To continue the trend of Americans who've left the U.S. for green pastures across the pond, I leave you with Melinda Gallo, who decided that a trip to Florence might be the push she needed to learn the language and be inspired to write. It wasn't love at first sight, she says, but eventually realized that this was where she was meant to be.
I didn’t fall immediately in love with Florence when I first came for a visit. All the tourists, heat, and constant ruckus annoyed me. It was the middle of summer and I came for one day. I visited the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio, but I don’t remember much else. At that time in my life, I had been living in France and England for six years and enjoyed my life in each one. It wasn’t until I returned the following year to study Italian and focus on my writing that I fell in love with Florence.
After my second day of Italian classes, I meandered the Florentine streets hoping to discover more of the city’s beauty. Up to that point, I could only recognize the main sights and was now enjoying Florence much more without the crowded streets that I had to contend with the previous year. I walked around the city aimlessly and let myself be led by whatever inspired me.
I eventually walked into an empty and dimly lit church just behind via Calzaiuoli, which I later learned was Orsanmichele. I sat down in a pew in front of a large painting of the Madonna and child, placed inside an ornate marble structure. After looking around a few times wondering why no one else was here to admire it, I felt as if I had just found a treasure and felt honored to be alone with it.
While I studied the church, a blanket of peacefulness came over me. In the silence, I had this overwhelming sense that I was home. My body relaxed into the pew and all I could feel was joy. In that moment, I realized that my living overseas had been about my finding a home. Even though I always felt comfortable where I’ve lived in the US, France and England, I knew that there was something missing. None of these places felt like home to me.
When I walked out of Orsanmichele, I was full of vim and vigor. Florence looked different to me: it became more alive and beautiful in my eyes. The expression “home is where the heart is” means more to me than the place I love the most; it’s the place where I can finally open my heart and become the person I was born to be. I've learned that home is not a destination, but rather a place where you grow and thrive.
My being in love with Florence has opened my eyes to her beauty. Each day that I am here, the city becomes more beautiful to me. Sometimes it’s just the angle of a monument in front of a building or the way the light reflects off the water in the Arno that melts my heart. Florence has had a great impact on me: my heart overflows with love and appreciation for this enchanting city that has not only welcomed me into its heart, but also encouraged me to open my own.
Images: courtesy of Melinda Gallo first published here and here