The ancient city known as the cradle of the Renaissance is no longer foreign to me. The aged appearance of historic buildings, styles of clothing, and the echoes of a six-stringed wooden instrument being gracefully strummed by a street musician down the alleyway are all growing familiar. I am soaking myself in the Italian lifestyle, and it repeated every morning during my walk to and from school. Within ten minutes, I would experience the culture, the architecture, and art. Within ten minutes, I would experience Florence, simply at her finest.
At the break of dawn, the nearest church’s bell tower resonated a chime at each hour. Those chimes awaken my senses and the continuous revving of moped engines further indicated that I must begin my day. It wasn’t just another day, but a day where I could breathe in Florence all over again, and capture mental photographs of perfect moments. As I turn the corner of my street, I briefly hold my breath because a cow-pie odor gusting through the water drain greets me. The dust-filled air of this ancient city is fused with gasoline and the nicotine of cigarettes smoked by every other Italian, which results in my clothes reeking of smoke by sundown. I am not completely upset, for the sweet-tasting aroma of sugar-coated pastries and creamy cappuccinos served at each coffee shop compensated for the polluted air. The delicate jingling of china being placed on outdoor tables join in the melody of Florence.
My feet are my mode of transportation. While continuing down the narrow, bluish-gray stone paved street, I am the passer-by who wrestles with pedestrians that leisurely initiate conversations with acquaintances in the middle of sidewalks. The language of the strangers I meet at intersections is no longer odd. Their hand movements are growing familiar. I am progressing in language. There is an old man, short in height with a red apron tied around his neck and waist, and whose round face I remember clearly. As I pass by the café he works at, he greets me “buongiorno” with a smile. He contributes to my feeling of being welcomed. Florence is making her way into my heart.
The splendor of Florence lies in art and architecture. With the exception of the churches and basilicas, I notice that standard buildings rise no higher than six stories. Midway through my travel I always pass the Florence Cathedral, which is colossal in size, especially when standing at the foot of it. Passing the Duomo is what I treasure most. The majesty of the Cathedral is embedded in my mind forever. I encounter an assortment of people: tourists, priests, consecrated religious, and pilgrims who together marvel at the beauty and intricately detailed, dirtied white marble structure, stained with forest green and pastel pink decorative designs. Fastened around the façade are flawlessly carved statues of saints, positioned in the hollow cavities of the structure. It is a masterpiece.
In proximity to the school, the difficult the walk becomes due to unleveled parts. Sets of stones that protrude from the pavement jab the soles of my black worn out ballerina flats. A block down, I feel a sense of relief breaking the plane. Ten feet away is a middle-aged man lining up printed copies of renowned paintings by Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci, in hopes that a day-tripper will fall for his trap. Seconds later each beautiful copy is swiftly scooped up as he rushes away before the police can seize him, finding a new street to repeat the same routine again.
I turn the last corner and I have reached my destination. I am at the steps of a four-story building that was once a hotel. I push open a cold, rusted gate that squeaks when swung open and I am enveloped with a positive mindset. Though the day has just begun, thoughts of walking back to the apartment excited me. I want to experience Florence at her finest all over again.