by Melinda Gallo

Taking in the view from San Miniato

This morning I headed out of our apartment and walked up the wide steps to reach Piazzale Michelangiolo. I had been wanting to go up there to take some pictures and when I saw that the sky was clear, I thought that it'd be perfect. I expected to see more people taking in the view, but there was only a handful of us. A couple of vendors have set up their stands to sell drinks, souvenirs, tee shirts, and scarves. I walked to the corner closest to the Duomo and took a few shots. I wasn't that pleased with the late-morning light as the city below appeared a bit hazy.

Living in Florence :: Taking in the view from San Miniato

Instead of going back down the hill right away to go home, I walked down the tree-lined road toward the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. I climbed the stairs looking up at the chiesa (church) only when the sun was tucked behind the building. I arrived at the plateau in front of San Miniato and sat on the cement wall to look out at the snowcapped mountains in the distance. Even though it is cold in the shadow of the chiesa, I enjoy taking in the view of my beloved city while listening to birds chirping over the hum of the cars passing below. At this time of year, one of my favorite smells is that of leaves burning, which I could smell coming from a nearby campo (field).

I gaze at the wall that used to surround the entire city of Florence. On one side is the city with its many buildings, chiese, and monuments and on the other side are a few houses sprinkled on the green hillside that is covered with cypress and olive trees. In the city, I notice that the buildings are mostly painted in different shades of yellow: from a bright and warm yellow to a muted shade that appears almost white. Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo, San Lorenzo, and Santa Croce hover above the buildings to break up the monotony of the red roofed buildings in uneven rows. The gold sphere at the top of the Duomo catches my eye: it shines so brightly that it appears to be a light.

I leave the spectacular view to wander around the chiesa, I don't look at the cappelle (chapels) as much as the architecture today. It is dark inside with the sun streaming through a couple of the small windows in the back. I make my rounds upstairs and downstairs while looking up at the ceiling and some of the unfinished artwork on the walls.

When I get back outside, I am surprised at how bright it is. I walk down the steps and take one last look at the chiesa as I walk through the iron gates to say goodbye. When I get to the middle of the Ponte alle Grazie above the Arno after walking down the stairs and through the narrow streets in San Niccolò, I turn around to look up at San Miniato perched on the hill. It looks so far away and seems untouchable at this distance. It's hard to believe that only about fifteen minutes ago I was standing in front of the chiesa.

Every time I cross the Ponte alle Grazie, I look up at San Miniato. It is one of my favorite chiese in town. I enjoy seeing the city from Piazzale Michelangiolo, but I must admit that sitting in front of San Miniato was even more dramatic. With my back to the chiesa and the entire city below me, I felt as if I could embrace it completely. Not just the city with its river, monuments, and buildings, but also the countryside that is a part of the city as well.

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