by Melinda Gallo

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 couldn’t 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 Niccolò. 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.

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

I enjoy stretching myself when I run: I either try to run farther or faster and sometimes both. Besides feeling physically wonderful when I reach Piazzale Michelangiolo, I treat myself to a quiet moment to contemplate my beloved city. For me, admiring Florence from afar is my way of embracing her fully. I enjoy seeing the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, San Lorenzo, Ponte Vecchio, and, of course, the Arno.

When I was running across Ponte alle Grazie this morning, I looked up at San Miniato. Seeing it from afar and then running up to see her close up is so special to me. I feel almost as if San Miniato is the crowning glory of Florence. The fact that the church is perched on a hill and outside the city walls makes it even more special to me. It’s not a church that I can just pop into as I walk by. I have to make an effort to visit it and every time I make the effort, I am rewarded many times over.

I stopped running right under San Miniato and made my way up the stone steps that just make the journey to the church that much more special. As I walked through the gates, I admired the church’s façade that was unveiling itself with each step I took toward it.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Running up to San Miniato al MonteI reached the terrace in front of the church and took a few photos. The view was breathtaking as it always is. I wish that I could enter the church, but with a sleevless top and sweaty body, I knew it wouldn't be respectful of me to do so. I noticed a couple sitting on the church steps in the shade. As I walked back and forth along the low terrace wall, I could feel them watching me. At first, I was embarrassed because I thought maybe they were commenting on how unpresentable I was.

After a few moments of enjoying the view and snapping a few photos, I headed toward the steps. I could faintly hear a woman’s voice calling to me, “Hallo, hallo!” I had music on my iPod playing low so I couldn’t hear her footsteps on the gravel, but I heard her voice getting louder as she approached me.

“Do you want me to take your picture?” she asked.
“No, thank you. That’s so nice of you to ask,” I said.
Pointing to my sporty attire, she said, “I thought you might want proof that you ran up here.”
“Thanks, but no," I said, smiling back to her. I quickly explained that I live in Florence and run up here often, but she just smiled at me.

I was flattered that she thought I might need a photo of myself. It surprised me that tourists who were admiring the lovely view of Florence would bother to ask me if I wanted a picture of myself taken. Before heading down the steps, I thanked her again and wished her a lovely day.

I began running toward Piazzale Michelangiolo as soon as I reached the bottom of the steps. I noticed all the tour buses lined up and saw large groups of people spilling out onto the piazzale to take in the view. For a moment, I thought of stopping but reminded myself that I needed to get home.

I smiled for most of my run back down the viale. I ended up running quicker down the hill than the last few times. It wasn’t that I was physically in better shape, but maybe it was that one moment of kindness that lifted up my spirits. I stretched out for a few minutes in the shady part of Piazza Demidoff and then walked home. As I was crossing Ponte alle Grazie, I looked back at San Miniato and sent a warm thank you to the woman.

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