florence. Rebecka plans two varieties of vacation trips: busy road trips to see the sights in a country we are both unfamiliar with such as Scotland, or the second type where we embed ourselves in the middle of a walkable city she knows well. Florence was one of our nesting vacation where we would just settle in for a while and experience a place, more like residents and not just as tourists. Rebecka chose a hotel in the heart of Florence which offered just such an opportunity, the Hotel Palazzo Guadagni.
It was old and as you walked the stairs you felt the presence of countless folks who had made this ascent.
Our room was at the top, under ancient roof timbers.
And the view from the window probably hadn’t changed in 100 years.
One of the charming things about traveling with Rebecka is that while she can be a whiz with a map, she loses her sense of direction in the places we stay. Whether it is an English manor houses or here in Florence, finding our room or the way out is a constant guessing game for her. I asked her once about this and she replied, “I have been bumbling my way around places my whole life. I’m used to it.” We had gone down these hotel stairs a dozen time and I had watched Rebecka try and find her way out, making the same mistake time after time, so I decided to capture it for posterity. She is as patient with herself as the GPS intoning, “Recalculating.” Wait for it!
From the hotel balcony we could see the Borgo Santo Spirito market.
As you stepped out the front door we walked right into a lovely part of Italian life, the local market.
We ventured out of the neighborhood in search of the Arno River and the Bridge of Gold: Ponte Vecchio
At times the path got a little confusing.
The Ponte Vecchio – literally the “Old Bridge” – has been a fixture of Florence’s ancient streets since the 13th century. When it was built it served as the first bridge across the Arno, and since then has endured hundreds of years and numerous wars. After World War II it was once again the only bridge in Florence. (Text credit: Italy Perfect)
And, of course, Rebecka couldn’t introduce me to Florence without a visit to the Uffizi Galleries and one of my favorite parts of visiting museums is watching Rebecka slip into quiet contemplation.
I am a people watcher and I am intrigued on how galleries seem to lend themselves to intriguing still life moments.
For me, enjoying a painting is searching for some evidence of the human that painted it, a hair, a fingerprint, an odd brush stroke, and at the Uffizi there was a wonderful example of an artist’s change of direction. This painting was displayed in a way you could see the finish painting, and a project that had been abandoned on the back..
From the gallery window I saw something I had to capture for Iliana who had been coxswain for Georgetown University crew.
For the best view of Florence Rebecka led me up the hill to the Gate of San Niccolò
On the way back to the hotel we were drawn into a chapel by the sound of a choir practicing.
After a few days we headed for the Santa Maria Novella (SMN) Train Station, next stop, Venice!