Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Favorite Place in Florence

I finally figured out where my favorite spot in the entire city of Florence is. I'm a regular Florentine, now. I can safely say that after four months in this beautiful city, I've systematically conquered it's highlights. I'll make the claim that I'm a fairly good judge of character and after four months worth of deliberation I'm making the assertion that my number one favorite place in Firenze is the Piazzalle San Michelangelo. The first time I came to this place is was at 7 in the morning and the sun was fresh on the horizon. I was drenched from being sprayed with a garden-hose, tipsy from the fading effects of multiple shots of tequila being soaked up in my stomach by chicken nuggets, exhausted from pushing a car through Florence that had run out of gas, and completely and totally humbled by the view I was offered. The second time I came to this Piazza it was during the sunset. I went with friends before seeing some Monks sing and enjoyed music and wine on the steps overlooking a city dancing with the ebbing heat from the sinking sun. The third time I came to this Piazza was at 10 o'clock at night. I remember thinking that the Arno was lined with stars and that the city was glowing with the residual energy from the people inside.

This place wasn't in the original running for #1 in the beginning. There were three other places I'd considered before it. But then I read my diary. I brought my diary with me and sat on those stairs day after day, night after night. The ugly letters from my almost hectic flow of ink to paper managed to arrange themselves into a series of thoughts and feelings I never knew I had the capacity to express. I found myself, on those stairs, with that pen, overlooking that city. In a failed attempt to capture what I felt on those stairs, I wrote one of my final pieces for Travel Writing. Let me know what you think:

Maybe I come here too much. I don’t mind that it takes me over a half an hour just to walk here. I don’t mind that I can only find the time to come here after my classes have ended for the night and I’m exhausted. I don’t even mind that just to get here I’ve got to hike up a never-ending set of stairs so steep that I’m out of breath for at least ten minutes after the climb. Through all this, being here is worth it. I come here three or four times in the week. There is nowhere else in the city of Florence that has the effect on me that this Piazza does and I find myself eager to get back every time I leave. I don’t even do anything when I get here. I just sit. I sit and I look; I breathe. With every breath in I find myself filled up not with peace or tranquility, but calm; there are a lot of things a person can do when they’ve got calm. I’ve discovered that I need this calm, that I’m addicted to it. So yeah, I come here a lot.
I do a lot of watching here. I watch Florence, which even in the nighttime seems to move and writhe like something living. I can’t ever make sense of why it seems to writhe to me-I tend to associate that word with sickness. The city has energy and from here I can see it plainly. Whether that energy is a fading one I can’t ever tell. The atoms of this city are put under a microscope for me and I can safely identify its element. I watch the river slithering through the city, a snake so massive it can cut a valley in two. If I concentrate hard enough, I can see flecks of green in those black scales, forever creeping into the night. I watch the lights illuminate “The Big Three” of Florence. I find sometimes the image of these three buildings,-Duomo, Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio-these three beacons lit so brightly they blot out the stars, makes me laugh. It’s a subtle laugh, one of knowing and understanding that seems to bubble inside my soul and escape my lips in bursts. I watch the people I share these steps with: groups of friends drinking wine, lovers cooing shyly to one another, feigning privacy. They seem to find something else here, romance or serenity or even just a place to make a happy memory. It must be nice to be them. Then I remember that it’s nice to be me, too.
I slip away when I’m up here. I’m above the world I live in, not in it. I recognize which buildings are my favorites. I can point to a section of the city and identify the places I know; I can even map out the rifts between the buildings that are the streets I’m known to walk down. I’m not down there, though, and I’m no longer a part of the energy that circulates inside Florence. I’m an artist who takes a step back from the canvas to really observe what she has just done. I analyze each new color I’ve put in my painting, each stroke of my brush, each image I’ve created. I can see what mistakes I’ve made and how to fix them. I can re-work the image to make it more like the vision that first inspired me; I can even change my vision if I want. I can re-create Florence on these stairs. From here I truly see this place, this city I live in, and with that sight comes the calm I need. It’s not the kind of calm that sinks into your skin after a fleeting moment of comprehension. It’s the kind of calm that overpowers you, consumes you, and fills you up. It eliminates everything else. In this calm I’m someone new, someone who can finally grasp herself. When I’m in this calm I can make sense of my thoughts, my needs, my hopes, my feelings. And this is the only place in the world where I can find it. When an addict gets the urge, they succumb, and I often succumb to this Piazza.
I come here so much because I don’t want to let myself go. I want to hold onto my calm; I want to remain forever in the depths of ME. In ten minutes or so I’ll have to leave, I’ll have to re-enter that labyrinth of terracotta which from here seems so much less immense. I’ll have to shuffle home on those broken cobblestones pursued endlessly by the jeers of men who slink along the walls. “You dropped something,” they’ll whisper to me, and they’re right. Somewhere in this maze where I’ve been weaving, pulling my blue string through all the people and sights and smells, I dropped myself. So in a day or two, when I absolutely need to feed this addiction from which I suffer, I’ll go back to the Piazzale Michelangelo. Through my exhaustion I’ll hike those stairs and embrace my calm, in tune once again with me. I’ll watch and know and understand; I’ll see the areas where my painting needs change. For now, though, I’m just another atom orbiting Florence again.

I'm gonna miss being an atom.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

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