To love Florence is to embrace her entirely

Over the past couple of weeks, I enjoyed an unexpected sunset from Piazzale Michelangiolo, admired the fog settle upon the river from Ponte Santa Trinita, delighted in returning to the Giardino Bardini, basked in the blue hour from the Ponte Vecchio, and embraced Florence from the Giardino delle Rose.

Living in Florence :: To love Florence is to embrace her entirely

To love Florence is to love all of her: from her architecture, museums, and churches to her gardens, bridges, and river. What I enjoy most about living here is how the weather, the light, and Mother Nature emphasize her grandeur. It’s almost as if their primary role is to render Florence even more magnificent. As I navigate my beloved city, I open my heart wider in order to embrace more of her details with every step.

Sunset from Piazzale Michelangiolo — January 25, 2021
I didn’t stop when I arrived in front of the locked gate of the Giardino delle Rose. I had hoped to arrive before it closed so I could admire the rose bushes scattered around the grassy areas. Rather than heading back home, I continued up the scalinata. The sweet scent of cypresses lightened my steps. 

As I approached the Viale Galileo, I heard the hum of the cars zipping by. With one foot on the sidewalk and the other one on the stairs, I glanced over at San Miniato al Monte and smiled. For a moment, I considered hiking up to the basilica to admire its façade, but turned toward Piazzale Michelangiolo. 

Ambling next to the piazzale’s beige railing, I fixed my gaze on the panorama until I reached my favorite spot. I dropped my shoulders and let my hands dangle alongside my body as I stood at the top of the wide walkway. I took in a long breath and scanned the entire view. From the Giardino Bardini, San Frediano in Cestello, Ponte Vecchio, the Arno, Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo, Santa Croce, and the Sinagoga. 

With every gust of wind, I inhaled Florence’s sweet mixture of asphalt, damp soil, and foliage. I tilted my head to one side to decipher all the unique sounds. Besides the hum of traffic along the lungarno and the chirping of a few birds, I heard the water cascading in the Fontane delle Rampe del Poggi. I wrapped my arms around my body as if I could hold my beloved city in my embrace.

When a warm glimmer highlighted the Duomo, I perked up. After turning around, I gasped at the golden rays of light bursting through a sliver of the sky. When the sun touched the hills, a bright orange flare shot out as if it were blowing the city a kiss.

After the skies grew dark and the air became chilly, I descended the walkway. With a desire to remain close to nature, I marched along viale Poggi where the winding road showcased the panorama. When the streetlights flickered on, I paused for a moment and whispered “grazie” to my beloved city.

Fog from Ponte Santa Trinita — January 31, 2021
A layer of fog caressed the city this morning and lingered throughout the day. Buildings along the river were hazy while the hilltops were undetectable. I rushed outside to admire the riverscape at sunset to watch the fog roll back in. With every step down Lungarno Diaz, I peered over the red brick wall. It started at my shoulder and lowered to my waist when I was next to the Uffizi. 

Living in Florence, Italy :: Ponte Santa Trinita

The sidewalk and street were slick from the rain. Tiny puddles in the stones were like mirrors, reflecting the surrounding light. I paused a few times under the Corridoio Vasariano to peek at the Ponte Vecchio, where the fog below it was becoming denser by the minute.

I continued down Lungarno degli Acciaiuoli until I reached Ponte Santa Trinita. When I arrived at the middle of the bridge, I sighed. The hazy clouds enveloped the entire city in the same shade of blue. I couldn’t help but smile at the arches of the Ponte alla Carraia reflected below and the streetlights shimmering on the water. As the fog descended from above like dust settling, I breathed in the Arno’s crisp scent. I perked up the moment I glimpsed shards of colorless sky unveiled by the clouds as they shifted.

Cars and motorini zipped behind me on the bridge and down both sides of the Arno. Their wheels clanked along the bumpy pavement while the buzz of their motors reverberated off the buildings. I kept my gaze fixed on the horizon, but glanced at Ponte alla Carraia every time a bus crossed it. A local police officer caught my eye when he stopped a few meters away from me and took a photo while his partner stared into his phone. 

As the sky turned black, the streetlights glowed in the mist while their reflections on the Arno stretched toward me. I retraced my steps home and looked back more than once. I walked to the middle of the Ponte Vecchio to look at where I was standing only a few minutes earlier. My heart bounced in my chest as I reflected on the day that began and ended with fog.

Giardino Bardini — February 2, 2021
My steps were quick as I traversed Ponte alle Grazie this morning. Even though I was in a hurry, I admired the Ponte Vecchio and listened to the water flowing over the weir. After crossing Lungarno Torrigiani, I made my way to via de’ Bardi to reach Giardino Bardini’s main entrance. 

Living in Florence, Italy :: Giardino Bardini

As soon as the gravel crunched under my feet, my heart expanded. A smile spread across my face as I inhaled the cool, humid air swirling around me. Catching a whiff of the fertile soil relaxed and revitalized me as I navigated the winding road lined with bushes on both sides. A blanket of tranquility enveloped me as I breathed in the sweet scent of yellow jasmine blossoms.

