Over the past month, autumn has been ramping up. The chilly mornings and evenings bookend the warm afternoons. The sun sails across the pale blue skies, grazing its cool light on Florence. I find even more to savor as the leaves change color, the pace slows down, and the soft scent of damp soil drifts through the city. In these anecdotes, I admired the cypress and olive trees in Piazza San Giovanni, happened upon an unexpected sunset from Lungarno Diaz, visited the Giardino delle Rose, and remembered the moment I spotted Orsanmichele for the first time.
Piazza di San Giovanni — September 20, 2021Before the shops closed, I meandered through the center and ended up on via Roma. The setting sun cast its sharp light onto the tops of the Duomo, Campanile di Giotto, and Battistero. Silhouettes of the neighboring buildings grazing their marble façades made me sigh.
I stood beside a stone bench where a couple with their heads touching hugged each other, oblivious to the hubbub. Families and groups of friends rushed through the piazza, carrying bags in one or both hands with cameras hanging around their necks. Young women wrapped their arms across their waists to protect themselves from the chilly gusts of wind.
The restaurant and café terraces were bustling. Cheery customers sipped on glasses of wine, sitting in front of plates of pasta and grilled steaks.
I tiptoed on the grassy area next to the Battistero to admire the tall cypresses, olive trees, and grapevines. What a delight to sniff the ripe scent of the countryside in Piazza San Giovanni where the pietra serena blocks were still holding onto the morning’s drizzle.
Before heading down via Calzaiuoli, I took a slight detour to dip my nose into a white rose nestled in the tall grass around an olive tree below the Campanile. While I passed in front of three soldiers whose eyes followed me, I shrugged my shoulders and smiled before navigating my way through the crowd.
Lungarno Diaz — September 26, 2021I stood at my door when thunder grumbled in the distance. Outside, the low-hanging clouds had grown dark. A brisk gust of wind entered my windows right before streaks of rain fell from the sky. I caught a whiff of the rich scent of wet stones. Two young girls darted across the street, shrieking as they looked for cover. Their summery clothes clung to their skin.
Once it cleared up a little, I headed down Lungarno Diaz where a group of students standing on Ponte alle Grazie, flailing their arms. The gusts of wind were so intense that I held on to my scarf as I crossed the bridge. I paused to take a photo of the inky gray clouds above the Ponte Vecchio and the choppy surface of the Arno. When a few droplets fell on my cheeks, but I didn’t bother opening my umbrella. Within seconds, rain bucketed down. Cold water streamed through my hair and splashed against the right side of my face. I had to squint to navigate my way as the gale propelled me toward the street.
While three women charged past me along the slippery sidewalk, I slowed down. Unable to make it to my destination, I stood in a wide doorframe of a building and watched the rain continue to fall. A man, pushing a stroller, laughed as he tried to catch up to his wife who was running down the stone road.
After the deluge, I headed back home with my partially drenched scarf still tight around my neck. When I reached Lungarno Torrigiani, a beam of golden light streaked across the river toward Santa Croce. As I traversed Ponte alle Grazie, I glimpsed a faint rainbow above David in Piazzale Michelangiolo.
I hugged my waist so no air would slip inside my jacket. As I turned the corner onto Lungarno Diaz, the entire city was glowing. From the glossy pavement to the shimmering Arno. Standing alongside the brick wall, I took a photo before anyone else arrived.
Giardino delle Rose — October 1, 2021A light layer of fog shrouded Florence this morning, blurring the pastel-colored buildings across the Arno. As the sun rose, it pierced through the haziness and evaporated it, allowing the city to gleam once again.
When I crossed Ponte alle Grazie, the sun was high in the sky. Three nuns wearing long brown habits glanced at the river on both sides as they strode by.
Strolling by Piazza Demidoff where leaves were scattered around the linden trees, I inhaled fall’s distinctive scent. In San Niccolò, people sat on the terrace of a corner café, sipping coffees and eating pastries. Two women at a table inside, extended their legs onto the sidewalk, hoping to feel the sun’s warmth.
The moment I stepped through the Giardino delle Rose’s entrance, San Miniato al Monte’s bells chimed. The soft melody escorted me up the stone path toward the bountiful olive trees. When I reached the lawn, the delicate perfume of roses wafted around me in the cool breeze.
Circling the rose bushes, I sniffed as many blossoms as I could. I relished the varying shades of pink, from a light rose to a vibrant fuchsia. Geckos scurried over and through the tall blades of grass. Pastel yellow and bright orange butterflies twirled above the roses while determined bees dived in to their centers. A couple, sitting on the lawn under a hazelnut tree, held their panini wrapped in white paper in one hand and their drinks in another.
While taking photos, I noticed a cloud formation hovering above Florence. I watched the white angel as it lost its shape and melt away as if it had never existed. Thankfully, I snapped this photo of it.
When the basilica’s bells rang again, I headed toward the exit with my eyes on the panorama beyond the garden walls. As I descended the spiral stone staircase, I drew in a deep breath to hold on to the garden’s blend of aromas. I exhaled only after arriving on the street to make my way to Porta San Miniato.
Orsanmichele — October 19, 2021As I strolled down via Calimala in direction of the Ponte Vecchio the other day, the sunlight streaming across Orsanmichele’s façade caught my eye. I veered toward the old grain market where Saint Matthew stood, holding open a book. The air around the church was still, lightly grazing the festive flags.
My beloved church has been closed these past few months. I miss not entering it whenever I pass alongside it. Sometimes I would meander through it, light a candle or two, visit the museum upstairs, peek at the monuments and rooftops from the top floor, or sit down to take in its beauty. Now, I walk around it along the uneven sidewalk with my head tilted toward the sky, admiring the replicas in the ornate niches and the porcelain tondi.
Years ago, when I came to Florence for a three-month stay, Orsanmichele welcomed me. When I first spotted the rectangular building, it was from this exact angle.
From the exterior, I wasn’t certain it was a church. After a man exited the swing door, I entered. The dimly lit church enchanted me the moment I stepped into it. The smell of stone and candles emanated tranquility. With no other visitors inside on that day, I headed straight for a wooden pew in front of the vibrant fresco centered in the intricate tabernacle.
As I admired the church’s delicate details, a sense of familiarity came over me. I felt as if I had been here before even though I had seen nothing like it in my life. My time inside the church inspired me to remain in Florence and call it home. It seemed as if someone had cracked open my heart and caressed.
For me, this church represents Florence to its fullest. It depicts how a city of world-renowned commerce became the birthplace of the Renaissance and nurtured so much art into being.
Nowadays, gratitude and love bubble up inside of me when I see my beloved church. Thanks to Orsanmichele, I have remained in Florence where my heart has expanded even more.
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