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Pretend you're a detective and look at this picture for clues. Come on Sherlock, what do you see?
Okay: Storefronts? And the buildings look old? And what else? A sign on the building? What's it say?
It reads "Passo Carrabile" under the Commune Di Firenze red circle with a slash. Now look at the curb. See the cutout in front of the doorway where the three wheeled truck's parked? Do you get what's going on here? That truck's parked inside of the store. You go in there, you walk around the truck. But it's an elegant shop! You realize how quickly city codes in the US would make all of that illegal? In the United States we may enjoy the past, but we don't honor it. Our codes not only make adaptive use like this illegal, we cannot even build glorious antique buildings today. No wonder everything looks dropped from a cookie cutter!
That sign means that you can't park in front of that cutout: That this is a driveway.
In Florence in particular, and Italy in general - they have learned to adopt antiquities, and to adapt to their peculiarities. In a lot of ways these are the shops which Leonardo visited, and in a lot of ways the simply aren't the same. Built in maybe the fifteenth century, that facade may actually cover up an ancient Roman wall. Yet behind it are electrical and forced air ducts. The places have modern plumbing and sewage. And this store has even found a way to compete with the traffic crunch of downtown modern Florence.
NOTE: To follow the thread of this October 2007 Italian visit from its first post start by clicking here to goto October 7th, and work forward.