*On my way to Firenze so reposting my sentiment on this magical city!*
The moment I stepped off the train, I knew this experience would be profoundly special. It was 1995 and I remember it distinctly, strolling on the platform toward the busy Stazione and observing all the chaos in panoramic view. Tourists were running, screaming, crisscrossing frantically to stamp their tickets and catch their trains as the elegantly dressed Italians all watched in amusement casually smoking cigarettes. The P.A system blurted out binario (train track) changes in a soft, but incoherent, Italian voice that only added to the confusion as all eyes keep darting to the big board that looms above. I walked out past all the noise onto the busy streets of Florence for the first time in my life and instantly felt an eerie sense of calm. I was home.
Reincarnation is a religious or philosophical concept that I have always had a healthy skepticism about – it is intriguing yet hard to fully embrace. But what I can claim is a level of comfort and intimacy with the surroundings of Florence that was hauntingly familiar despite my passport proving I have never been here before…at least not in this lifetime! But I can assure you with quiet confidence my soul has strolled these magical streets before. Even before I would turn the corner on some passageway, I knew what would lie before me. I was in my element and the surroundings evoked distant memories.
Florence has essentially remained the same since the Renaissance period 500 years ago, albeit quite a few battles among powerful city/states until the unification of Italy in 1861. The magnificent churches, historic piazzas, massive collection of art – even the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge which has survived devastating floods and Hitler’s army in World War II (allegedly because Hitler viewed it too beautiful to destroy) have all endured over the centuries remarkably unscathed. Florence is a timeless treasure that transports me back in time with new wonders to discover upon every visit.
In sharp contrast to its stability, Florence has welcomed me in all my unstable, contrasting variations. Despite this majestic city seemingly never changing, it has received me in many shades of colors, moods and dimensions: I have arrived blissfully in love, dancing in the streets with my head in the clouds; in the depths of despair, lost and disillusioned with the world; in unbearable loneliness, surrounded by a faceless crowd; in extreme physical pain; and in tranquil moments of solitude and inner peace. Florence has seen me at my best and at my worst, yet still embraces me like a son that it may very well have nurtured over the centuries. It is an annual pilgrimage I now make to my beloved city which never fails to recharge my soul. Oddly, it now serves as a reflection in the mirror as it allows me to objectively observe myself with each new visit without judgment. Florence has stood the test of time, so whichever mood state it embraces me in is a change or variation within me; she is a constant in my sea of constant change. Against this magnificent backdrop, I can assess my current status and calibrate my views on life.
In all my world travels, I have never been so captivated by a city. Its intimate charm hints of romance, magic and an optimistic promise of better things to come. Don’t change, Florence, don’t change.