by Melinda Gallo

Enjoying the different facets of Florence

Each time I go for a walk up to Piazzale Michelangiolo, I feel energized. Not just because it feels good to my body, but also because it feels good to my heart and soul. I have found it to be the best way for me to start my day. I not only get to experience another facet of the city, but also in different ways. I hear different sounds, like birds chirping, smell different scents, like the trees and grass, and see different views of the city.

The coldest part of the walk, of course, is at the beginning when I cross over the Ponte alle Grazie. The wide expanse has nothing to stop the wind from whipping past me as I walk above the Arno. Along the lungarno, a few people and bicyclists pass me by. But the amount of people I see lessens and lessens with each step toward the viale (large avenue).

Once I turn up the viale, the scenery changes drastically. No more apartment buildings, but rather large villas line the street sporadically. The sound of the river fades and mostly what I hear are the cars and motorini (scooters) whizzing by me in the street. I love looking up at the tall trees on both sides of me. At one point, however, the city feels far away from me when I hear more silence than sounds. I am surrounded by more trees and greenery the farther along I go.

At one spot on the trail, I feel that I am in the middle of the country because there is an opening to the East where I can see down a valley and up to a low hill on the other side. I always take a few extra deep breaths as I walk alongside it because I can smell the trees, leaves, and grass.

With each step up the viale, I feel my body relax. Usually the sidewalk is empty although sometimes a runner will pass by. Walking in this area of the city is such a contrast to my walks downtown where I can rarely walk more than a few steps without seeing someone.

I donít see the downtown area until I reach the small grassy area where the statue of Anatole France is standing. In the background is David, who looks so tiny, in the middle of the piazzale. The moment I see the Duomo, I feel a surge of joy bubble up inside of me. Even though I see the Duomo almost every day, it is always a pleasure to see it at a distance. At the campeggio (campgrounds) is where I begin to see people again: either walking to the piazzale or crossing the street to catch the bus to go back to town.

When I get to the piazzale, I walk around the long way. From the East, where usually no one is ever standing and then to the West where the Ponte Vecchio is located. I sometimes pause to look at the winding river and out to the hills in the distance. As I walked around the piazzale today, I was thrilled to see the snowcapped mountains to the West between the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio.

No matter how many times I walk up to the piazzale and view my beloved city, it always fills me with great joy. Iíve been up to the piazzale five times this week, and each day the view has been different. Some days the hills in the distance are difficult to see because of a light haze while other days they are clearly defined.

I walk through the handful of tourists looking out at the city and take the stairs back down to San NiccolÚ. I am always happy to reach the piazzale, but a little sad when I begin my descent.

I enjoy the quiet connection I have with my beloved city when Iím walking up the viale. Itís a unique time of the day when I can feel the energy of the city and enjoy the nature that surrounds it. I feel appreciative to have the time to take my walks, no matter how cold or rainy it may be.

I am fortunate to have both public and private time with my beloved city. The public time is when Iím walking around the city with others around me while the private time is when Iím alone, taking in the beauty my city emanates. I think that walking up the viale surrounded by trees without the usual sounds, sights, and smells of the city accentuate my appreciation of the bustling city I live in. It reminds me that Florence has many facets to it.

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