Stop and Smell the Cake

The very best stories capture the reader by involving all of the senses. The ones that I have read about the 1966 flood in Florence focus quite a lot on the smells of the ancient mud, dragged up from the river bottom; on the smell of heating oil released into the water and the smell of decaying animals swept down the river. When I write about my travel adventures, I tend to focus on the visual but very rarely on the what a place smells like and this could be letting myself loose some interesting memories.

After posting a photograph of a particularly delicious looking Christmas cake on Facebook earlier this week together with my usual complaint about how I really should avoid such belly fat increasing treats, a friend commented on the posting the following advice –

“Stop and smell the rose… oh wait…
Stop, eat cake, you’re on holidays!”


Michael’s comment got me thinking about what are the smells of Florence in the twenty-first century. I can’t say that I really have taken much notice before and I even started to think that I might be suffering from anosmia – the lack of a sense of smell (thank you Google) so I set out with the task of finding the smells of Florence.

Needless to say that after almost 50 years, there is not longer any odour of decay hanging about the city. In fact, the first thing that I have noticed is the smell of detergent and disinfectant that the store keepers use every day when they wash down their front steps ready for the days trade. Florence is a very clean city where every single cigarette butt gets swooped up by someone with a broom and pan or driving a little street sweeper.

And on the topic of cigarettes and their butts, that is another ubiquitous smell, not just here but all over Italy. This could also explain some of my ignorance of what Florence smells like. I seem to be constantly holding my breath while walking through clouds of exhaled cigarette smoke. Come on, people, get the message! Smoking is NOT cool. It just rots your lungs.

My next target for researching smells was the Mercato Centrale. Surely I could find some interesting places to sniff here. Not much olfactory joy here either. Even the seafood stalls are surprisingly fresh and odour free. The one place that I did get a good whiff was a stall selling all thing truffle; truffles, truffle oil, shaved truffles, even truffle cream to add to your pasta. It was possible to imagine the cool, dark earth they had been found in from their aroma.

Maybe I am an anosmia sufferer or maybe I just need a really good nose blow before I can find the olfactory signature of this city. The research continues.

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