Giardino Bardini

I accidentally stumbled upon the Bardini Gardens when exploring Oltra Arno (the other side of the Arno River). A wrong turn down quaint residential streets turned into a tranquil, beautiful stroll through these lesser-known but still magnificent gardens and villa with exceptional views of Florence.

The overcast day turned sunny by time I went through the gardens and back,  so my camera caught naturally varied views that really change the feel! Simply looking through these photos brings back the peaceful, restoring feeling this place brought upon me 🙂

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Italy: A Love Story.

Once upon a time I fell  in love with a city. A classic textbook case of the Italy Grand Tour capturing hearts and minds of youth across the world.

Glamorous Illusionsx-largeSeriously. I’ve been fixated on the idea of my four months in Florence since the week I had to leave…which was over two years ago. I was obsessed, and I absolutely had to go back.

A few years ago I took this college course The Psychology of Romantic Relationships, and I remember studying the neuroscience behind falling in love — and being stuck in it. And my obsession with Florence has matched the cognitive patterns of out-of-your-mind-crazy love…except I fell in love with a country!

“There’s all kinds of reasons that you fall in love: Timing is important. Proximity is important. Mystery is important. You fall in love with somebody who’s somewhat mysterious, in part because mystery elevates dopamine in the brain, probably pushes you over that threshold to fall in love.” — Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist

So, still stuck in my Firenze frenzy, I went back to Italy this May. Back to Florence, where I’d never felt so alive. I walked by our old apartment the first day I arrived — luggage still in hand. I took all the best walks, I sat in all my favorite spots, I ate all the great food (ALL the food!), I said hello to old friends, I befriended new faces, and I explored even more places. Just me, my memories, and the juxtaposition of a life that is and that was.

Someone I met on this trip woke me from this Italy Grand Tour spell with one simple word: fantasy. For over two years, I’ve had one foot stuck behind in a fantasy life that isn’t mine, and the other plunging forward into the only thing real yet everything unknown.

I needed clarity; I needed closure. And I didn’t know that’s why I needed to go back until I was really there.

Don’t get me wrong — I loved my visit to Florence. This very special city will always be in my heart. But my relationship to this city now feels like all the Renaissance buildings it holds — a beautiful place to see, but one which cannot truly be revitalized back to its glory era of existence. And that’s because it no longer has the people, the situation, the timing….that’s all history. A beautiful history to learn from and to cherish.

My life can now pick up the fragments of a dreamworld and use them to reshape what’s real. I need to grow the person I am in reality into the person I want to be in my fantasy. Going back has finally shattered this illusion that the best version of myself can only thrive in my fantasy.

I will be back to Italy. Probably many times. I will continue embracing its language, its country, its culture. I will continue loving Italy. But I will no longer feel like my heart’s been left behind while my body mindlessly drifts through a life where something’s missing. With closure from the past, I can finally feel excited for the future again. (And hey, there’s a whole world out there!)

Sorry it took two years to realize this. Helen Fisher could probably tell you about some crazy cognitive rationale that makes it totally understandable. But for now, here are some pictures from my lovely trip. I’ll share more in the coming weeks…and with much more fun and much less emo posts 🙂

Florence, I’m coming back!

Yep, it’s official. Today I booked a trip back to la città che riempie il mio cuore. Florence, I’m coming back to you!

I’ve been yearning to return for almost two years now, since departing from my four-month stay. It was hard to accept my time there as a past chapter in my life — a past chapter which cannot continue and cannot be relived. But it’s a chapter worth rereading.

There’s something very human about the need to revisit past experiences which bring us immense joy. Taking your kids to Disneyworld, seeing an old friend, eating your mom’s signature dish, taking a stroll through your childhood park… We are all driven to do these kinds of things. And we never expect them to be exactly the same or mean exactly the same thing as they once did: we accept them as past chapters, but we feel rekindled by rereading them. Or maybe we just feel clarity.

Something has been calling me to go say hello to Florence again. Yes, I acknowledge that the circumstances won’t be the same, and that maybe the Florence I remember might not be the same either. (Although, I’d be shocked if the BC-dated buildings finally gave in). But what I do know for sure is that pages will be much easier to flip forward once this chapter is reread.

“Follow your bliss.”

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More posts about plans & such to come…