For my solo day in Florence, I hiked straight to the city’s best observation point. Across the river, through the winding streets and up, up the hill, the Piazzale Michelangelo is magnificent. On a sunny day in February, the city shone, a hint of snowcaps in the distance and what I’m sure were greatly reduced crowds staring out into the stiff winds.
Like Monmartre in Paris, or Alamo Square in San Francisco, it’s a place to convene with the city from above. The bustle, the life, the food, the history, all that makes Florence, is laid out below, calm from this vantage, rendered almost orderly as the perspective zooms out. Nothing about a single visit can begin to make sense of a 2,000-year-old city, but from this point of view, the outline becomes a little clearer.
Piazzale Michelangelo is touristy, sure, but there’s a calm joy here that doesn’t exist on the streets, in the thick of the city. It’s a city in panorama, not in your face.
I always like to make time for these moments at the end of a trip. Overlooks are reflective spots for me, too tempting to miss. But I like to know what I’m looking at, practically as well as spiritually. I like to walk in the midst of that vastness first, then take the steps up to see it from above.
A guitarist was playing at the top. He sung Lennon’s “Imagine,” alternating the verses between English and Italian. I gave him €2, more for the song choice than the performance, but his selection couldn’t have been any better. He finished and played Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” and then Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” He started into “Wish You Were Here” and I walked away with a smile, thinking of too many people, all at once.