Walking along the Arno

If I didn't open the finestre (windows) this morning, I would have thought it was a warm day. When I approached my finestre, I could already feel the cold wafting from the glass. When I opened the persiane (shutters), the cold air surprised me. The clear sky was a light blue thanks to the winter sun casting its soft light from behind the hills and onto the city.

I left our apartment and headed to the Arno by walking through Piazza Mentana. Before turning the corner to walk along the lungarno (the road alongside the Arno river), I looked up at San Miniato. I could barely see it with the sun shining so close to it. The trees and hillside were so dark against the bright sunlight that they looked almost unreal, as if they were made of cardboard and stuck on top of the hill for decoration.

The wind whipped past me as soon as I arrived on the lungarno thanks to the cars, trucks, and motorini (scooters) that hurried past me. I giggle every time I see the long line of parked motorini squeezed together along the sidewalk next to the Camera di Comercio. Every night they disappear and cars take their place, but by 9am all the motorini return as if by magic.

I always take a peek at the Ponte Vecchio to see how many people are on it when I walk by. Today the lights from the shops cast their glow out onto the sidewalk of the ponte (bridge). There were a few couples walking together and only a handful of small groups. Everyone was bundled up with sciarpe (scarves), guanti (gloves), and even cappelli (hats) to keep warm.

I enjoy walking along the Arno even if it less convenient for me and all I can smell are exhaust fumes. I love walking along the fiume, looking up at all the variety of multicolored and unique buildings and seeing all the cars whiz past me. Along this part of the Arno, Florence feels like a bustling city even though it is at its heart a small town. The city feels alive and ready to spring into action. It always motivates me and allows my mind to freely wander. When I go down other streets, I'm distracted by people walking around me and shops with their attractive vetrine (display windows).

My favorite part of walking along the Arno is crossing a ponte. Any of them will do because each one gives me two different views of the city: one to the East and one to the West. I don't know how anyone, no matter how busy he or she might be, could cross a ponte in Florence and not look out at the city or even the fiume. Besides the buildings and the hills around the city, the reflection on the water and the other ponti along the Arno are wonderful sights to enjoy. I have a friend who throws kisses out to the Arno in both directions each time he crosses it in his car.

I no longer say that I am in love with Florence because I feel that my love for my city has grown from that initial infatuation. Not only do I find its external beauty stunning, but the joy its loveliness brings me is even greater. It's not just pleasing to the eye, but also to my soul. Some people criticize the Arno and its murky water or the city and its dirty streets, but all I see is beauty. It is a choice to see beauty everywhere: one has to not only be open to it, but also to let it invade one's heart and settle there.

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