Florence is more than just gelato, bistecca alla fiorentina, leather markets, and Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset. These things are fundamental in some aspects, but the city contains so much more depth than that. Whether a visitor, native-born, or local by other means, this Tuscan destination lends itself to a feeling synonymous with “home.”
I’m woken up by a stream of light coming through the slightly cracked shutters in my shared bedroom; it hits the red tiled floor. I’ll probably spend the next 15 minutes laying in bed and making my way to the kitchen for a slow breakfast of scrambled eggs, jam on toast, and yogurt with granola. I always drink a small cup of freshly squeezed orange juice, too. I take pride in these slow mornings. Back home in the United States, these breakfasts are reserved for the days I rarely find myself free. From what I know, this is the slow Italian lifestyle I was warned I’d fall in love with. But I’m in trouble, because I’m head over heels.
On days like these, the American in me is obsessed with finding something to do in order to fill my day to the brim. I force myself to slow down, take smaller steps, and tread lightly over the cobblestones. I turn at undiscovered street corners and glance up and take in the assemblage of mismatched green shutters. From Christmas tree greens, to summer grass, to shades of jade, they paint the walls of my promenade. They’re something I love about the city.
No matter how beautiful Florence presents itself to me, the aesthetics only brush the surface of what makes this city my own. Giving myself only 10 minutes to walk to the duomo to meet friends when I know I need 12 is the Florence I’ve become accustomed to. It is eating dim sum every Thursday night after five and a half hours of classes. It is the old man in a suit and tie who sits outside my academic building playing the accordion and composing the soundtrack for my walk to class. It is setting out to see the Boboli gardens, discovering it’s closed because it’s the last Monday of the month, and wandering so far on the opposite side of the Arno that my friend and I find ourselves among chickens and exclusive residences. I have drawn up my own Florentine life; as my days fade into months, depth and detail have been intricately sketched into my experience.
Florence or Firenze, Italy or Italia, the skyline of the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio jut upwards, marking the landscape with their presence. Similar to the hundreds of other Americans in this city, I am merely one person making a dent in the daily happenings of my temporary locale. So, I’ll keep ordering the same yogurt flavored gelato from Grom and visiting the Piazzale. The sun will set over the city while a musician behind me sings “Chasing Cars” in an Italian accent, and right on cue, I’ll get choked up because beautiful sights have the audacity to make me emotional. But I’ll also keep running up to the marble steps of the duomo two minutes late. I’ll act surprised with myself but deep down I know there’s no rush, it is my city after all.