Appreciating moments filled with beauty

Over the past few weeks as I perused my beloved city, I experienced many sweet moments to immerse myself in the beauty offered to me. Sometimes I went to the gardens where I was certain to find beauty, but sometimes beauty found me like when I caught the sunset from Ponte alle Grazie. 

Living in Florence :: Appreciating moments filled with beauty

On all these occasions, Florence wrapped her arms around me and encouraged me to savor my surroundings even more. Breathing in the sweet scent of roses and cypress trees and listening to the water flow over the weir were delights for my senses.

As is always the case, selecting one picture to represent my time is like choosing one day to commemorate an entire month. Every photo is only a glimpse of my excursion, but I experienced so much more. Reveling in Florence’s splendor is like an ebb and flow of love between us. The more of her beauty that I receive, the more appreciation I feel for her.

Giardino delle Rose — August 26, 2020
Summer is coming to an end: the cicadas have all but disappeared and only a few butterflies flop around in the air. After arriving in front of the persimmon tree at the edge of the lawn, I slipped off my shoes. I let my bare feet sink into the cool grass as I searched for roses to dip my nose into.

Before breathing in the sweet perfume of a bright pink rose, a bee arrived. It climbed inside the rose’s velvety petals, getting lost before finding the fuzzy pollen at its center. I smiled as a few of its petals tumbled to the ground. After the bee moved on to another rose, I leaned in to take a whiff. My eyelids slowly relaxed, allowing me to appreciate the rose’s sweet perfume.

The wind rustled the trees and nudged the powdery white clouds to the west. When the church bells rang at noon, they created an atmosphere of celebration. Voices quieted down while the birds chimed in.

Couples roamed the garden, taking photos of themselves surrounded by roses with the panoramic view of Florence behind them. I spotted only one woman sitting under a tree reading a magazine. When I circled around to stand in the shade provided by the hazelnut tree, I sat down. I stretched my legs out in front of me, basking in the cool sensation of the grass touching my legs. I smiled when a female blackbird hopped around the base of the golden rain tree, tossing leaves to the side to reach the tree’s brown pods.

Whenever the wind died down, the heat squeezed me, sometimes too tightly. But as soon as the wind picked back up again, the trees whispered, scattering their yellow leaves onto the bright green blades of grass.

When I heard Santa Croce’s bells ring, I leapt up and dashed toward the fountain where lily pads covered the surface of the water. The rosebushes swayed in the breeze, bringing with it the scent of algae, wet stones, and grass.

Instead of exiting the garden through the gate at the bottom, I hiked up to the top to walk down the scalinata. I stood under the long branches hanging while standing at the edge of the wide stone steps. My heart melted as I embraced the union of Florence’s natural beauty and its manmade beauty. It’s a sight almost too exquisite to behold.

Sunset from Ponte Santa Trinita — August 31, 2020
No one was in a rush on this mild summer evening. People spread out across Lungarno degli Acciaiuoli as they strolled between Ponte Vecchio and Ponte Santa Trinita. One woman in high heels tiptoed past me, gripping onto her skirt with one hand, while her companion swung a paper bag by its handle. 

Living in Florence, Italy :: Ponte Santa Trinita

As soon as I arrived on Ponte Santa Trinita, I basked in my surroundings, admiring additional details with each breath. Initially, I was transfixed by the thick band of clouds stenciled across the sky like mountains, acting as a backdrop to the wispy ones gliding north.

A few people straddled the stone wall along Lungarno Corsini, holding drinks in one hand while eating finger food off of small plates. The bar’s music traipsed over the Arno with the intermittent clanging of silverware.

My eyes jumped to the other side of the Arno as it followed a white heron flying low above the water and landing in the tall straw-colored grass at the edge of the riverbed. The color of the sky shimmered on the ripply water, reminding me of one of Monet’s paintings.

Humid gusts of wind swept past me, carrying with them an assortment of odors: musky cologne, fruity hairspray, cigarette smoke, and warm pizza. 

