by Melinda Gallo

First Sunrise of 2019

When I heard the 8am church bells ringing, I hopped out of bed and dashed outside to watch the sunrise. I planned on waking up earlier, but the fireworks went on for hours last night and I watched them from my window. It was the first year, I saw so many people with their own fireworks and fire crackers in the street. The celebration lasted for hours. Besides being startled awake around 3am by fireworks, I heard them even when I was outside this morning too.

Living in Florence :: First Sunrise of 2019

The first sunrise of the year is always exciting for me. I see it as a way to honor the new year and honor Florence at the same time. When I arrived along Lungarno delle Grazie, I was surprised at how empty the streets were. There wasn’t a single car driving by along the Arno or over the bridge. Besides a few street cleaners who were busy sweeping the sidewalks from last night’s festivities so the large trucks could pick up the debris, there were only a couple of runners and one photographer. Those who were walking home after their night out partying were quite somber and therefore went by me almost unnoticed.

I leaned against the low brick wall and admired the bright glow of the sun behind Piazzale Michelangiolo. I watched the birds floating on top of the Arno and breathed in the crisp air as the sun crept up the sky.

As soon as the sun popped up from behind the piazzale, I took a couple of photos and then made my way to the Ponte Vecchio. I had hoped the "Buon 2019" sign would already be up, but it wasn’t. I wondered if I had missed it because one year when I was approaching the Ponte Vecchio, they were already taking it down.

I carefully navigated the sidewalks, which had been swept once, but were still cluttered with broken bottles and remnants from the fireworks. Only one man was slowly driving his car along Lungarno Diaz next to me. I cringed when I heard the bottles shatter under his tires.

When I arrived to the middle of the Ponte Vecchio, I was delighted to see that the sun had just begun shining through the arches. I quickly took a few photos while no one was walking by. Every time I’m on the Ponte Vecchio when only a handful of people are around, I enjoy going back and forth a few times to admire the Arno on each side and to enjoy all the space.

When a couple in their wedding outfits arrived to pose under the Vasari Corridor, everyone on the bridge admired them and smiled. It was so lovely to see a couple celebrating their commitment to each other at the beginning of year accompanied by a professional photographer. I consider it a sign of hope that the year begins with love.

Living in Florence, Italy :: First Sunrise of 2019

After they left, I stood under the Vasari Corridor and saw a few men carrying two signs: “Buon” and “2019.” I rushed back to the Cellini statue and stuffed my hands in my pockets while I waited for them to arrive. I took a small video of their arrival because I was so excited to see the official sign marking the beginning of 2019. I haven’t been able to take a photo of the sign in a couple of years, so seeing it this year must be auspicious.

When they began to install the sign, I rushed to the area under the Vasari Corridor to watch them hang the two signs on the Ponte Vecchio. A man standing near me yelled out orders so they could better position the sign: “Alza il 9” and “Bassa la ’n.’” It’s true that the ‘9’ needed to be raised and the ’n’ needed to be lowered. When it was in place, I took a few photos of it before walking toward the Uffizi.

After being outside for over an hour and having not even had a coffee, I couldn’t wait to get back home. I crossed paths with more and more groups of people along the lungarno. I felt so grateful for having had the opportunity to watch the first sunrise of the year and embrace my beloved city while Florence was just waking up.

Wishing you all a beautiful 2019 filled with beauty, love, and joy!

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