Being present to commune with Florence

The past couple of weeks, I went out for early morning strolls through Florence and romps in the gardens. I was also fortunate to have caught a stunning sunset after a rainstorm. When I walk around Florence, I make a point of communing with her. It is during these moments when I am aware of my surroundings that I can enjoy the beauty more and capture unique moments. Rarely do I search for a unique view because it is always different when I am more present in the moment.

Living in Florence :: Being present to commune with Florence

Duomo — July 13, 2020

The church bells chimed seven times as I strode through Piazza della Signoria. The light breeze cooled my skin from the shards of sun seeping through my clothes. Enormous pots of colorful flowers placed on via dei Calzaiuoli compelled me to stick close to the doors of the unlit shops. 

A gust of wind swept hair into my face as I curved around the Battistero to face the Duomo near the corner of Borgo San Lorenzo. Not a single passed as I admired the sun radiating behind the buildings bordering the Duomo. The white, green, and pink marble emanated such splendor that I sighed. The scattered clouds passing in front of the sun altered the temperature of the air by at least a few degrees.

Standing in Piazza San Giovanni with misshapen blocks of pietra serena below my feet, the Duomo in front of me, and the cloudy pale blue sky above, I tried to remain still so I could feel Florence’s heart beat. As I dropped my shoulders and inhaled a single breath, I could feel my connection to Florence become more palpable. Her energy gained strength as it swirled around the piazza. I could feel it slip into my heart and expand. 

When a man cranked opened an umbrella on the café’s terrace behind me, I realized I wasn’t alone. Only a few moments later, a woman rode her bike a few meters away from me and two runners wearing yellow fluorescent tops ran next to the marble steps leading up to the Duomo. Regardless of how many people were passing through the piazza, the serenity in the air around the piazza was unwavering.

Before I headed down via de’ Cerratani, I took in one deep breath and widened my gaze. I try to make every day special by immersing myself in beauty and communing with my surroundings.

Ponte Santa Trinita — July 15, 2020

After the rain fell from a rumbling sky in the afternoon, I doubted I would head outside to watch the sunset. The thin layer of clouds lured me to bid farewell to the day. The streets have become busier with tourists lately. Groups—large and small—drifted along the streets to peruse the shops, visit the museums, have drinks and meals on terraces, and stroll through the narrow streets and piazzas.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Ponte Santa Trinita

When I arrived on Ponte Santa Trinita, the wind was brisk. I rolled down the sleeves of my cotton blouse. Earlier in the day, it was so hot that I had wanted to take it off. With my legs leaning against the stone wall, I basked in the moment. The sun was inching its way toward the distant hills; the clouds were dissipating, and the colors became vibrant and then mellowed.

For the first time, I couldn’t count the number of people on the bridge. It felt like a typical summer evening in Florence. A small group of people zipped by on Segways while countless cars, scooters, bikes, and pedestrians made their way across the bridge. The latter two in both directions. A mix of languages swirled around me. Some I recognized and others I didn’t. 

I enjoyed the moments when the sun peeked through the holes in the clouds, shooting its rays of light up into the sky, tainting the other clouds, and stretching across the water toward me. A few people halted when they noticed the sky and immediately took a photo. 

Watching the sunset from the same spot is magical because every time it is different. The cloud formations, the quality of the light, the variety of colors, the position of the sun, and the water of the Arno. Mother Nature paints the sky and adorns the city in a way that always delights those who take notice.

Giardino delle Rose — July 17, 2020

The scent of freshly cut grass greeted me as I stepped up into the Giardino delle Rose. Between the cracks of the stone pathway, blades of grass poked out. The relentless sound of the cicadas drowned out the voices of people talking in the garden. I rushed to the grassy area and navigated the rosebushes, circling a few times to admire each of the brightly colored roses. Countless bees dipped into the multicolored roses, butterflies flopped in the air, and a female blackbird hopped around the dirt below the rose bushes. As I walked past the olive trees, I couldn’t help but smile at the tiny green olives shimmering on the branches.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Giardino delle Rose

Most people who entered the Giardino delle Rose didn’t stay for long. One couple ate lunch under the persimmon tree, the gardeners stood under the angel’s trumpet trees at the top of the garden, and one woman sat on the wooden bench on the terrace above the rose bushes reading a book. A group of tourists hiked up the gravel path to take a photo of themselves overlooking the garden before continuing up to  Piazzale Michelangiolo.

