Francesca Tafi, architect at Ryder, discusses her recent team trip to Florence.
Mix together a bunch of Scousers and a Florentine. Add passion for architecture and travelling in good company. Stir until blended. Let the mixture rest for two hours in an airplane and then mix it with sun, art, food and random people. Cook at 20°C for three days. For the icing, whisk a bit of Italian drama, red wine and laughs a go… and voilà, a boss team trip is ready to be served.
I think that for a born and bred Scouse, going to Florence for the first time is like taking a leap into another reality - no more curtain walls (a mullion to me was just a strange Revit command in my first days at Ryder), no more food chains, no wind, no good beer, almost no contemporary buildings, no boundless parks, no more polite people queuing for their turn.
The best way to enjoy Florence is wandering around, letting the city itself unveil, lane after lane, all its pieces of art, (according to UNESCO, nearly one third of world’s art treasures reside in Florence) renaissance palaces, statues, hidden passages and belvederes.
We experienced one of the most breathtaking revelations when we had just arrived in town. It is getting dark, the air is filled with the chirping of starlings and the annoying honk of reckless Italian drivers. We set forth into streets that get narrower and narrower and slowly turn their tarmac into cobblestone. When the urban pattern start getting repetitive, we turn a corner and the Duomo (the cathedral), along with the bell tower and baptistry, stands there, dwarfing all the building around with its remarkable marble cladding on a dark sky. The jewel of this religious complex is the dome - the largest masonry one in the world, designed by a goldsmith with no formal architectural training, who left no models nor drawings to indicate his construction methods. Climbing up to the top of it the following day, squeezed between its double skin, gave us an idea of the genius behind this achievement of early Renaissance.
Meanwhile, what is the real reason for travelling to Italy? Food! And, of course, we tried all the delights that the city is proud of; from antipasti platters to share, the famous Fiorentina steak, the Lampredotto (a street food sandwich with cow stomach that only few brave dared to try), to Tiramisù, gelato, caffè (only Espresso allowed) and eventually Limoncello, a lemon liquor that always puts an end to endless course meals.
On the last day I prepared a small surprise for the team - I took everybody home. My family welcomed us with one of the things I miss the most, la tavola (the table) - never too short to fit new friends, colourful with mamma’s treats and loud with good conversation and jokes.
This journey gave us the chance to strengthen our bond while enjoying a beautiful and yet fragile country. Travelling is the sap of life, discovering new cultures and costumes is a special way to understand who we are. Therefore, I thank Ryder, once again, for giving us this opportunity.