by Melinda Gallo

Living in Florence :: The beginning of Florence’s reawakening

Maybe no one noticed that Florence—as well as many other cities—had lost its way. The lockdown woke us all up to give us a chance to rethink her future. For years, Florence was playing catch-up. She pleased others for short-term gain and in the process lost her soul. Every year, more visitors came, and the city made more adjustments to accommodate them. Apartments became hotels while artisans, bakeries, butchers, fishmongers, and green grocers disappeared. They installed ATMs in many restaurants, bars, and bottle shops. Pre-made sandwiches with wilted lettuce and tomato slices dangling out sat in glass cases for people to pick up as they walked by. Fast food was more popular than slow food. Visiting Florence seemed to be more of a race than a pleasurable jaunt. 

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Living in Florence :: Delighting in the Giardino dell’Iris

Every spring, I look forward to going to the Giardino dell’Iris. When they extended the lockdown to May 18, I wondered if the garden would remain closed this year. Fortunately, last week they announced that they would open the garden a few days earlier. Ever since the beginning of the month, I have made my way up to Piazzale Michelangiolo every day. After reaching the top, I always rushed to the railing above the Giardino dell’Iris to admire the irises. It amazed me how more irises had blossomed with each visit. 

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Living in Florence :: Florence slowly coming back to life

Last Friday was the first day that we were allowed to go out for a walk beyond the 200 meters defined shortly after we went under lockdown. It was cloudy and windy, but people came out to enjoy Florence. Families played frisbee in Piazza della Signoria where I stood to admire the water flowing in the Fontana di Nettuno and listen to the bells ringing at noon. It was a stark difference to just a few days before when I walked to my ortolano (greengrocer) in via dei Cerchi. On that day, only two people were walking through the piazza with their head down while two policemen stood outside of their car.

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Living in Florence :: Capturing every moment of joy

The times we are all living in are challenging and intense. This morning when I opened my windows and saw the blanket of gray clouds overhead, I smiled. Not because the sun might not make its appearance today, but because I am healthy and alive. In the past couple of days, however, the energy has shifted here in my area of Florence. It feels slightly more somber than before.

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Living in Florence :: Finding solace in isolation

Every morning, I wake up to the sound of the water flowing over the weir below Ponte alle Grazie. I used to only hear it only if I focused on it or in the wee hours of the night, rarely during the day like I do now. I welcome the sound of the church bells ringing every hour because they remind me that Florence is still spreading her love.

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Living in Florence :: Embracing the lockdown

The church bells chimed throughout the city this morning, calling parishioners to church. It’s a sweet reminder of what our daily life once was in Florence. The freedom to stroll through the streets and piazzas at any time has now been replaced with direct routes to buy necessities and return home. I can now calculate the time I spend outdoors in minutes per week instead of hours per day.

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Living in Florence :: Making the most of our quiet down period

This lockdown seems to be more of a quiet down period for us. Florence feels like she’s in hibernation with all the shops, cafés, and restaurants being closed. The streets, piazzas, and bridges are empty; however, we’re still able to go outside for a stroll alone, walk the dog, and purchase necessities. When I need to go outside, I keep away from the typically denser areas around Piazza della Signoria, Duomo, and Piazza Repubblica. I prefer to not encounter too many people if I can. It’s hard enough along the Arno to stay at least a meter from someone else that walking down a narrow street is even more complicated.

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Living in Florence :: Send us love, not sadness

Everyone keeps telling me they’re sad for Florence and Italy. Lockdown is an inconvenience, but it is a protective measure for our country and our citizens. If you want to be sad, be sad about the people who are suffering right now from this pandemic, teetering between life and death, and those who have already died.

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Living in Florence :: Returning to the lockdown in Florence

I only left Florence for a few days to celebrate my beloved’s birthday in Germany. The streets of Florence had grown quiet as many tourists and foreign students departed from the city daily. On Monday, the night before I was to return to Florence, Italy announced a lockdown until April 3rd.

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Living in Florence :: Admiring the full moon above the Ponte Vecchio

A few weeks ago, I walked to Ponte Santa Trinita to watch the sunset. I hadn’t gone back to the bridge until a few clouds were in the sky. Clear skies are nice, but sunsets are more colorful when there are clouds overhead. By the early evening, the clouds had thinned out and dissipated as the sun was setting. 

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Living in Florence :: Basking in the winter energy

Now that the holidays have passed and the Christmas lights have been removed from the streets, winter is finally settling in. The streets are quieter, fewer people are visiting the churches and museums, and terraces -- unless heated -- are empty. For the last few weeks, the sun has been dominating the sky, not allowing a single cloud to form. Recently, the sky has been a light blue with a misty layer of clouds staggering overhead. While the sun is hanging low in the sky at this time of the year, the colors appear muted and the shadows much darker.

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Living in Florence :: Savoring the roses in the Giardino delle Rose

When I looked out my windows this morning and saw the clear blue sky, I couldn’t wait to get outside. Because of the rain we’ve had the past couple of days, I knew I had to take advantage of the sun while it was out. I knew exactly where I would go as I headed out of my apartment. As I crossed Ponte alle Grazie, the chilly air tousled my hair. I paused for a moment to admire the light brown water rushing steadily over the weir and making its way to the Ponte Vecchio.  

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Living in Florence :: Delighted by a rainbow

It wasn’t until I reached Ponte alle Grazie that it began to sprinkle. I hoped that the weather report about only being cloudy and not raining until the afternoon would be true, but the ominous gray clouds predicted otherwise. As I raced through San Niccolò and up the incline to reach the Giardino delle Rose, I encountered many people with sturdy umbrellas and brightly colored parkas descending from Piazzale Michelangiolo. They didn’t dissuade me from continuing my hike up to the garden.

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Living in Florence :: Reveling in a sunset

A sunset is a work of art that evolves. Not one moment exists without the others that came before it. On the first of October, I decided to not only watch the sunset form the golden hour to the blue hour, but also to post seven pictures of it during the week. So many times when I watch a sunset, I take many photos of it and only post one to represent it. But this sunset was so spectacular that I couldn’t pick just one.

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Living in Florence :: Connecting more deeply with Florence

After a day and a half of rain, I was excited to see the sun this morning. I rarely make plans but today I decided on visiting Giardino Bardini before lunch. I hiked up the stairs through the center of the lower garden where the scent of damp grass and wet leaves on the stone walkway welcomed me. I scampered up the incline eager to smell the roses growing up the stone wall below the fruit trees. The sun warmed me up as I stood in the shade where the cool air swirled around me. For months, I’ve been hiding from the sun, but now I welcomed it.

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