After walking around the garden under the sun, I searched for a spot to rest and found a shady one under a hazelnut tree. When I looked up, I gasped. The Duomo was centered between a rosebush and an olive tree with the green grass leading up to it and the pale blue sky embracing it. 

The warm breeze enveloped me with the fragrance of roses. Sometimes sweet, sometimes fruity. With one hand, I grazed the lush carpet of grass, delighting in the texture of it. A gecko wriggling across the lawn caught my eye. I pulled out my iPhone to take its picture, but it scurried away after hopping once.

Two women with five children set up a picnic under a shady tree a few meters from me. I never had a picnic in the Giardino delle Rose before, but I might have to plan one soon. Surrounded by fragrant roses with hazelnuts dangling above my head and the view of the Duomo across from me would be delicious.

Ponte Vecchio — July 24, 2020

At half-past eight, I rushed outside to bask in Florence as it was beginning its day. I welcomed the cool breeze along Lungarno Diaz, where motorini were parked perpendicular to the sidewalk. With the balmy afternoons and evenings we’ve been having, the cool breeze was a welcome treat. I breathed in the scent of wet pavement as the sound of the streetcleaner’s vehicle was fading into the distance.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Ponte Vecchio

I had no plan as I strolled along the Arno enjoying the peacefulness surrounding me. The sun was warming up the air. One couple walked up the steps from the Piazzale degli Uffizi, a few meters ahead of me, and darted to the terrace above the river. I slowed down my pace when I reached the shade of the Museo Galileo, where I could see the Ponte Vecchio glowing above the Arno.  

At every opening, I peered out at the Ponte Vecchio. I rushed to the Lungarno degli Acciaiuoli, which is now closed to traffic. Square cement pots containing flowers allowed just enough space for pedestrians, bikes, and strollers to pass through. 

I walked in the middle of the street, admiring the wide expanse leading to Ponte Santa Trinita. One man sat on a hotel terrace sipping his coffee as he brushed the crumbs from his pastry off his lap. I hopped onto the sidewalk as I heard a monopattino (scooter) buzzing behind me. 

With the red brick wall under my elbows, I basked in the tranquility around me. Hushed voices, light footsteps, and slow moving water in the river. I could have stood there all morning facing the buildings across the Arno, losing myself in the shimmering Arno and the view of the Ponte Vecchio. 

On my walk home, I stopped abruptly at the corner of the Ponte Vecchio. The sunlight beaming above the rooftops highlighted the white flag with Florence’s red giglio on it.  Even though people—both tourists and residents—were milling around, I took a photo with no one passing by. 

Mornings are my favorite time to commune with Florence as the sun warms up the city both in temperature and in color. The silence fades into the background as businesses open, deliverymen make their rounds, locals head off to work, and tourists organize their day ahead.

Giardino Bardini — July 30, 2020

Instead of walking up the stone staircase through the lower garden, I made my way through the snakelike gravel pathway in search of shade. I kept close to the leafy bushes to enjoy their fragrant scent. After taking in a deep breath of cool air, I darted across the central area between the two hillside gardens. The sun singed through my clothes, but I wanted to admire the roses along the incline below the fruit trees. Some roses were beaming while others were withering.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Giardino Bardini

I took refuge under the shady pergola where the wisteria vines stretched across the pathway, admiring a few clusters of purple flowers peeking out. The hydrangeas with their white, pink, purple, green, and fuchsia petals glowed next to me while long pods dangled overhead. A cool breeze swept through and convinced me to stay in place. I gazed at the panorama through the frail leaves and twisted branches of the wisteria vine. A smile spread across my face when I heard a few notes of a lone blackbird.

When a string of opaque clouds passed in front of the sun, casting a soft shadow over Florence, I made a beeline for the olive grove behind the pergola. The faint voices of people talking in the garden’s bar under the loggia drifted in and out while the hum of the traffic along the Arno lingered. Mixed with the sweet scent of tall grass was a pungent smell of rosemary that came to me in waves. 

After meandering in circles through the olive grove, I sat on one of the few benches in the shade near the villa’s terrace. An orchestra of cicadas echoed overhead. The view of Florence at the end of the terrace was so enticing that I walked to the railing. A lemon tree in a terracotta pot that was large enough for me to sit in caught my eye. It wasn’t just that it was new to this spot, but that its fruit was ripening on the branches. In Florence, I have only seen lemon trees in a limonaia (lemon house) or private garden, giving me the impression that they are not only precious, but special.  

To capture this delightful moment, I ducked under a leafy branch to take a photo of a lemon with the view of the Duomo behind it. 

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