My desire to appreciate my surroundings even more led me to different parts of my beloved city. I basked in the Giardino Bardini, admired the panorama from the Fontane delle Rampe del Poggi, marveled at the Mercato del Porcellino, enjoyed the rain in Piazza di Santa Trinita, rejoiced the holiday spirit in Piazza di San Giovanni, and reveled in the serenity of the Giardino delle Rose.
Capturing Florence’s different facets is like admiring a loved one from every angle. To love where we live is a gift. To appreciate where we live is an even greater gift. It is up to us to find beauty, cherish it, and breathe it in.
May this new year bring you much love so that your heart expands. When we nurture our hearts, we nurture our lives.
Giardino Bardini — December 10, 2021A thick gray blanket of clouds crept north as I hiked up the incline in Giardino Bardini. Delicate orange, yellow, and pink roses drooped under the weight of raindrops from yesterday’s downpour.
Above the rose bushes, the barren fruit trees still had a few amber leaves flapping in the wind. Water droplets glistened on the tall verdant blades of grass. As I walked under the pergola, I stretched my arm up to reach the brown pods dangling from the twisted wisteria vines, but they were too high. A tiny robin with its orange chest hopped onto the pathway and then flitted into a bush.
When I reached the terrace, the sun peeked through to show off the blue sky with its luminous white clouds. Two pigeons pecked at the gravel path, searching for seeds, as I was preparing to take this photo. They fluttered aside after I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket.
Scanning the cityscape, my heart burst open to gather as much of Florence as possible. The cool air stung my nose as I inhaled. On the exhale, my breath appeared like steam, billowing away from my face. I savored the smell of grassy fields, cracked chestnuts, and soggy leaves. The murmur of the pale brown water gushing over the weir below Ponte alle Grazie infused me with serenity.
I lingered in the olive grove until noon to listen to the church bells. The leafy trees had countless green, purple, and black olives still clinging to the branches. Some of which were already wrinkling. It wasn’t until I captured delightful chiming that I noticed a faint rainbow. I rejoiced at having remained long enough to see it.
Walking back down the incline, my heart felt light and my body even lighter. The world appeared more expansive than when I had arrived. The skies grew dim once again and hid the sunlight. Right before turning the last corner, I smelled two tiny jasmine flowers that I hadn’t seen earlier.
Fontane delle Rampe del Poggi — December 16, 2021Brisk gusts of wind made the leaves on the linden trees in Piazza Demidoff chatter. Rather than walking through San Niccolò to the Giardino delle Rose, I headed toward Piazza Poggi. As I passed alongside stone palazzi on Lungarno Serristori, I peeked at the Biblioteca Nazionale across the Arno.
I zigzagged up the path, hiked up the steps, and stood at the top of the Fontane delle Rampe del Poggi next to the metal railing. The sun hovered above the hills behind Giardino Bardini and thin clouds streaked the pale blue sky. The water cascading in the three fountains infused me with tranquility. As I breathed in my beloved city with all my senses, my shoulders relaxed.
As the sun lost its strength, its golden glow illuminated the city with love. I perked up when I spotted the holiday Ferris wheel to the right of the Duomo.
I closed my eyes and sniffed the wintery air as it fluttered by. The dry stone, damp dirt, and bay leaves perfumed the chilly breeze. When I reopened them, a tiny robin dove into a leafy bush, squeaking instead of chirping.
Shortly after sunset, droves of people descended from Piazzale Michelangiolo, past the fountain, and down toward the river. I waited a few minutes before navigating Viale Poggi where cars sped down the winding road.
Before arriving in San Niccolò, I glimpsed the Japanese garden in the Giardino delle Rose. When I arrived on Ponte alle Grazie, I paused to enjoy the vibrant colors dancing in the sky above the Ponte Vecchio. I gave my final salute to the sun for the day and walked home.
Mercato del Porcellino — December 19, 2021For the past few weekends, the centro storico has been busy. Shoppers making last-minute purchases and visitors admiring the holiday lights arrive before lunch and depart at dusk. On a day like today, when the sun traversed the sky without encountering a single cloud, people arrived in droves.
As I strolled across the Ponte Vecchio, I kept my eyes on the Duomo while walking toward it. Pedestrians shuffled back and forth along the bridge, carrying bulky paper bags. When I reached the Mercato del Porcellino, I circled it twice. I peeked at the wild boar statue surrounded by tourists. People positioned themselves to take a photo without the lingering crowds. But it was impossible.
A jumble of voices, speaking Italian with different accents, fluttered in the air. My ears perked up when three French women strode past me and minutes later an American family arrived behind me.
The stands displayed leather goods, scarves, pottery, and other trinkets that filled the wooden booth and spilled out into the walkway. Prospective buyers admired items from afar and then went up the steps for closer inspection.
I stood on the sidewalk next to a gelateria to admire the illuminated Florence’s gigli (fleur-de-lys) arranged in the loggia’s arches. A taxi turned on its squeaky signal to announce his presence. The driver, with his elbow poised on the window, inched his way through the crowds as they parted. I popped into the street before another car arrived and held my iPhone above my head to snap a few photos. One man smiled at me as he ducked under my cellphone.
