Giving thanks to Anna Maria Luisa

As we round the corner into winter, the days have become shorter and chillier. Regardless of the weather, I enjoy communing with my beloved city. When I admire Florence, I feel her love flowing through me. Her beauty seeps into my heart like a gentle embrace from within. The highlight of these past few weeks was when I walked along Lungarno Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici. Not only did I revere and appreciate her, but I also felt thankful to her for allowing the cradle of the Renaissance to remain intact. 

Living in Florence :: Giving thanks to Anna Maria Luisa

Afterwards, I indulged my senses in the Giardino delle Rose. I am most conscious of my beloved city’s creative energy, pulsating from her gardens and down her river. When I am in Florence, I am in love. Not only with the city, but with Mother Nature’s abundant gifts.

Lately, I’ve been motivated to watch the sunsets along the Arno. Maybe it’s because it’s the end of the year when we often reassess our lives, release things to make space, and prepare to welcome in the new. I was fortunate to experience many moments that I savored and appreciated. Mother Nature adds her touch to Florence throughout the day and pays special attention to her by kissing her good morning and goodnight.

December not only announces the end of the year but also the beginning of the holiday season where good cheer and bright lights uplift us all.

Lungarno Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici — November 6, 2021
I headed down the river toward the Ponte Vecchio under a cloudy sky. As I passed the Uffizi, I claimed an empty spot along the brick barrier by leaning my hip against it. My eyes were immediately drawn to the fluttering crimson leaves on the pergola below.

I savored the crisp scent of the Arno while watching canottieri (rowers) in groups of two, four, and eight sail up and down the river. As the clouds parted, I reveled in the sun’s warm light, accentuating the panorama and showing off a sliver of blue sky. The view was so harmonious that the ripples on the surface of the water infused me with serenity. 

Seagulls circled above the water before landing on the Ponte Vecchio’s roof. Tiny sparrows pecked at the grassy area where red and white roses glimmered from the rosebushes bordering the water. I scanned the riverscape between the two bridges and couldn’t help but notice a dark mass of clouds hovering above San Miniato al Monte and Piazzale Michelangiolo.

Tourists trudged up and down the incline to admire the view. While most snapped a photo and moved on, I remained in place. When a man asked me to photograph him and his partner, I stepped off the sidewalk and framed them standing next to a lamppost with the Ponte Vecchio in the background. Seeing the joy on their faces made me smile.

I used to think that this 100-meter stretch of the Arno was too small for the Electress Palatine, who bequeathed her family’s riches to Florence. After taking the 133 steps from beginning to end twice, I realized that her road is the best one in the city center.

Lungarno Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici extends from Museo Galileo, past the Piazzale degli Uffizi, and ends at the Corridoio Vasariano. From west to east, you can glimpse the Primavera statue on Ponte Santa Trinita, the Ponte Vecchio, San Miniato al Monte, Piazzale Michelangiolo, Porta San Niccolò, Ponte alle Grazie, the Uffizi, the Torre d’Arnolfo, and the Duomo.

She is the only Medici who has a portion of the lungarno named after her. From her riverside walkway, she continues to embrace her beloved city as we embrace her.

Giardino delle Rose — November 11, 2021
By noon, the sun was already inching its way to the west. Santa Croce’s bells rang as I made my way up the path inside the Giardino delle Rose. The southern wind howled through the tall cypress trees, jostling the trees in the garden and plucking their leaves. They danced in the air before tumbling to the ground. The scent of dampened soil and fresh grass trickled past me as I meandered around the rosebushes. 

Living in Florence, Italy :: Giardino delle Rose

Pink, orange, white, yellow, red, and fuchsia roses on crooked branches flapped their petals. I circled the rosebushes multiple times to savor their delicate perfume from near and far. Some smelled of citrus, while others of peaches.

I sat down on the cold stone border of a grassy area. With a direct view of the Duomo just beyond the terracotta rooftops, I marveled at how the sun illuminated its cupola and gilded cross. A tornado of brownish leaves whirled around my feet as I listened to the water dribbling into the stone fountain.

After long streaks of clouds had passed, rays of sunlight radiated throughout the city and garden, kissing the roses. My scarf fluttered in the wind as my hair swayed like the hazelnut tree’s branches. A burst of wind sprayed the water behind the fountain, landing on the path where I stood only moments earlier.   

A few more people trickled into the gardens and then trickled out. When I found myself alone again, I roamed through the garden, sniffing roses I hadn’t spotted before. London plane tree leaves, which were larger than my hands, crunched under my feet along the uneven path. I paused for a moment under a tree whose rust-colored lanterns hung in clumps. They chattered in the wind and glimmered in the sun.

The sun only warmed me up slightly, so I continued walking around breathing in the garden’s precious delights. 

Ponte Santa Trinita — November 22, 2021
Standing above the water at an equal distance from the riverbanks is so freeing. Waves of harmony embraced me as I faced west, opening up to the future as the past disappeared behind me. The sun grazed the tops of the buildings to the south, emanating a pale yellow glow while light strokes of wind caressed my face.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Ponte Santa Trinita

A group of starlings flew overhead, separated and then united above Piazza Santa Trinita and landed on various terracotta rooftops and antennas. An airplane pierced the milky blue sky, leaving behind a fluffy trail. The reflections of the palazzi appeared on the Arno’s surface as seagulls swooped low above the water. 

After the bells chimed four times, I sat down on the stone slab barrier with one foot on the sidewalk and the other one dangling. I peeked at the Ponte Vecchio every once in a while. As ribbons of pastel yellow stretched across the sky, a thin veil of clouds emanated an orange and pink hue. A bat zigzagged in front of me, scaring the couple next to me.

