by Melinda Gallo

Bidding farewell to Astori

Even though I was fighting off a cold, I couldn’t stop myself from going out for a run Thursday morning. Through a few gaps in the gray clouds, the sun cast its bright rays down on the city. My intention was to take a photo of Florence from Piazzale Michelangiolo for Davide Astori, or as we call him “capitano (captain).” The Fiorentina’s capitano passed away suddenly last Sunday. It was a shock to us here in Florence as well as around the world. It wasn’t just because he was a famous soccer player, but because he was a highly regarded man and a beacon of light.

Living in Florence :: Bidding farewell to Astori

Upon arriving at the Ponte alle Grazie this morning to begin my run, I looked down via dei Benci toward Santa Croce. Not many people were out walking at such an early hour, but I knew that later thousands would be in the piazza in front of the church were Astori’s funeral was going to take place. I knew that I couldn’t go to the piazza to bid farewell to Astori; I had to bid farewell to him in my way.

As I began running down the lungarno toward viale Michelangelo, I passed two men wearing Fiorentina scarves. They looked solemn. Our eyes met and tears began bubbling up inside of me. I put my head down for a moment to let a few tears slide across my face and increased my speed. I had to keep on running.

I glanced up a few times across the Arno to see the profile of Santa Croce. Each time, I had to fight back more tears. I ran up the hill trying not to think too much about him, but thoughts of how he passed away so unexpectedly and early kept creeping up in my mind. Three-fourths of the way up the hill along viale Michelangelo, I had to stop running. It’s rare that I ever stop running even if I’m tired or feeling weak, but I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.

At one point, I had to crouch down on the ground and just cry. With my heart beating heavily in my chest, I let my tears fall to the ground. When I stood back up, I walked the rest of the way to Piazzale Michelangiolo. I was thinking about how one person’s death brings up other losses I have experienced, other people who left us too early, and how we never know how much time we have. It made me feel incredibly grateful that I’m able to wake up every morning to a new day. I know that life is precious, but sometimes we forget or at least get too bogged down with tiny problems or issues that in the end have no value in our lives.

I kept to myself for most of the day and wrote quite a bit. I knew that if I went outside, people would be talking about Astori and I didn’t want to talk about him with anyone. In the early evening, I walked along the Arno to watch the sunset from Ponte alla Carraia. It was the only way I knew how to end this intense day so I could instill within me a hint of joy. Watching sunrises and sunsets has taught me that there is no ending without a beginning. The picture I included here was the sunset on March 8th when we held the funeral for Astori.

Astori’s scomparsa (disappearance) was tragic and at the same time inspiring. In the dark cloud that hovers above Florence, there is an amazing silver lining. Many of the soccer fans have come together because of his passing. Besides applauding the captain of our arch rival who attended Astori’s funeral, a new gemellaggio (twinning) has also been formed between Fiorentina and Cagliari where Astori began his career in Serie A.

The subtle differences between languages are tiny openings into a culture and a way of living life. In Italian, we say that when someone passes away, he has scomparso (disappeared). It lends the idea that they were here one moment and now they were gone. What I appreciate about the word is that there is a tiny hope that they are not gone forever. We will find our loved one again some day.

Astori will always be remembered as our capitano and a beacon of light that went out too early.

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