by Melinda Gallo

Accepting Florence's gifts

I was walking around my neighborhood the other day and was overcome with joy. Tears filled my eyes as I stood behind the San Remigio chiesa (church) looking at the buildings that surrounded me. I wanted to reach out and embrace the chiesa, the buildings, and any person who walked by. I felt a wave of appreciation come over me: I am fortunate to be living in Florence and have been so blessed to receive its many wondrous gifts. Not only does it offer us its beauty and share with us its accomplishments, but it is also not afraid to show us its upleasant side that other cities might try to hide. I was enjoying the sight of paint peeling off of buildings, a cracked façade revealing the bricks underneath, the uneven stones that I was standing on, and even the windows' wood frames warped by the harsh elements.

Florence inspires me every day to embrace all parts of myself, to not hide what might be judged as unattractive, and to accept every piece that makes up my heart, mind, and soul. In a relentless battle to be, or at least appear, perfect, I have come to learn that what makes me feel best about myself is accepting all of my qualities and all of my flaws.

My beloved city gives me the space and opportunity to bare my soul more each day without judgment of myself. I feel as if the more I open my heart to Florence, the more it fills me up with love. It's as if love is all around me like the air that I breathe, and that it penetrates my heart so consistently and effortlessly. It is in my recognizing its love that I am finally able to trust it, share it, and savor it.

Many others who come to Florence get a taste of the true soul of the city. Some enjoy the beauty that is presented on every street and piazza while others are able to take a peek behind the city's masks and façades and feel its soul calling out to them.

My beloved city is not only beautiful on the outside, but also on the inside. If you come to Florence, be it for a day, a month, a year, or even longer, may you be able to embrace all the wisdom that it possesses and receive the love that it pours out onto us all. If you are open to receiving its wondrous gifts, you certainly will. And, your life will be forever changed as mine has been.

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