The Beautiful Florence

Excerpt from Solivagant

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On the next morning, I head to the Rome’s train station for Florence. I’m much more prepared: I expect it to be late. As I wait on the Peron, my eyes follow the glass ceiling at the top. Lights come on and illuminate the platform, casting shadows upon us. You see there’s never one color for light or shadow. There is this painting technique where you can combine different colors to create the same ambience. Complementary colors create dark shades. That would be red and green, blue and orange, purple and yellow. Meanwhile, you can create lighter colors with the cream shade. I call it the human skin tone. It’s a mixture of red, blue, yellow, and white. It is confusing but also fun! I learned it together with Sylvia and Tasya about 3 years ago.

It was in a 2-hour oil painting class. I got grand ideas about sketching butterflies and flowers — which looked horrible in the end. Sylvia suggested for a basic of monochrome design instead. Fortunately, the tutor came and guided me. She mentioned about color theory to create light and shadow on a painting. “It’s how you blend them… how you make the paintings alive,” she said.

The trip to Florence takes about three and a half hours and the scenery is breathtaking. Unlike joining a guided group tour, solo traveling or solivagant has a lot of ‘me’ time. I think about how it feels living in Italy. It must be luxurious relaxing time! I imagine the historical arts I can enjoy and gastronomic adventures I can take. Then again… the things you see while traveling wouldn’t be the same once you live there. I had a great lesson from Melbourne. I went there once when I was 13 years old and quickly decided that I wanted to live there. All the studies for exams and language tests were well paid off with my university acceptance letter. I spent almost four and a half years studying abroad. I understood that ‘living’ and ‘traveling’ were different. You call a day in winter as beautiful but you’d call it otherwise once you get the full 3 months. I wonder how it would be once I spend a year in Italy.

Once I arrive, I search for the entrance gate. The AirBnB homeowner, Danielle, insists to pick me up at the train station as a welcoming gesture. Afternoon time in Firenze Santa Maria Novella is packed with hundreds of commuters. The train station has slanted ceilings covered with glass windows with the muted yellow-brown masonry. Swirls of particles dance around sunrays. The whirring sounds of the luggage wheels and chatter of Italians divert my attention. A group of people argues among themselves while checking their cellphones. Perhaps they’re waiting for someone who is late, I ponder as I wait in front of the schedule board. There’s a faint stale smell around me, one that brings old memories. It blends with coffee aroma and perfume fragrance. I shut my eyes to imagine the construction of buildings and monuments. My imagination is filled with the roaring sound from the heavy-duty machines. Then they subside into rhythmic sounds of stone-carving tools back in the 14th century.

I open my eyes and see a waving hand from afar. A tall woman approaches me with a cheerful smile. She has a pixie haircut that gives a modern taste to her casual looks. A young guy walks beside her in a dark jacket. He flashes a faint smile at me as he continues talking to Danielle. She answers him back and they share a good laugh like good old friends. I wave back to Danielle.

“Buongirno! How’s the trip?”

“Nice to meet you, I’m Kirana. It took me almost 4 hours! I’m so glad I got here.”

There’s a glint from her earring as Danielle tucks her hair into her left ear. Her full lips curve into a smile as she turns her head to the right. “Let me introduce you. This is Nick. He’s visiting Florence.”

Nick nods his head. “How is it going?”

“Great.”

I’m going to stay at Danielle’s apartment for the next 3 days. She plans to visit her cousins in Rome in the meantime.

Danielle calls out to Nick and they have a quick chat. They have the conversation in a foreign language that I barely understand. I silently watch how the two converse. Nick attentively listens to Danielle’s points. At times, he responds to give his opinion. Danielle thinks otherwise. It’s the strangest feeling I keep getting in Italy. People caught themselves in a discussion and they barely recognized me. I’m immersed in a foreign world where I can only guess on the interpretation. There’s a sense of familiarity when an agreement is made: the repetition of a word they agree, the gestures approving the idea, the tone that subsides, and the slowing pace of conversation that signals the end of the discussion. It is a window to their everyday life.

“So, we’ve been thinking… how about a quick brunch in the city? Do you like that? Or do you want to go straight to the apartment?”

“Sure. That sounds great.” I feel grateful for her generous hospitality.

“Let me help you.” Nick offers to carry my luggage.

“We think this place is an ideal spot for us to go. It’s not far from the apartment,” Danielle explains as we walk together.

