by Melinda Gallo

Experiencing Florence with more reverence

My visit to the Campanile di Giotto last Friday inspired me to write narratives to accompany my photos on Instagram. I can’t promise that I will write them for every photo, but I would like to share more of my experiences of Florence in this way. I feel much freer when I write the narrative for the photo I'm publishing on Instagram. Many times, I wrote a narrative for a photo, but postponed publishing it because I didn’t want to use the same photo. Unfortunately, the delay turned into my not publishing the narrative at all.

Living in Florence :: Experiencing Florence with more reverence

I’m planning on publishing these photos with their narratives to my Living in Florence blog for those who don’t follow me on Instagram or Twitter. Besides these narratives, I will also post other articles on my blog.

During these first few days of writing narratives, I realized that I am immersing myself back into Florentine life with more reverence and pleasure. Writing about my jaunts around Florence is not only a way for me to deepen my experience of life here but also to enjoy and appreciate each day more fully.

Duomo — May 29, 2020
This morning, I woke up to the sound of rain falling on my roof. My first thought was the Campanile di Giotto. Last week, I reserved my spot to visit it, and the rain would not prevent me from going to the top of it. I hadn’t visited the bell tower in years and couldn’t wait to admire all of Florence from its terrace.

Even though the rain had already stopped, the sky remained an ominous gray. While I waited for the guard to call us to enter, I examined the details of the east side of the Campanile. The more I examined the details of the white, green, and red marble bell tower, the more my heart expanded.
I marched up the steps behind the guard who escorted us all to the three levels, stopping for a few minutes on each one, and then to the terrace.

When I arrived at the top, I rushed up the marble steps to admire Brunelleschi’s Dome. I took a few photos while the wind tousled my hair. It was only through the barbed wire fence that I had an unobstructed view of the cupola. I cruised around the terrace once before returning to this spot where I stood face-to-face with the cupola. Its terracotta tile roof always brings me joy wherever I am in Florence, but seeing it up close today filled me with love.

Ponte Santa Trinita — May 29, 2020
To celebrate the end of the week, I rushed to Ponte Santa Trinita to watch the sunset. Separate groups of people were sitting on the brick wall above the Arno eating sandwiches wrapped in paper and drinking beer out of bottles while the sunlight glowed from underneath the Ponte Vecchio.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Ponte Santa Trinita

When I arrived at Ponte Santa Trinita, the sun was warming up the colors in the sky and emitting its rays in all directions like a star. Flocks of swifts flew overhead while only a handful of cars passed by. A small group of people across from me were eating pizzas out of cardboard boxes as they sat on the bridge’s stone railing. Only a few people stopped to take a photo of the sunset, although everyone looked at it.

I remained in place with the wind whipping past me until the sun became a red dot that disappeared behind the hills. On my walk back home, I thought about how many times I have watched the sunset from the same spot and yet every time it was different. Tonight’s sunset infused me not only with delight but also tranquility.

Scalinata — May 30, 2020
It wasn’t until the late afternoon today that I took a stroll outside. My plan was to walk along the Arno toward Ponte San Niccolò. However, as I was crossing Ponte alle Grazie, I noticed clusters of people walking along Lungarno Serristori. Not wanting to zigzag my way through, I darted across the street and walked behind Piazza Demidoff where it appeared less busy. 

Living in Florence, Italy :: Scalinata

As I turned the corner onto via San Niccolò, the sun cast its long shadow toward the crossroad, highlighting the bars and restaurants. I smiled behind my mask at all the people sitting on the terraces where they enjoyed talking, eating, and drinking together.  

I marched through the Porta di San Miniato, heading up the low hill to the iscalinata (steps). I was hoping the Giardino delle Rose would be open, but it’s still closed. Instead of continuing up to Piazzale Michelangiolo, I stopped midway up the scalinata, breathing in the sweet scent of the trees and rosebushes. I peered over the stone wall to glimpse the few roses still in bloom.

A few people trudged up the steps to watch the sunset while others raced down to get back to the city. I remained in my spot under an overgrown tree to listen to the variety of birds singing above. The moment I heard the church bells ring, I pulled out my iPhone to take a short video. Afterwards, I stood on the scalinata to revel in the view and listen to the glorious sounds all around me. 

As I walked down the scalinata, I thought about how grateful I am for having changed my jaunt. It was such a delight to listen to the church bells ringing and the birds singing while admiring Florence from afar.

Santa Croce — May 31, 2020
When I arrived in Piazza Santa Croce this morning, the emptiness and peacefulness surprised me. A few people sat separately on stone benches around the piazza, soaking up the sun. I squinted my eyes to enjoy the view of the basilica.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Santa Croce

I admired the goings-on in the piazza while I waited for a friend. One father jogged to the middle of the piazza with his two daughters riding bicycles behind him. “Ciao Santa Croce,” he cried out, spreading his hands out wide as if embracing the basilica and the piazza. Both girls copied their father, yelling, “Ciao Santa Croce.” They zigzagged through the piazza a few times with no one crossing their path, and headed toward via Torta, which the father called out to his daughters.
Their energy filled the virtually empty piazza with joy. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched this one family, and many others that followed suit, bask in their surroundings. It was beautiful to see them delight in their city at their leisure.

As the water trickled in the fountain next to me, I thought about how the locals might not have ever been able to enjoy their city like this before. The city where they fall asleep and wake up. The city where they buy their groceries, clothes, and household goods. The city where they work, raise families, and go to school. They have always had to share Florence with us.

A wave of gratitude for the Florentines came over me. With a generous spirit, not only do they nurture and preserve Florence for us all to enjoy, but they are the heart and soul of this city.

Mercato del Porcellino — June 1, 2020
After a trip to the Poste (Post Office), I decided to take a different route home. Instead of walking through Piazza Repubblica, I headed in the opposite direction. A gust of wind lifted my scarf as I turned the corner onto via Porta Rossa. I strolled along the uneven stone pavement, glancing into shops. A couple sitting outside drinking spritzes caught my eye.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Mercato del Porcellino

The moment I arrived next to the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, I stopped, almost tripping over a protruding stone. I’ve seen the loggia empty many times over the years, but only early in the morning or late in the evening.

Out of habit, I walked around the loggia, not wanting to go through it. While admiring the architecture of the loggia, I peered around the pillars to take a peek at Il Porcellino.

When I arrived in front of the bronze statue, I chuckled. I’ve never been able to walk up to it so easily before. I backed up a few steps without having to look behind me and took a few photos of Il Porcellino. I only paused when a woman eating a gelato (ice cream) walked through the loggia.

Before leaving, I rubbed Il Porcellino’s nose and smiled. When I returned home, I realized that I didn’t drop a coin in its mouth and make a wish. I was so taken by the vacant loggia that I had forgotten.

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