After marching up the lower garden’s brick steps, I rushed to the incline where the pruned rose bushes no longer hid the stone wall. Droplets of rain adorned every blade of grass under the fruit trees, like tiny beads of glass.

Under the pergola of bare wisteria vines, I gazed at the panorama under the ivory clouds hanging high in the sky. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo. They gracefully dominated the view. The hum of the city wafted through the gardens: construction workers hammering, a motorcycle speeding down Lungarno delle Grazie, and a car honking. 

Before reaching the terrace, I headed straight for the olive grove behind the pergola. I weaved my way through the trees, delighting in the countless bunches of dangling olives. Soggy rust-colored chestnut leaves covered the pasture. Shiny black olives nestled between tall blades of grass sunk into the earth when I stepped on them. Bright pink roses filled with raindrops drooped toward the ground. When two orange butterflies twirled above my head, I gasped.

My steps were slower as I headed to the exit. Deeply inhaling with every step, I couldn’t quite describe Giardino Bardini’s perfume in one word. But for me, it smelled of life about to burst forth.  

Each of Florence’s gardens offers a mix of natural beauty and spectacular vistas. One of my favorite pastimes is to amble in nature while admiring the city. Spotting the Duomo from one of Florence’s gardens is like being in her embrace as she kisses you.

Ponte Vecchio — February 9, 2021
A few people were already sitting on Ponte Santa Trinita’s low stone wall when I arrived. The cool breeze brushed past me as I sat down on the damp limestone and faced west. A patchwork of clouds stretched to the horizon. Fixing my gaze toward Ponte alla Carraia, the silvery sky faded and the color of the Arno matched it.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Ponte Vecchio

The lampposts’ golden lights shimmered on the river. The footsteps of people rushing by filled up the silence. A few dog walkers strolled along the sidewalk, stopping every so often to let their dogs sniff the wall. Cars hurtled down the bridge’s stone pavement. Their noise was so loud that I turned away from them.

After standing up to glance at the Ponte Vecchio, I dashed across Ponte Santa Trinita. The skies and the water had both become royal blue. I smiled at the city lights glistening on the Arno. With every breath, Ponte Vecchio’s shimmery reflection on the blue waters of the Arno filled me with tranquility.

Leaning my legs against the stone wall to admire the Ponte Vecchio, I listened to the six o’clock bells ring throughout the city. I tried to record them a few times, but people interrupted me during each of my attempts. The first time, a motorino clunked along the road, drowning out the bells. The next two times, people chatted as they sauntered behind me.

I often return to the same spot to watch the sunset. Each time the riverscape on both sides delights me with something beautiful to enjoy. Sometimes, the sun paints the clouds an array of luminous colors before it leaves for the day. While at other times, it fades away like a gentle kiss.

When the sky grew dark, I headed home. I crossed the bridge and turned down Borgo San Jacopo. At the small balcony next to a hotel, I peeked at the Ponte Vecchio and the Torre di Arnolfo hovering above the buildings. The pitch black water and skies swaddled Florence as if tucking her into bed for the night.

Giardino delle Rose — February 12, 2021
With my head down, I marched up the slippery stone path to the raised section of the lawn in the Giardino delle Rose. Once I arrived in the middle of the garden, I turned around to take in the panorama. In the city center, we have splashes of greenery in cement pots sprinkled down a few of the streets, but nothing as spectacular as what I experience in her gardens.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Giardino delle Rose

To immerse myself in nature while admiring Florence fills me with delight. Almost everything in the garden is green: the grass, the ivy around the fountain, the nettle poking out of the stone wall, the bushes along the incline, and the olive trees below. As a dove pigeon with its bright white neck wobbled across the lawn and pecked at the ground, I stumbled upon a rose bush whose burgundy-tipped leaves were blossoming like flowers.

Sparrows, bouncing on long branches, chirped in the trees alongside the garden. When they flew out of the cypresses in different directions, they looped overhead, and regrouped to fly away together. After they left, I reveled in the sound of the water cascading in the fountain.

The sun brightened and dimmed as blurry clouds sashayed in front of it. When it burst through, its rays pierced my jeans and warmed up my skin within seconds. Standing in the middle of the lawn, my eyes closed as I inhaled the sweet scent of grass twirling in the air. Spring is in a hurry to arrive. I couldn’t help but smile as a little girl ran around the gardens, flailing her arms and giggling out loud, while her grandmother tried to catch up with her. 

After making my way behind the fountain to reach the stone walkway, I rushed to a rose bush that had yellow moss creeping up its bare stalks. As I inspected the lemony blotches, I peeked through its gnarled branches and spotted the Duomo. A smile spread across my face as I breathed in the view.

I kept my eyes on the Duomo as I descended the gardens. It’s always a treat to spot the cathedral from afar, but even more delightful when nature frames it.

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