Pausing to perceive more beauty

It only takes one breath to tap into the beauty that surrounds us. Every time I did, beauty embraced me and filled my heart with tranquility and joy. Florence wrapped her arms around me and encouraged me to savor my surroundings even more. Basking in a moment with all of my senses reminds me that life is precious and that every moment is precious too.

Living in Florence :: Pausing to perceive more beauty

Whereas before, I waited for beauty to reach out and touch me. I now breathe into it, allowing it to seep into me and permeate my heart. Beauty has a way of soothing the heart, mind, and body. It embraces and caresses us while we unwind and strengthen ourselves from the inside. 

I’m fortunate to have captured these moments in photos and in words. Most of what I write comes to me while I am in deep connection with my surroundings and trickles in afterwards when I contemplate my excursion. I love how more beauty comes to me when I am still, just breathing in my surroundings and communing with Florence.

Sunset from Ponte Santa Trinita — October 9, 2020
I arrived early for the sunset on Ponte Santa Trinita. While the sun was losing her strength, I sat down on the stone wall to face the Ponte Vecchio. A few moments after a small group of teenagers strolled into the bicycle lane to avoid the crowds, a bicyclist rang her bell attracting attention from everyone on the bridge. They all hopped back on the sidewalk as the woman continued on her path without stopping.

I hitched my knee onto the wall and faced the west. A sliver of pale blue sky appeared behind San Frediano in Cestello. As the white and gray clouds billowed to the south, more and more people arrived to watch the sunset. A young woman took a photo of herself as the riverscape changed color with every gust of wind.

Even though the clouds captivated me, a lone seagull flying only a few inches above the river attracted my attention. I smiled as its reflection on the water followed it. The wind moved around so much that it blurred the surface in some areas while leaving others untouched.

If I could, I would stand in the same spot every evening to watch the sunset. What a gift it is to join Mother Nature as she celebrates the end of her day. Breathing in even deeper, I welcomed the crisp scent of the Arno as it infused me with a sense of tranquility.

As the sky turned a warm yellow, the sun sent out a burst of light that colored the clouds orange and pink. I kept my eyes focused on the sun’s final salute of the day. Within only a few breaths, the colors became faint.

I headed home after I took this photo so I could hold on to this moment as the highlight of my day.

Lungarno delle Grazie — October 13, 2020
I paused for a moment to listen to the symphony of church bells ringing throughout the city at noon. After fidgeting in my chair, I hopped up to look out the window. Distractions were everywhere: the rattling of a delivery cart on the uneven stone road, the long honk of a scooter blocked by a car, the clip-clop of two horses pulling a carriage, and three teenagers shrieking as a bicycle zigzagged around them.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Lungarno delle Grazie

The wind ushered clouds across the sky, creating spurts of darkness accompanied by dramatic bursts of light like curtains being flung open and then closed shut. As I opened the window, a brief puff of warm air brushed past me, followed by a steady stream of brisk air.

Sautéed onions and garlic wafted up from the apartment below, mixing with the sweet scent of my matcha tea. I returned to my desk, allowing the city to enter my flat. After a few minutes, I could no longer resist Florence’s beckoning me to go outside.

With no idea of which direction to take, I headed toward Ponte alle Grazie. With each step, I visualized myself standing in the middle of the bridge to admire the Ponte Vecchio on my right and San Niccolò on my left. As I reached the stop light along Lungarno delle Grazie, the cushiony clouds caught my attention.

I dashed to the low wall and sighed at the panorama. Reveling in the vibrant blue sky, I smiled when a gray heron flew by. The sun gently warmed up my skin. While no cars zipped by and no people walked behind me, I backed up from the corner and stood in the street to take in the entire view. The crisp rays of sunlight highlighted the red brick wall, the lamppost and its shadow, the pastel-colored buildings across the Arno, David standing at the top of Piazzale Michelangiolo, the leafy trees and bushes filling in the empty spaces, and San Miniato al Monte standing above San Niccolò. 

The moment I heard a car turn the corner, making its way toward me, I hopped back onto the sidewalk. I propped my elbows on the wall for a few more minutes to allow my surroundings to enter my heart before continuing my journey along the Arno.

Giardino Bardini — October 15, 2020
As autumn settles in, trees drop their leaves and roses their blossoms. Temperatures decrease, the sun weakens, and rain comes and goes as it pleases. Bouts of rainfall followed by glimpses of sunlight nudge nature to bring her gifts to life. 

Living in Florence, Italy :: Giardino Bardini

When I stepped into the Giardino Bardini, I unbuttoned my rain jacket and let the cool air encircle my body. With every step, my scarf flailed behind me and rosemary, lavender, nipitella (lesser calamint), and thyme fluttered around me. I smiled at the countless yellow leaves scattered on the grass while noticing many others clung onto the branches, flapping in the wind.

