I have never experienced Florence as it has been these past few weeks. People stroll through the streets traversing the piazzas, along the Arno, and up to Piazzale Michelangiolo. Florence has not changed, but how we interact with her has changed. That hectic energy that buzzed throughout Florence before has vanished. The rhythm of the city is more natural: a gradual amping up and then a slowing down every day.
People say that there are fewer tourists, but we are all tourists here in Florence. When we residents walk through the city, we are also visiting Florence and taking pleasure in her. It’s true that the streets are less crowded, but it is only temporary. On the weekends, more people flock to Florence to enjoy it. I stay out of the city center while they navigate the streets and piazzas, zigzagging around the crowds, to make their way to where they want to go and to see what they want to see.
I only hope that everyone takes more time to notice the details on the building facades and the decorations around the windows, to listen to the church bells ringing, to catch a whiff of the flowers in the terracotta pots outside of some shops and restaurants, and to feel Florence’s energy pulsing throughout the city.
As Florence reawakens, she is being rejuvenated. Gardeners are trimming the hedges, pruning the rose bushes, and removing the weeds, restoring the splendor to the gardens. Workmen are busy renovating shops and homes as well as streets and entire buildings. The energy is one of hope: where we are is not where we will be in a few months’ time. Like a diamond plucked from the earth that is now being cut and polished for others to enjoy and cherish.
After my many visits to the Giardino dell’Iris, which opened up on May 9th and is now closed, I enjoyed feeling Florence come back to life. A little less than two weeks later, I rushed to the Giardino di Boboli to visit it after not having been since February. I walked through the botanical gardens and poked my nose into every flower that didn’t already have a bee swarming around it. I enjoyed surrounding myself in nature to admire how she has prospered while we’ve all been away.
When I returned home that evening, I was excited to read that the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Battistero di San Giovanni, the Campanile di Giotto, and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo were opening their doors and gifting us with free entry until the end of the month. I reserved my spot to revisit the Duomo, which for me is where Florence’s heart beats the strongest, as well as the Battistero and the Campanile.
On Friday, as I stood in the Duomo, after all the other visitors in my time slot had left, I ambled around inside, admiring the details on the marble mosaic floor, the large paintings, the clock in the back, and the cupola. When the church bells rang at noon, my heart expanded to welcome in all that love and tranquility reverberating throughout the cathedral. It was a unique experience to hear the bells ring outside and yet echo inside of the Duomo. I closed my eyes and enjoyed feeling connected to the Duomo, to my beloved city, and to the entire world.
As I walked home, I told myself that I won’t let years go by before returning inside the Duomo. The time I spent inside was brief, but the effect will be long-lasting.
Now, I look forward to visiting the Palazzo Pitti, which opened today, and the Gallerie degli Uffizi, the Galleria dell’Accademia as well as my beloved Giardino Bardini next week. I’m excited to experience each one with fresh eyes. The time apart has only increased my appreciation of them. While Florence reemerges, we have this incredible opportunity to visit her at a slower pace and with more delight, reveling in each one of her facets with admiration and gratitude.
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