by Melinda Gallo

Living in Florence :: Sundays are for expressing gratitude

As the late morning church bells ring and echo through the narrow street bordering one side of my apartment, I am delighted to be home. A light rain falls from the sky, barely making a sound on the roof. Autumn is approaching, and the weather is both unpredictable and pleasurable. While I stand at my window, a few runners weave through traffic while a small group of people carrying umbrellas make their way toward the Ponte Vecchio. I admire them for not allowing the rain to hinder their plans. Before sitting back down on my couch, a pack of bicyclists catches my eye. They honk their horns, signaling to the cars to let them pass ahead of them.

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Living in Florence :: Time to nurture Florence

I often refer to Florence as my beloved city, but she certainly doesn’t belong to me. Nor does she belong to anyone else or any group of people. She belongs to all of humanity. After having lived in Florence for almost 15 years, it pains me to see its decline. I don’t think it’s any one person’s fault, but definitely the fault of anyone who sees Florence as a commodity and not a treasure to be respected and honored. Florence has nurtured all of us and it’s time that we nurture her.

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Living in Florence :: The Duomo emanates love

Whenever I walk through Giardino Bardini and Giardino delle Rose, down certain streets like via dell’Oriuolo or via dei Servi, in the middle of the Ponte Vecchio, or even along certain sections of the Arno, I’m always delighted when I spot the Duomo. I don’t make a point of searching for the Duomo, but when I see it, I can’t help but smile. Catching a glimpse of the Duomo, especially from afar, is like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

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Living in Florence :: Filling up my heart with beauty

Initially I would go to the gardens in Florence to admire the flowers, the trees, and the view, but now I go to to immerse myself in nature and embrace the beauty around me. The other morning, I crossed Ponte alle Grazie, walked through San Niccolò, and hiked up the low hill to the Giardino delle Rose. The moment I walked through the opening in the stone wall, I took in a deep breath and held it for a few seconds. I pulled back my shoulders in an attempt to open my heart a bit more so I could be ready to receive an abundance of beauty.

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Living in Florence :: Florence is my greatest inspiration

Florence is my greatest inspiration, and yet at times my greatest distraction. I often want to lose myself in her embrace. I enjoy navigating the streets in the centro storico (historical city center), strolling around her gardens, visiting her museums and churches, standing on her many bridges, and seeing her at different times of the day and from different angles. When I’m outside, Florence often nudges me to go in different directions, whispers ideas to me, inspires me to look around more, and leads me to explore more of the city. It feels like she wants me to embrace more of her with my heart.

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Living in Florence :: Delighting in Florence’s vivacity

The moment my foot stepped onto the loose gravel path in Giardini Bardini, I exhaled and my entire body immediately relaxed. I smiled when the sun peeked over the stone wall and greeted me. With every breath, the sweet scent of the giardino instilled my body with peace and joy. All the time I spend in Florence’s gardens is not only precious to me, but also sacred. It’s a time for me to tap into Florence’s energy so I can release whatever needs to be released, become more present, and open myself to the love around me.

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Living in Florence :: 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.

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Living in Florence :: Florence emanates love

A few days ago, I stood on Ponte Santa Trinita to watch the sunset. The muted colors in the sky did not inspire me to take many photos. I was contemplating whether or not to go home as the wind kept whipping past me, sending a chill throughout my body. I decided on staying a little longer only after wrapping my scarf a little tighter around my neck and hugging my body to keep warm. After a few moments, I noticed the colors in the sky gradually change. The sun burst through the sky, producing a bright orange, pink, and yellow streak on a strip of clouds overhead that was ultimately reflected on the water. Savoring the view, I felt an unexpected pang in my heart. It felt as if Florence had infused me with love like when the sun shines on my clothes and warmth permeates my body. That moment reminded me that Florence is always emanating love to us. Sometimes it takes something spectacular to emphasize that fact, but Florence transmits her love to us all day every day through every single street, church, building, bridge, tree, flower, museum, lamppost, square, and statue in the city.

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Living in Florence :: Savoring Florence at sunrise

For the past month, I’ve been waking up before the sun rises. It doesn’t matter how late I go to sleep, I still manage to be fully awake at around five every morning. My body and mind are rested so I just begin my daily routine. This morning, while I was writing, I was thinking about how much beauty is around me and how it’s only a matter of pausing to recognize it that will fill me up with even more joy. I stood in front of my open window and peered outside listening to the long pauses of silence in between the sounds of a motorino passing by or a car navigating the uneven stoned pavement below. I smiled when I heard the 7am bells echoing all around me. When I saw how the sky was turning a pale orange, I suddenly found myself pulling on some sweats, lacing up my running shoes, and donning a baseball cap. Within a few seconds, I was out the door.

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Living in Florence :: Evolution of a sunset

I never knew how magical sunsets were until I moved to Florence. Within the last few years of my living in Florence, however, I have become fascinated with sunsets. Before that time, I would only watch the sunset if I happened to be outside or in a location that had a view of it. Nowadays, I enjoy watching how a sunset evolves: the sun sliding down the sky, the clouds transmuting, and the colors in the sky changing. Not only is a sunset a visual feast for my eyes, but also a significant experience for me in which I reflect on my day, release what needs to be released, give thanks, and set an intention for the next day.

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Living in Florence :: Delighting in a sunset

Excitement bubbles up inside of me the moment I reach the low brick wall along the Arno. In the couple of minutes it takes me to get there, my mind flips through the many options of where I can go to delight in the sunset. I only make the decision after I arrive along the Arno and examine the sky. Many factors must be considered, like the presence or absence of clouds, the trajectory of the sun as it sets, and the wind. This week, the sun is a bit farther north so when it sets, it’s not in the middle of the Arno like it was a couple of weeks ago.

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Living in Florence :: Immersing myself in Florence’s gardens

While I was walking outside today on my way to run a few errands, I suddenly felt a desire to go to Giardino Bardini. Even though I didn’t really have the time, something inside of me insisted that I walk through the garden. After entering the garden, I hiked up to the top as quickly as possible to stand on the terrace and admire Florence from above. There is something powerful about embracing a larger view of Florence. It not only allows me to admire more of its beauty, but it also allows me to gain a better perspective of my own life.

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Living in Florence :: Capturing Florence at sunrise

Florence belongs to those who capture her. Those were the words that popped into my head as I was running toward the Ponte Vecchio a little before 6 AM this morning. With my iPhone in the pocket of my running pants, I was not only prepared but also excited to capture all the beauty along my path. The moment I saw the pink hue of the clouds behind the Ponte Vecchio, I knew my run was not going to be as fluid as it normally was because I wouldn’t be able to resist taking photos of Florence as she wakes up.

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Living in Florence :: Delighting in the Giardino dell’Iris

Florence comes alive in the spring. Trees are waving their bright green leaves, roses are budding, fruit trees are blossoming, the wisteria is flourishing, and the irises are blooming. I keep my heart and eyes open to admire and appreciate all of the gifts this season offers us. While I enjoy visiting every giardino (garden) in Florence, my favorite one to visit is the Giardino dell’Iris because it reinforces the idea of living fully in the moment. It’s only open for only a few weeks while the irises are blossoming.

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Living in Florence :: An unexpected sunset

Last Wednesday, I stood alone on Ponte alla Carraia hoping for the sky to change colors. When I reached the lungarno and looked toward Ponte Vecchio, I saw that the sky did not look promising. For a moment, I wondered if I should just go home. I had been working all day and didn’t go outside until the early evening. I was determined to watch the sunset as a gift to myself.

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