Battered by a tsunami of tourists rolling past as I stood between the Duomo and the Baptistry, I felt the urge to write a sonnet in doggerel – which came together as I ran the gauntlet of Indians and Bangladeshis who seem to run the long rows of tourist stalls outside the market proper. I jotted it down on the back of a downloaded train ticket… and here it is:

Ghosts of the Medicis stalk the lanes,

alleys and palaces that once were theirs –

now veiled by visitors, whose gawps and stares

(directed by their tourist-programmed brains)

pay little notice to the stench of drains;

for God has left – if He was ever there –

and there’s no longer incense on the air.

The stink persists here, even when it rains.

And yet there’s charm. too in the cobbled streets,

a medieval magic blankets all,

drowning the tourist clamour which competes

with importuning vendors at each stall…

In spite of this, I think I understand

why some still view Firenzi as sublimely grand.