Thursday, April 8, 2010

St. Zenobius of Florence (337 to 417)

"This place looks so familiar," was all I could think as I unpacked my bags and opened the bedroom window which overlooked the Arno River. There were hundreds of pensiones in Florence, Italy but something seemed special about this one. Still, I'd never been to the city before and I wasn't about to linger any longer trying to figure it out.
I skipped through the hallway into the lobby and the friendly woman who greeted me said, "Una stanza con vista."
That was it! "A Room with a View!" As I exited the building I pretended, for a moment, that I was Helena Bonham Carter scurrying about to the strains of Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro," only I was wearing sandals, a strapless sundress, and sunglasses.
Last I heard, the pension was renovated and became Hotel degli Orafi.
Since my grandparents were from the area around Rome, I didn't think anything about Florence would "click" for me. So I was surprised to recognize a scent from my childhood as I walked down the street.
It wasn't lemon biscotti or fresh basil or amaretto gelato. It was the smell of cement being mixed with water. I spotted an old man fixing the steps of his basement and I thought of my grandfather, and my uncles who worked for him, and the houses they built.
And, it wasn't just Florence, but throughout the entire country, there were things (people, food, and sights) that brought back memories and made me feel at home.
I'm proud to say that I climbed Il Duomo (Basilica di Santa Maria delle Fiore). It was built between 1296 and 1436 in the Gothic style and houses the remains of St. Zenobius of Florence.
He was born in Florence in 337 to noble pagan parents. St. Zenobius was baptized by Bishop Theodore and later became a bishop of Florence. He gained the friendship of St. Ambrose through his virtues. St. Zenobius resurrected five people and died in 417. His feast day is May 25.

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