A mix of odors fluttered by. A hint of smoke from a pipe, a strong flowery perfume, roasted chestnuts, and salty porchetta sandwiches from the shop around the corner. While standing in the shade of the 16th century loggia, the temperatures became chillier by the minute. As the sky darkened and the holiday lights twinkled like stars, I snaked my way through the narrow streets to get home.
Piazza Santa Trinita — December 22, 2021With every step on Ponte Santa Trinita, I kept my eyes on the horizon. The sun had already left and the chilly wind was picking up. When I reached Via Tornabuoni, I tilted my head back to admire the blanket of golden lights strung across the piazza and all along the avenue of exclusive shops.
At the corner of Via del Parione, I stood as close as I could to a window filled with watches. A rainy mist clung to my face. The pavement glistened as the sky turned sapphire blue. Long strings of shimmering lights blinked as gold and silver balls swayed.
People oohed and aahed at the illuminated Christmas tree, taking photos of themselves in front of it. Ferragamo’s illuminated display windows glowed onto the slick pavement. I breathed in the crisp scent of rain while my eyes embraced the piazza where pedestrians meandered through it and bicyclists wove their way around and between them.
With tingling fingers, I photographed the marble Colonna della Giustizia (Column of Justice) a few times. As the dampness in the air seeped through my clothes and slipped under my coat, I tucked my arms even closer to my body. I didn’t want to leave my spot during the blue hour.
A couple arrived next to me to take cover. He held her bags while she took pictures of the piazza. One young man rounded the corner and waved an umbrella at us. After we all declined, he hustled around the others to find a prospective client.
I almost headed home when the church bells began to chime. My heart expanded as I admired the decorations and listened to the tranquil melody wafting in the air. After walking through dim streets, I reached Piazza della Signoria. Holiday music was blaring from Palazzo Vecchio while people enjoyed an aperitivo from the enclosed terrace cafés. The sound of the fountain loomed in the background. Only when I reached Piazzale degli Uffizi was it quiet again.
Piazza di San Giovanni — December 25, 2021
The moment I arrived in Piazza di San Giovanni, the Duomo dazzled me. From its glowing marble facciata to its striking terracotta cupola against the deep blue dark. As crowds swarmed the illuminated albero di Natale (Christmas tree), I was drawn to the tabernacle on the corner of Via de’ Cerratani and Borgo San Lorenzo. Its soft light radiated serenity. People rushed around me while I stood underneath to look up at the Madonna col Bambino.
Then, I sauntered toward the Colonna di San Zanobi (Column of Saint Zanobi) and stopped a few times to let others pass. Cheerful faces beamed at the illuminated tree as dusk settled over Florence. I smiled at the hint of royal blue lingering behind the cathedral.
The wintry air drifted in the piazza where lights flickered, voices roared, and music played. Only a few individuals huddled together at small tables on outdoor terraces to socialize, sip drinks, and nibble on food. Some milled around while others rushed to shops before they closed.
As the starless sky turned black and the crowds increased, I walked along the sidewalk bordering the steps to the cathedral. A long line of people took turns to admire the elaborate presepe (nativity scene).
As my gaze caressed the Duomo, my heart sighed. I paused to breathe in the harmony created by the pink, green and white marble structure with its tall bronze doors, frescoes, and innumerable statues of saints and the Madonna.
I scanned the piazza one more time before continuing toward via Calzaiuoli. I caught sight of the tabernacle overlooking the crowds. Its presence reminded me that regardless of the goings-on in the piazza, a sense of calmness reigns.
Giardino delle Rose — December 31, 2021When I stepped inside the Giardino delle Rose, a cloak of serenity enveloped me. I took in a slow, deep breath filled with the garden’s delicious scents. My shoulders dropped as I listened to the water trickling in the fountain, saw the trees swaying, and delighted in the leaves on the rosebushes fluttering. I smiled at a couple cuddled on a bench under an almost bare London plane tree.
I meandered down the slippery stone path and hopped on the grass to traipse around the rose bushes. Streaks of light gray and white translucent clouds crisscrossed in the pale blue sky, accentuating the sprinkle of brightly colored roses. I examined every blossom I stumbled upon, admiring its intricate petals. The fresh breeze didn’t carry the rose’s smell very far, so I had to touch my nose against its soft petals to inhale its sweet, and sometimes fruity, perfume.
The chill in the air intensified as the sun fell behind the cypress trees. Its rays of light were only a whisper on my face. Heavy footsteps along the scalinata and a singer’s voice in Piazzale Michelangiolo converged. People trickled in and out of the gardens, snapping photos from the terrace.
I leaned my body against the rough stone barrier between the rose bushes to admire the tiled rooftops leading to the Duomo. The scent of fresh mud wafted through the air as a flurry of leaves tumbled by.
The sun cast a warm hue over the city, caressing it with love. After my eyes filled up on the view, I gently closed them. To be immersed in beauty is to be alive.
While I contemplated the view, I felt as if Mother Nature and Florence held me in their embrace. Both have nurtured me this past year by filling my heart with beauty and love, by infusing me with tranquility, and by encouraging me to walk the path of my heart.
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