by Melinda Gallo

Living in Florence :: Savoring Florence at sunrise

For the past month, I’ve been waking up before the sun rises. It doesn’t matter how late I go to sleep, I still manage to be fully awake at around five every morning. My body and mind are rested so I just begin my daily routine. This morning, while I was writing, I was thinking about how much beauty is around me and how it’s only a matter of pausing to recognize it that will fill me up with even more joy. I stood in front of my open window and peered outside listening to the long pauses of silence in between the sounds of a motorino passing by or a car navigating the uneven stoned pavement below. I smiled when I heard the 7am bells echoing all around me. When I saw how the sky was turning a pale orange, I suddenly found myself pulling on some sweats, lacing up my running shoes, and donning a baseball cap. Within a few seconds, I was out the door.

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Living in Florence :: Evolution of a sunset

I never knew how magical sunsets were until I moved to Florence. Within the last few years of my living in Florence, however, I have become fascinated with sunsets. Before that time, I would only watch the sunset if I happened to be outside or in a location that had a view of it. Nowadays, I enjoy watching how a sunset evolves: the sun sliding down the sky, the clouds transmuting, and the colors in the sky changing. Not only is a sunset a visual feast for my eyes, but also a significant experience for me in which I reflect on my day, release what needs to be released, give thanks, and set an intention for the next day.

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Living in Florence :: Delighting in a sunset

Excitement bubbles up inside of me the moment I reach the low brick wall along the Arno. In the couple of minutes it takes me to get there, my mind flips through the many options of where I can go to delight in the sunset. I only make the decision after I arrive along the Arno and examine the sky. Many factors must be considered, like the presence or absence of clouds, the trajectory of the sun as it sets, and the wind. This week, the sun is a bit farther north so when it sets, it’s not in the middle of the Arno like it was a couple of weeks ago.

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Living in Florence :: Immersing myself in Florence’s gardens

While I was walking outside today on my way to run a few errands, I suddenly felt a desire to go to Giardino Bardini. Even though I didn’t really have the time, something inside of me insisted that I walk through the garden. After entering the garden, I hiked up to the top as quickly as possible to stand on the terrace and admire Florence from above. There is something powerful about embracing a larger view of Florence. It not only allows me to admire more of its beauty, but it also allows me to gain a better perspective of my own life.

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Living in Florence :: Capturing Florence at sunrise

Florence belongs to those who capture her. Those were the words that popped into my head as I was running toward the Ponte Vecchio a little before 6 AM this morning. With my iPhone in the pocket of my running pants, I was not only prepared but also excited to capture all the beauty along my path. The moment I saw the pink hue of the clouds behind the Ponte Vecchio, I knew my run was not going to be as fluid as it normally was becuase I wouldn’t be able to resist taking photos of Florence as she wakes up.

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Living in Florence :: Delighting in the Giardino dell’Iris

Florence comes alive in the spring. Trees are waving their bright green leaves, roses are budding, fruit trees are blossoming, the wisteria is flourishing, and the irises are blooming. I keep my heart and eyes open to admire and appreciate all of the gifts this season offers us. While I enjoy visiting every giardino (garden) in Florence, my favorite one to visit is the Giardino dell’Iris because it reinforces the idea of living fully in the moment. It’s only open for only a few weeks while the irises are blossoming.

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Living in Florence :: An unexpected sunset

Last Wednesday, I stood alone on Ponte alla Carraia hoping for the sky to change colors. When I reached the lungarno and looked toward Ponte Vecchio, I saw that the sky did not look promising. For a moment, I wondered if I should just go home. I had been working all day and didn’t go outside until the early evening. I was determined to watch the sunset as a gift to myself.

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Living in Florence :: Scrolling through my photos on Instagram

The other night when I was unable to fall asleep, I picked up my phone and began scrolling through my photos on Instagram. It’s something I rarely do except to see if I recently posted a similar photo. I felt quite happy browsing through the photos I’ve taken over the past few years because each one is a part of me. I was surprised that so many of the photos were moments I vividly remember. I thought that after a few years or even a few months, I would forget what I was feeling in a specific moment captured in a photo. Often, however, it triggered my memory of the moment.

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Living in Florence :: My heart expands in Florence

We have the opportunity to open our hearts and to love more every day thanks to every person, place, and event in our lives. Without any interaction with others, it’s impossible for us to love as much as we do. Some people, places, and events, however, knock slightly harder on our hearts and entice us to open them up just a little bit more. Florence is one of those places for me.

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Living in Florence :: Bidding farewell to Astori

Even though I was fighting off a cold, I couldn’t stop myself from going out for a run Thursday morning. Through a few gaps in the gray clouds, the sun cast its bright rays down on the city. My intention was to take a photo of Florence from Piazzale Michelangiolo for Davide Astori, or as we call him “capitano (captain).” The Fiorentina’s capitano passed away suddenly last Sunday. It was a shock to us here in Florence as well as around the world. It wasn’t just because he was a famous soccer player, but because he was a highly regarded man and a beacon of light.

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Living in Florence :: Basking in the Giardino delle Rose

For me, there is something magical about sitting in the Giardino delle Rose. I enjoy hearing the hum of the cars whizzing by in the distance mixed with the sound of the birds chirping in the trees. The various sounds traversing the air remind me of how I'm able to simultaneously embrace all of Florence’s facetsófrom the tranquility of the gardens to the busyness of the city. On a windy day last week, I found myself mesmerized by the rustling of the tree branches in the giardino. Usually they are quite silent, but on that day, they made their presence known.

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Living in Florence :: Back out running to embrace Florence

Every once in a while, I get in a running slump. It’s rare because I normally have no problem motivating myself to go for a run no matter how cold or rainy it might be. However, once I stop running for an extended amount of time, like more than a couple of weeks, I have difficulty getting myself motivated again to get out and run. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to walk up to Piazzale Michelangiolo. I seldom walk up to the piazzale because I generally run up there a few times a week. Unfortunately, since I hadn’t gone up for a while due to my latest running hiatus, I had been missing the view of Florence.

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Living in Florence :: Florence radiates love

Every monument, piazza, statue, building, garden, church, bridge, and work of art in Florence reminds us that not only is love only real, but that it is also tangible. When you come to Florence, you don’t just see Florence’s beauty and take a mental picture of it. You feel Florence’s beauty permeate your heart. What initially began as pleasure for your eyes quickly becomes love coursing through your veins. I am still amazed to this day at how Florence’s beauty opens up my heart and fills it up with love.

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Living in Florence :: Connecting to Florence as I run

I enjoy connecting with Florence when I walk along the Arno, across the piazzas and bridges, down the streets, and through the gardens. Florence’s energy swirls around with each step. Another way I connect with Florence is by running in and around the city. I especially love running up to Piazzale Michelangiolo along the Arno, up a tree-lined path, down to Porta Romana, across the Ponte Vecchio, and back to the Arno.

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Living in Florence :: Expressing my love for Florence

Everyone expresses love differently. I express my love for Florence through my writing and photography. Each photo I take is a moment in which I held my beloved city in my embrace and she held me. One of my greatest joys is basking in the beauty I experience and capturing it as best I can and then sharing it. Love doesn’t want to be hidden or kept secret. Love wants to be expressed, shared, and celebrated.

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