As I walked up the gravel path where leafy hedges stood to my left and rosebushes climbed the wall to my right, I focused on the panorama. The moment the noon bells rang, I paused. Turning my head to better decipher where the chiming was coming from, my eyes jumped to the different churches and bell towers to detect the swaying of the bells. After about five minutes, the tolls lingered in the air and melted into the hum of the city. 

As I hiked toward the pergola, a light brown squirrel scampered up the oak tree’s gnarled branches. Turning the corner to go to the olive grove, I made a beeline for the wooden bench in the open field. I sat down with the sun warming my back to admire the Duomo centered between two olive trees above the wisteria-covered pergola.

Two orange and black butterflies navigating the wild roses caught my eye. The chirping of tiny birds hiding in the bushes filled me with glee. When I glimpsed the clusters of olives, becoming a deep purple, I knew that autumn was upon us.

Frolicking around Giardino Bardini allows me to hear Florence’s heartbeat. I lay my head on my beloved city’s chest, nestle myself in her arms, and breathe in unison with her. Her energy courses through me as if embracing me from the inside, hugging my heart. 

The Uffizi — October 21, 2020
The Uffizi was on my mind when I woke up this morning. After having an early lunch, I darted over to the museum for a visit. Arriving at the top of the wide staircase, I let my inspiration lead me through the rooms. My eyes grazed the artwork, allowing specific details to capture my attention and delight me.

Living in Florence, Italy :: The Uffizi

After exiting one room, I sat down on a wooden bench with my back to the windows and admired the portraits of counts, countesses, grand dukes, and duchesses lined up under the ornate ceiling. I couldn’t hear much except the shuffling of feet and a few murmurs drifting through the long square-shaped corridor.

When I arrived in front of “Pala degli Otto” by Filippino Lippi, I stepped back a few meters and softly smiled. The colossal masterpiece warmed my heart. The two angels framing the Madonna with flowers, the look on the Madonna’s face, the Bambino holding open a book, Giovanni Battista’s vibrant red cloak, and the Florentine flag hovering above.

Letting out a long sigh, I exited the room and headed to the end of the corridor. Being in a museum, I had to look at one of the greatest masterpieces of all: Florence herself.

I waited for a young woman to finish taking photos before moving in front of the double windows. The cloudy pale blue sky, the Ponte Vecchio, the Corridoio Vasariano, and the light green Arno filled me with glee. 

Even though my beloved city was at my feet, I felt distant from her. I could only see her beauty, but I couldn’t feel her beauty reverberating around me. It wasn’t until a couple shuffled toward me and gasped at the view that I continued my journey through the museum.

Before ending my visit, I enjoyed a drink on the café’s terrace where the Torre d’Arnolfo hovered above. As I contemplated the artwork I experienced, I felt a great sense of gratitude well up inside of me. Every time I peruse art, my heart expands with all the beauty I appreciated.

Giardino di Boboli — October 29, 2020
A brisk breeze ushered me into the Palazzo Pitti’s main entrance. Even though I enjoy visiting the museum, my focus was on strolling through Giardino di Boboli. With the autumn colors beginning to spread throughout the city, I couldn’t wait to bask in the delights this season is bringing us.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Giardino di Boboli

My footsteps quickened as I passed through the courtyard to reach the entrance to the garden. When I arrived at the top of the wide stone steps, I smiled at the Duomo gleaming in the distance. The bright blue sky sprinkled with clouds filled me with delight.

With each step on the gravel path, a sense of tranquility came over me. The murmur of the city was faint as I made my way to past the Limonaia. I rushed to the wide pathway lined with London plane and linden trees that reached up to the sky.

As I walked between the enormous tree trunks, I breathed in the sweet scent of autumn and searched for the birds perched high on the branches. My eyes filled up on the yellow, orange, and brown leaves fluttering in the wind and scrambling across my path.

Standing on the other side of the walkway, I took in a few deep breaths. While the wild parrots were chattering and the tall trees were whispering, the noon church bells chimed. Chills ran through my body as I delighted in the abundance of beauty I could embrace with all my senses.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Giardino di Boboli

As I stood next to Palazzo Pitti, I glimpsed golden leaves adorning many of the trees. I walked through the amphitheatre and made my way up to Neptune’s fountain to examine the trees up close. My heart jumped when I saw yellow leaves sprinkled on the lush grass. I circled the tulip tree a few times to enjoy it to the fullest.

Before heading back down the steps, I took in the view of the Giardino di Boboli, Palazzo Pitti, and the panorama of Florence held in Mother Nature’s embrace. As I scanned the landscape, a wave of gratitude came over me. To delight in so much beauty is a gift I am thankful for.

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