In April, the pace in Florence was peppy. Tourists zipped around town, wide smiles on their faces, basking in the mild temperatures. Now that the air is heavy with languor, school kids, cruise ship passengers, small families, and groups of friends stagger through piazzas and down narrow streets. They take breaks to drink cold beverages that they sometimes splash on themselves to cool off.
In the past few weeks, I sought solace in the gardens where their peacefulness and liveliness invigorated me. Immersed in areas with lush trees and grass, only the hum of soft voices and street traffic interrupted the silence. For the first time, I found myself alone in Via dei Pecori and paused to revel in the view of Piazza San Giovanni.
Giardino delle Rose — May 9, 2022As I entered the Giardino delle rose’s iron gates from Viale Poggi, a warm breeze infused with the scent of jasmine welcomed me. I headed for the bush full of white blossoms on the edge of the path and breathed in her sweet perfume. Blackbirds were singing from the cypresses, filling the garden with glee. A thin layer of clouds was migrating west even though the winds were blowing in every direction.
From the plateau, I scanned the gardens and glimpsed the panorama. The rose bushes were bursting with colors: red, pink, orange, violet, fuchsia, white, and yellow. Fallen petals from the rainstorms and gusts of wind these past few days surrounded each one.
I circled the bushes many times. Clovers intertwined with the grass cushioned my steps as if I were walking on a cloud. Geckos along the stone wall scurried off as I approached them. One sparrow hopping on the grass alongside me took flight when I turned my head toward it.
When I reached one end of the garden, another rose would capture my attention and, once again, I would navigate them like a maze.
I delighted in each rose by slipping my nose into it, gently touching its velvety petals, and closing my eyes to feel its blissful fragrance permeate my heart.
Before leaving, I sat under a leafy linden tree, whose leaves resembled hearts, to embrace the entire garden and thank it for its generosity.
Via dei Pecori — May 18, 2022On my way to the Duomo, I peeked at the colorful shop windows along Via Cerretani. As summer holidays begin, more people weave in and around Florence’s piazzas and streets. When I spotted a large tour group advancing toward me, I swiftly turned right onto Piazza dell’Olio.
I walked down the shady one-way street, where city buses rattled on the uneven stones. The small restaurant on the left was closed, while two employees were setting the tables on the terrace of another restaurant.
When I reached Via dei Pecori, I paused next to a row of parked bicycles to wait for two cars to pass. A food delivery cyclist sped as I stepped onto the street. After glimpsing how the buildings framed the Battistero, Duomo, and Campanile di Giotto in Piazza San Giovanni, I stopped. Without a single car or pedestrian in sight, I stopped to cherish this moment.
For months, I had hoped to see this unhindered view, but normally taxis park on the right while cars, motorini, and bicycles zip by. I didn’t think it would have been possible to capture it after navigating the crowded sidewalks.
As a car approached, I hurried to the sidewalk and walked toward Via Roma, where I stood for a few more moments to savor the view.
With my iPhone close to my chest, I continued my walk home.
Giardino Bardini — May 24, 2022As I crossed Ponte alle Grazie, a cool breeze swept up from the Arno and caressed my right cheek. From the east, vibrant sun rays were gaining strength and warmed up the left side of my body. With only one cloud hanging in the sky, swifts darted overhead, spreading their wings and squawking. A white heron soaring inches above the water captured my attention for a few moments.
I arrived before Giardino Bardini opened and stood in front of the thick wooden doors where a sliver of sun shined.
After the gardens opened, I rushed back outside. With the crunching of my steps along the gravel path and blackbirds singing in trees and bushes, I inhaled the garden’s fragrant air and accepted its invitation to bask in its tranquility.
While hiking up the incline to the pergola, I paused a few times to enjoy the roses. Once I turned the corner and entered the pergola, I closed my eyes. I felt Florence’s energy embrace me. A loving pulse that both comforted and uplifted me.
Dried wisteria blossoms lined both sides of the path, and bright green leaves filled up the spaces they left empty. Long wisteria vines stretched above the blooming hydrangea bushes and toward the city, hanging horizontally to the ground.
Without peeking at Florence from the terrace, I ducked into the olive grove. Tiny olives had sprouted from brand new branches, and baby chestnuts, covered in thorns, had popped out of the pink and white blossoms.
On my way to the gravel path alongside the camellia bushes. A robbin hopped past my feet. I paused, hoping to look at it, but it flew away.
When I looked up, I spotted the Duomo through the terrace’s iron gates. With no one else in sight and only the chirping birds filling the silence with their song, I pulled back my shoulders and breathed in the view.
Giardino delle Rose — May 30, 2022Almost every person—whether on foot, on a bicycle, or in a car—turned to peer at the Ponte Vecchio as they crossed Ponte alle Grazie. Clouds glided overhead, making the sun appear and disappear in the sky. The fresh morning air fueled my steps as I ran down Lungarno Cellini.
When I reached Piazzale Michelangiolo, I jogged past the David and stood against the barrier. Tourists tumbled out of busses and spread out around the large square to enjoy the panorama.
I breathed in the city, scanning it multiple times from west to east. As more people arrived, I made my way to the lower terrace. After spotting the gardener unlock the Giardino delle Rose’s gate, I rushed down to get inside.
White butterflies flopped around while bees zoomed past me, almost grazing my face. The air was infused with the delicious scent of wet grass and roses: sweet like plums and soft like velvet.
As gentle bursts of wind carried rose petals across the lawn, I delighted in every rose that I saw by sniffing it. Each one caressed my heart with its fragrance, charm, and energy.
One couple meandered down the incline on their way to San Niccolò while a young woman traversed the gardens with her dog.
After enjoying my alone time with the roses, I marched down the stone path. I looked back at the garden before running back into Florence’s embrace.
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