I was so charmed by the sunset that even a suitcase rattling on the sidewalk didn’t disturb me. Cars and motorini headed toward the Oltrarno while bicyclists and pedestrians crossed the bridge in both directions. When there was a lull in traffic, I enjoyed a pocket of serenity. I took in a deep breath to catch a whiff of the Arno. Its scent of chilly water and fresh algae put a smile on my face.

One man walked past me and said, “Peccato che ci siano le nuvole. (Too bad there are clouds.)” Under my breath, I whispered, “Menomale che ce ne siano. (Thank goodness there are.)”

As the skies darkened, a canottiere rowed down the river. His oars sliced through the water’s surface, where the reflections had become even more vibrant. After he passed under Ponte Santa Trinita, I bid farewell to the sun and headed home.

Ponte Vecchio — November 28, 2021
After the hail stopped and the skies cleared, I was eager to walk to Ponte Santa Trinita to watch the sunset. I strolled along the lungarno, passing the Ponte Vecchio where most of the hubbub was. The brisk air whirled around, seeping under my clothes and leaving a layer of humidity on my skin. The air smelled crisp, with a hint of wet limestone and cement.


I passed a multitude of pedestrians with their hands deep in their pockets, scarves wrapped around their necks, and either hats or jacket hoods over their heads. Couples huddled together to keep warm. I navigated the puddles and hopped over the larger ones along the bridge’s walkway until I stopped to face west.

The sun glowed a warm yellow behind puffy clouds to the south, which was surprising given the temperatures. When a sliver of sky appeared, long sun rays stretched out around the clouds.

The greenish water transported a handful of orange and yellow leaves toward Ponte alla Carraia. Seagulls flew overhead, soaring only a few feet above my head. The grassy meadows bordering the river were bright green, while the palazzi were a variety of pastels. My eyes diverted when a pack of starlings flew over the river and morphed into different shapes.

When the clouds became dark gray, I crossed the street to face the Ponte Vecchio. The holiday lights strung above Cellini were already lit even though the sun had not yet set. The water appeared blue. The chilly breeze dissuaded others to stop for long on the bridge. I held my iPhone up to snap a few photos and made fists in my pockets.

A flash of lightning glimmered behind the clouds to the north. The sky grew somber as a light sprinkle fell. Umbrellas popped open as thunder rumbled in the distance.

When I walked toward Piazza Santa Trinita, I stopped in the middle of the intersection to take in the view of the three bridges and bid farewell to Estate.

Ponte alle Grazie — December 1, 2021
After finding a central spot on Ponte alle Grazie, I took in a few deep breaths. I savored the crisp air while remaining present with my surroundings. As water streamed over the weir, I gazed at the Ponte Vecchio. Feathery clouds soaked up the sunlight and transmuted it into fiery orange, pink, and magenta while the denser clouds turned slate gray.

Living in Florence, Italy :: Ponte Vecchio

I glanced at the pastel buildings along Lungarno Torrigiani and the Camera di Commercio on Lungarno Generale Diaz. My shoulders softened when I spotted the Torre d’Arnolfo and the cupola illuminated with soft lights.

Even though the frigid breeze made my fingers tingle, I held my iPhone in front of me, ready to take photos of the ever-changing sky. I kept my arms tucked in close to my body as strong bursts of air whisked past.

Cars and motorini sped across the bridge as pedestrians strode down the sidewalk, taking in the broad view of the river. One woman moved left and then right, letting her hand linger on the metal railing, as she took photos. Sometimes she did so with an SLR hanging around her neck and at other times with a cellphone she pulled out of her pocket. 

The streetlights above the Arno flickered on a few minutes after sunset. My ears perked up when the church bells chimed five times soon thereafter. Seagulls darted overhead toward the sun before it disappeared for the day. The shop lights on the Ponte Vecchio shimmered on the water like gold coins.

Before heading home, I buttoned up my coat and wrapped my wool scarf around my neck one more time. With my head facing west, I walked past those who were just arriving to catch the tail end of the sunset after the vibrant colors had already faded.

Piazza Santa Croce — December 5, 2021
After watching the sunset from Ponte alle Grazie, I walked toward Piazza Santa Croce along via dei Benci. Cars zipped by, blowing gusts of wind around me. A handful of white taxis were parked near the fountain between the street and the piazza. The scent of hamburgers, greasy sausages, and warm sugar filled the air. At the top of the piazza, people ate and drank at wooden benches and tables. 

Living in Florence, Italy :: Piazza Santa Croce

Couples, families, and friends meandered around the stalls of Santa Croce’s Mercato di Natale. For twenty years, the German Christmas market has taken place in Florence under Dante’s gaze in the basilica’s rectangular piazza. 

I zigzagged through the crowds, perusing the festive booths and waiting in line to order food. Crowds huddled around the Glühwein (mulled wine) stand. Sniffing the air, I could almost taste the hot spiced wine. Before turning up the next aisle, I admired the basilica’s illuminated façade and sighed.

By the time I reached the fountain again, Santa Croce’s bells chimed. I pulled out my phone to capture them even though there was a hubbub of holiday cheer surrounding me. 

The mix of the golden lights strung above the aisles, the brightly lit booths, the dark skies, and the joyful mood made me forget about the chilly air and the shorter days this time of year.

In November, many decorative lights were installed across the streets of Florence, but were not turned on. Unlit stars hung above the streets for weeks. For me, the Christmas season began the day this mercato opened. Not only does it bring people together to celebrate the holidays, but it infuses Piazza Santa Croce with glee.

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