by Melinda Gallo

Living in Florence :: Opening my heart to experience beauty more fully

After living in Florence for many years, I have discovered what beauty truly is. I initially admired Florenceís external beauty. Like most people, I saw the beauty in her monuments, bridges, gardens, churches, and pastel-colored buildings. I overlooked, for example, the Arno River, the sidewalks, and the street lamps. Nowadays, I embrace Florence in her entirety. It brings me great joy to embrace not just the beauty I see, but the beauty I feel. My beloved cityís wealth lies not in the amount of art and beauty she holds, but in the depth of her heart and soul that has fueled such beauty.

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Living in Florence :: Breathing in Florenceís beauty and energy

I usually take an hour out of my day to watch the sunset. The moment I step outside, I let my intuition take over and lead me to where it wants to go. Sometimes I meander the streets in Florence or walk up the steps to Piazzale Michelangiolo, while at other times I stroll along the Arno River. I like to change locations; however, I do have a few favorites depending on where the sun is setting. For me, it's not enough to just see beauty. I must also experience, embrace, and appreciate Florence's beauty. When I walk around Florence, I try to stay as present as possible. I enjoy looking around me and taking in my surroundings.

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Living in Florence :: Loving the Arno River in Florence

I love the Arno. I often take photos of the Arno River because I love how captivating it is. Besides the lovely reflections of the bridges and buildings on both sides of the river, I also enjoy seeing the different colors bouncing off the sky and onto the Arnoís glimmering surface. I love how mysterious the Arno is because it looks calm on the surface and yet underneath it is certainly tumultuous.

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Living in Florence :: Choosing Florence, choosing love

For me, living in Florence is a choice. I could easily pack up my things and move somewhere else because I have no ties that require me to stay in Florence. I donít stay in Florence because I'm used to living here or because Iíve lived here longer than any other place of my choosing. I choose to remain in Florence because I feel great joy bubbling inside of me every day I wake up in her embrace.

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Living in Florence :: Florence is magical

A while back, I had an early flight to catch for Paris and was going to be away for two weeks. I had only been back to Florence for a short time and felt like I hadnít experienced enough of her before my departure the next day. On the morning of my flight, I woke up an hour earlier so I could walk around Florence and say goodbye to her. By the time, I reached Ponte alle Grazie, the sun hadnít even risen yet. I stood along the low brick wall and decided to watch the sunrise. A great sense of serenity came over me as I listened to the water flowing over the weir in the Arno and observed the birds flying overhead.

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Living in Florence :: Keeping my eyes and heart open in Florence

When Iím walking around Florence, no matter if Iím in a rush or focused on getting to a specific location, I try to keep my eyes and heart open as much as possible. I donít just keep myself open to the beauty I have seen many times, but also to the beauty that I might not have seen yet. I think thatís one of the reasons why I take photos of Florence. I donít just take photos to capture her beauty and share it, but also to remember that she presents more of her beauty to me every day with every step I take.

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Living in Florence :: To know Florence is to love Florence

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Florence. Even if you don't know me, itís fairly obvious. I not only write about living in Florence, but I also take pictures of the beauty around me in Florence. I donít love Florence just because of her apparent beauty; I love Florence because of how she makes me feel when I am here. Florence stirs up powerful emotions within me, she inspires me to listen more closely to my heart, she nudges me to act and speak from love, she motivates me to be sincere, and she encourages me to fully embrace who I am.

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Living in Florence :: Opening up to Florenceís beauty

To some people, Florence might just be a beautiful city to visit and enjoy. To me, Florence is one of my greatest loves. Loving a city is like loving a person: I was initially attracted to Florenceís beauty, I enjoy so many of her qualities, I accept my beloved city as she is, and I love how she makes me feel when I am in her embrace. I didnít choose to love Florence by checking items off of a list, but rather by feeling her love inside of me. While I am attracted to Florenceís exterior, it is her interior that I fell in love with. Her heart, her soul, and her vibrant energy influence me every day.

