by Melinda Gallo

Opening my heart to experience beauty more fully

After living in Florence for many years, I have discovered what beauty truly is. I initially admired Florence’s external beauty. Like most people, I saw the beauty in her monuments, bridges, gardens, churches, and pastel-colored buildings. I overlooked, for example, the Arno River, the sidewalks, and the street lamps. Nowadays, I embrace Florence in her entirety. It brings me great joy to embrace not just the beauty I see, but the beauty I feel. My beloved city’s wealth lies not in the amount of art and beauty she holds, but in the depth of her heart and soul that has fueled such beauty.

Living in Florence :: Opening my heart to experience beauty more fully

Beauty is not just what I see with my eyes; it’s what I feel in my heart. I might take pictures of certain views over and over again, but each time it is different to me. Besides the colors, lighting, weather conditions, and times of day being different, I too am different. One thing I noticed is that my emotions are transmitted with every photo I take. The more love and appreciation I feel in the moment, the better the photo turns out. Each photo I take and share is like a letter sealed with a kiss.

What I have learned is that the only way to discover beauty is to open your heart to it and let beauty be revealed to you. Sometimes I stand on a bridge for at least an hour to watch the sunset. I snap a handful of photos, but really I stand there and take in the entire view: the buildings, the reflections on the Arno, the birds flying above, the boats passing underneath, the people passing behind me, and the magnificent colors splashing across the sky. I breathe in the sweet air and listen to the mix of sounds, like the church bells ringing and passers-by speaking in a variety languages. I can only capture the visual aspect of the sunset in my photos, but the experience for me is much richer.

Instead of walking around Florence in search of beauty to capture and share, I choose to open myself up to Florence, knowing full well that her beauty will reach out and touch me. Florence never disappoints me: sometimes I’m led to a new view or a familiar view in a new light—literally and figuratively.

I’m especially grateful to Florence for opening me up to experiencing beauty more fully. Florence has led me to not only experience the beauty in Florence or in any other location I might be, but also the beauty in myself and others. Living in Florence inspires me to keep my heart open at all times. I know that if I close my heart, even if for only a second, I will miss a chance to experience the beauty around me. I truly believe that life is about experiencing as much beauty and love as possible and then sharing it with others to bring them joy.

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