I often see the canottieri (rowers) on the Arno in the morning, but today was the first time I’d seen one in the evening. I smiled when I heard their oars splash into the water, propelling the boat forward.

The more details I admired during this sunset, the more joy I felt percolating in my heart. With fewer cars driving over the bridge, voices seemed louder. The mix of languages was clearer: Italian, French, English, German, and a few others I didn’t recognize.

As the sky became darker, an orange-red glow appeared behind San Frediano in Cestello. When the canottieri passed below me a second time, I gripped my iPhone and took their picture. 

Unexpected sunset from Ponte alle Grazie — September 2, 2020
One glimpse at the sky turned into a precious gift. Usually I take time out of my day to stroll along the Arno and arrive at a predetermined location to watch the sunset. Last night on my walk home along via dei Benci, the pastel-colored sky spurred me to pick up the pace to reach Ponte alle Grazie as quickly as possible.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Ponte alle Grazie

My only thought was how brilliant the sunset must be to cast such a bright pink, orange, and yellow glow onto the clouds above me. I rushed past two couples walking towards me, hopping off the sidewalk instead of navigating between them. When I arrived at the bridge, large groups had gathered along the railing. Almost everyone was facing the Ponte Vecchio, taking photos of the view.

To reach the middle of the bridge, I opted once again to walk in the street, avoiding to hinder one woman’s photo of her friend posing against the railing. As I zigzagged across the bridge, I pulled out my iPhone, unlocked it, and clicked on the Camera app.

When I arrived at my favorite spot, I let out a sigh, propped my elbows onto the metal railing, and snapped this photo. Taking photos is my way of capturing a moment with my heart. It’s a visual reminder of an instant that infused me with delight, tranquility, and love. A photo is a moment I can magically return to just by looking at it.

Listening to the steady flow of water cascading over the weir, I watched the sun tuck itself behind the blue-gray clouds. With every cool gust of wind, the colors muted, and the sky dimmed. My eyes jumped from the sky, to the bright green grass below the brick wall, the dimly lit Ponte Vecchio, and then the sun-kissed Palazzo Vecchio. As I turned to head home, most of the people on the bridge had disappeared.

I hadn’t planned on watching the sunset, but the sun’s vivid streaks of color in the sky lured me to it.

Giardino di Boboli — September 9, 2020
I wiggled my way past the crowds on Ponte Vecchio and headed down via Guicciardini, hopping from one side to the other in search of shade. Once I arrived in Piazza Pitti, I picked up the pace as the sun stung my bare arms. Spotting the long line of people huddled together to buy tickets, I continued down via Romana to the garden’s other entrance.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Giardino di Boboli

The woman at the Annalena entrance for the Giardino di Boboli escorted me to the metal gate and swung it open for me. After thanking her, we wished each other a “buona giornata.”

With every step on the wide gravel pathway, my body relaxed. The silence of nature replaced the noise of the traffic on the road beyond the stone wall. I meandered toward the alley lined with birch trees where green parrots dwell. I craned my neck to glimpse one of the wild parrots perched on a leafy branch overhead as it squawked.

After navigating my way down a dirt path with manicured bushes twice my height, I sat on a large stump and stretched my legs out in front of me. Most people in the gardens were seeking solace in the shade where the gentle breeze—albeit warm—was soothing. 

Voices came and went, but mostly I listened to the trees whispering and the parrots singing. The sweet scent of Mother Nature’s abundance enveloped me, infusing me with joy. Leaves floated to the ground from the trees every so often while a brown squirrel scampered up the tree and two robins hopped along the dirt path next to the tall hedge.

When the church bells rang at noon, I rushed to the area below the cypress-lined avenue. While only a few people were descending the promenade, all those ascending opted for shade by walking under the pergola on the left. I stood in the middle of the long row of trees and closed my eyes. After taking a video, I bowed my head and thanked the gardens for delighting my senses and infusing me with tranquility.

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