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Living in Florence :: Running up to San Miniato al Monte

I felt a twinge of excitement this morning as I closed the door of my apartment building and walked toward the Arno river. I have been running up to San Miniato al Monte for the past week and I couldnít wait to get up there again today. I love running up the winding viale Michelangiolo on the path up to Piazzale Michelangiolo. When I first started running again, I would stroll around the Giardino delle Rose before heading back down through San NiccolÚ. Then, I would just stop at Piazzale Michelangiolo and take a few photos before running back down the viale. Nowadays, I run up to San Miniato, climb the steps to the church, and then run back down the viale.

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Living in Florence :: Letting Florence lead the way

People often ask me for my advice when they come to Florence for a visit. Instead of giving them any specific information about where to go and what to visit, I always suggest that people let themselves be drawn into Florence. Even though I have lived here for many years, I still enjoy letting Florence lead the way. For me, itís the best way to discover new aspects of my beloved city. If I stick to what I know and where Iíve been, Iíll never discover anything new.

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Living in Florence :: Enjoying the gardens in Florence

As soon as I set foot on the narrow path in the Giardino Bardini, I feel a sense of tranquility come over me. While the gravel crunches under my feet, the hum of the city begins to fade. I take the shortcut to the top by hiking up the steps in the middle section of the gardens. At the top of the staircase, I see the two statues on the terrace wall. Instead of walking through the gardens on the right, I turn left and walk up the incline. I feel a sense of excitement as I stroll through the tunnel of purple and pink wisteria that has just started hanging down. When I reach the top, I look out at Florence and can only hear the birds chirping and the church bells ringing in the distance.

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Living in Florence :: Florence still takes my breath away

The other day I was standing outside a friendís door on via dei Servi waiting to be buzzed in and I saw the Duomo at the end of the street. I was so taken by the view and the way the sun was shining on the street that I took a photo. It got me thinking about just how incredibly fortunate I am to enjoy so much beauty. Instead of going home directly after my appointment, I walked around the Duomo to admire it in its entirety. I was so taken by its beauty that I almost didnít notice how crowded it was in front of the Duomo. When I finally looked around me, I saw tourists huddled in groups, bikes zigzagging around us, and horse drawn carriages ringing their bells and making their way through the crowds.

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Living in Florence :: Being present on the Ponte Santa Trinita

Standing in the middle of the Ponte Santa Trinita, I feel as if I am in the center of Florence. Itís not that the ponte (bridge) is in the middle of the city physically, but it is where I feel completely immersed in Florenceís energy. On the ponte, I feel as if I am a part of Florenceís completeness with the water flowing below me, people circulating around me, and the buildings and monuments above me.

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Living in Florence :: Running in Florence and taking photos

When I head out for a run in the morning, I am excited not just to run, but also to bask in my beloved city's beauty. I enjoy running outside, even when I'm on vacation, to see more of my surroundings. Of all the places where I have run, Florence is my favorite. Not just because Florence has such lovely monuments and churches, but because of how Mother Nature enhances her beauty. At sunrise and sunset, the sun casts a golden light on the city. When it's cloudy, the pastel-colored buildings become more vibrant. When the wind dies down, the Arno is so still that you can see the reflections of the buildings on it. After a big rain, the water in the Arno flows swiftly and cascades over the three pescaie (weirs) in town.

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Living in Florence :: My heart is everywhere

Every experience inspires you to fully embrace who you are. For the last five years, I have been bouncing back and forth between Florence and Paris. Initially, I was overjoyed to go back to Paris where my expat life first began, but slowly it became less joyful for me. When I moved to Florence the first time, I blocked Paris out of my mind so that I could fully experience Florence. I didnít want to keep looking over my shoulder wondering what my life would be like in Paris, so I closed that chapter of my life and began a new one in Florence.

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