When I first came to Florence, I never imagined falling in love with it the way that I have. I saw it through the eyes of any tourist: as a spectacle, a place to enjoy but never to call home. I observed its untouchable perfection—its beauty, history, delicious food and melodic language—without imagining the impact it would have on me. Once I breached this perfection, diving into the culture of the city itself, there was no going back. I became infatuated with Florence.
There is something beautifully delicate about the balance Florence creates between the past and present. In America, where I’m from, the only history you can find is in museums; artifacts and paintings exemplifying the heritage of America and other nations sit protected behind glass cases. To me, this represents a blunt separation of the past and present. It is a cultural message—history is not to be touched or truly felt, but rather to be looked at. In Florence, residents and visitors live and breathe the city’s history every day, constantly confronted with ancient buildings, statues, bridges and streets. When I walk down streets with my friends, I can’t help but imagine adolescents walking down these same streets and seeing many of the same sights, hundreds of years before. The city center of Florence has come to represent a doubled magic for me. It preserves the old—many of the buildings, streets and monuments remain untouched as they have for centuries—while welcoming the new—shops and restaurants now fill these ancient buildings, and modern residents and visitors observe and traverse these monuments and sights. It is a beautiful metaphor for the marriage of past and present, and has taught me that the present can grow and flourish without trampling on the past.
Yet what is the beauty of the city if you don’t enjoy it? What made me truly fall in love with Florence and its history are the memories I have created there. I will forever miss the peaceful serenity of the Santo Spirito air as I ate fresh pizza with my friend Henry, watching the sun melt below the rooftops and the sky drain of its milky blue color, turning into an inky black. Not a summer day goes by that I don’t yearn for the cool mixture of riso and cioccolato (rice and chocolate) gelato that my friend Brooke and I used to purchase every Tuesday, sitting on the stone benches in Santa Croce and savoring every last bite. I will never forget my meandering walks with my friend Vienna to our favorite bakery, bathing in the glowing sun (she tanning and me fearing sunburn) as we wandered along the Arno and through the side streets of the city.
I no longer see Florence as a foreign place, but as a part of my own identity. I am counting the days until the moment I will look out my plane window, observe the Tuscan hills and approaching Florence skyline, and know that I am coming home once more.