At midday today I was sitting covered in blankets, tucked up under the eaves of the archways of a beautiful building, hidden in the most popular center of Florence. From this spot, I could look out through an enormous arched window and watch the commotion of Piazza Repubblica, but I didn’t have to be in it – and it was wonderful. I felt cozy, at home, and that was before the class started.
I began my day getting up and out early to the bus stop to go to meet my friend on the other side of town. The antique market was set up this morning around Piazza Liberta, so on my walk I passed old record players, silver tea sets, antique toys, piles of books, trays of jewelry, all carefully propped and placed on folding tables under white tents, the owners normally sitting on folding chairs behind their wares, waiting to answer questions only they know about these lost treasures. It’s way too easy to get distracted, and I’m lucky that we have so little space in our house or I’d buy as much as I could carry home every. single. month. You want a really interesting day in Florence? Find what neighborhood is setting their antiques out on the sidewalk and then roam through. It’s worth it 🙂
It was an amusing bus ride with about seven women, most dressed in fur (you know it is cold in Florence when the fur comes out) and carrying canes, who straight up rioted when we all realized the bus route had changed and no one had told us. I got off by the Duomo and walked down towards Via Tornabuoni – which has the most spectacular Christmas lights this year and crossed the bridge to get to Santo Spirito.
The weekend market was sprawled around the fountain in the center of the square. Locals let their dogs run free, kids scootered around the outskirts. We sat with our cappuccinos on the outdoor tables, waiting for the sun to rise high enough to get over the buildings and take the chill out of the air. After two coffees and a few hours, I walked back over the Arno and under the Christmas decorations to the inconspicuous door that led up to Relax Firenze.
I had heard of a new spa opening downtown and saw a few others I know on Instagram trying their rituals and Himalayan salt room, but I just hadn’t had time to check it out – but when I was scrolling Instagram stories this week and Relax had posted about a Meditation class, I signed up on a whim and decided to go. The place is warm and so welcoming – with tiny cups of tea and a quiet sense of calm in the middle of such a chaotic city. It was just me and one other woman with the woman leading the meditation, and I was happy to tell them not to worry, we could do it in Italian without a problem. They thanked me for that. Side note: I want you to think of that situation in terms of how that’d go down in the US. Just for a second.
I can’t say I practice yoga or meditation but when the opportunities arise, I really love to allow myself to schedule time to not think. These types of mediation sessions are where I force myself to relax, where someone else is guiding my thoughts, and where I am doing things “right” if I just close my eyes and breathe like a dragon (I swear this is all I can describe it as any time anyone does that deep breathing thing – some people will know what I’m talking about). Honestly, I really think a ton of us just need to drop the stigma around things like this and just take it seriously for once – maybe we’d have a lot less angry people tweeting at the top of their lungs.
After an hour of focus, an hour of breathing, I opened my eyes and looked out through the great arched window onto Piazza Repubblica. The street band was playing near the row of painters outside of Gilli and the carousel was spinning lazily, a larger-than-life Santa and a tree placed in among the horses. Half of the open area is still blocked off – this summer they dug deep down into the earth below the stones and uncovered the older foundations of the city, forgotten by hundreds of years of renewals. I had watched a few of the archeologists climb down the ladders into the dirt. A tour group stopped in front of the Rinascente – the famous sheets of their signature silver Christmas lights twinkled on the walls of the store. I sat wrapped in blankets, watching my city hum under the excitement of another December Saturday and prep myself to get up and go back out to join it all and walk home.