by Melinda Gallo

Runs up to the piazzale

For the second time this week, I walked to Ponte alle Grazie where I looked at the Ponte Vecchio before taking off on my morning run. After crossing the bridge, I headed away from the city toward Ponte San Niccolò. I first went past Piazza Demidoff where the large monument is hiding behind scaffolding. I kept close to the low wall on the left to give the speeding bikes more room to pass me.

Each breath I exhaled was a white cloud that hindered my sight for a couple of seconds. I ran past the small giardino across from Piazza Poggi and looked down at the embankment where the smooth blanket of water flows toward the city and crashes down like a mini waterfall. I tried to keep my eyes on the water as much as I could before having to cross the street.

I veered down a residential street and ran on the sidewalk just to feel the sun on my face. Unfortunately, it didn’t warm me up, but it felt good nonetheless. When I got to the end, I made a quick left down a oneway street and turned right at the stoplight to head up the viale.

I find it thrilling each time I turn the corner and look up at the treelined sidewalk. I always feel protected and accompanied on my run uphill. The viale used to be peaceful in the morning, but these days cars use it to get around all the newly pedestrian streets.

Besides looking in front of me, I tend to only look to my right, away from the cars. A steep valley with orchards and houses sprinkled on the low hill eventually appears. It’s the same point when I can feel the sun on my face again. Afterwards, there is a luxury hotel quickly followed by a campeggio (campground). It is always at this point that I can see my beloved city in the distance. I spot the Duomo first and keep my eye on it as I run past the campeggio. It disappears again for a few meters, but once I arrive at the Piazzale Michelangiolo, I take my victory lap around it to take in the entire city.

When I get to the corner closest to the city, I have to turn away and head toward the street that heads back to town. My last treat before I head back to town is seeing San Miniato al Monte. My eyes are glued to the top of the church where the gold mosaic sparkles. I smile at it before turning down via del Monte alle Croci.

I carefully run downhill, taking in the last bit of peacefulness before arriving in town. When I pass through the Porta di San Niccolò, I always feel as if I’ve just won a race. It’s always a joy to be back in the embrace of my beloved city. I run through the narrow streets of San Niccolò back to Ponte alle Grazie where I stop. I walk to the small giardino and stretched out while I basked in the sun.

When I walk across the Ponte alle Grazie to go home, I look up at the Piazzale Michelangiolo and smile. I can see the statue of David and am amazed that I was right next to it only a few minutes earlier. I look at the Ponte Vecchio again and am happy to be home.

Connecting with my city and the nature that surrounds it is the best way to begin my day.

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