I turn my head and catches Nick observing my luggage. As I expected, he looks at the luggage tag. Nick has the Caucasian look similar to Danielle: the height and wide shoulders. However, I notice the smoother jaw and darker shade of Nick’s hair. Nick turns from the tag to me and smiles. “So you are Indonesian too.”

“Nice to meet you again,” I answer him back.


“So you’re doing fine with long hours ride,” Danielle said to me.

“Yes. Although… I should have brought a laptop with movies. That could save the day.”

Danielle mentions how she prefers trains than flights. “I’m talking for both the local and Euro Rail.”

EuroRail connects Europe with its extensive railway network. It’s the most efficient system everyone loves.

We get into Danielle’s car and exit Santa Maria Novella. The road has an amazing view of stonewall masonry and tiled roofs. There are hotels and restaurants that crowd the road.

Danielle smiles, “I just checked on my colleague yesterday. She gets into this detox hype that she wants to try for the next winter. I thought wow, that’s a good timing. I wouldn’t want to spend Christmas eating salad. What about you, Kirana?”

“I never really try diet programs. But I did stop ice cream once.”

“That’s a torture,” Nick comments from the front.

“And what flavor would you miss?” I ask.

Nick turns his head behind and grins at me. “Flavors of gelato from A to Z. I don’t know about you, Kirana, but nothing beats Italian gelato for me. I’ve tried elsewhere.”

Danielle quickly adds, “Um, Nick comes to Italy since… January? Is it?”

“January. My firm has some deals here and I figure it’s a great opportunity. Besides, the weather here is not as cold as in London.”

“London,” I repeat his words.

“Yep. It’s been cool.”

We move further towards the city. My mind repeats the word ‘London’. A modern metropolitan city image emerges from my mind. The gloomy sky holds the golden crown at the tip of the Albert Hall building. People comfort themselves in their long coats and walk against the chilly wind. A group of commuters come out from the underground tube and join the street crowd. Louis Vuitton and Versace wait for their next customers. Afar, stand an egg-shaped building, the Gherkin. It isn’t Jodie Foster. It is…

“Norman Foster,” the name escapes from my lips as I recall the tower designer.

“What was that?” Nick asks but I say it was nothing.

Danielle turns the steering wheel and I catch a glimpse of an open space: a piazza. A white structure with a dome top stands in the middle. I lean closer to the window and watch the colorful tourists in the area. Then my eyes stop at a brown building that is iconic and familiar to me.

“The dome of Florence,” Nick says. I turn my head and catches Nick smiles at me. His eyes follow my hands that grip to the window edge as if to grasp the panoramic view. He smiles. “Il Duomo di Firenze,” he changes to Italian.

We stop to park the car and walk towards the café. Chiaroscuro is a little shop in the area. Several waiters mix drinks and dish plates at the bar. Behind, a wooden rack holds a variety of collections, from wine bottles to the beer station and the coffee machine. Westerners enjoy cappuccinos and croissants at the tables. I spell their logo on the black apron, “chee-arrow-scu-row.”

Nick excitedly grins as he takes a seat. “Here’s a trivia for you. Chiaroscuro means treatment of light.” He pronounces the word as ‘key-a-rro-scu-rro’ “Have you ever see the ripples of water? An uneven surface creates dramatic shades of shadow and light. Chiaroscuro is that contrasted light and shadow effect.”


If there’s one thing that I disagree on with Sylvia and Tasya, it’s about this Italian journey. They doubt that it’s a good location to research on trending fashion for our clothing line in our arts and crafts store. Sylvia originally suggested Paris: the home of art, history, and romance. Tasya thought that Paris gala fashion is a good inspiration. I was against them and explained how Italy had a richer culture and traces of colorful life. Italy was one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Despite being skeptical, Sylvia and Tasya asked me to give an insight report from my journey.

“Kirana?”

A voice calls me out. Nick waits outside my AirBnB unit to join my city tour. He told me yesterday about Milan, the city where he works right now. After spending quite some time in the buzz he wants to retrace the historic Italian path in Florence with me.

I grab a yellow scarf and wrap it around my neck. We finally leave the apartment building and head towards the meeting point. The local bus is cramped with other locals that Nick and I have to stand. I watch a teenager wears her headphone that blasts a familiar song, New Rules by Dua Lipa. It reminds me of the local radio station I used to hear back home.

“How long have you been living here?” I turn my head to Nick who’s looking out the window.

“Italy?”

I shake my head. “I mean Europe. Were you born here?”

“I moved here since high school so I guess it’s been a while.”

I cough a little bit. “You’ve been in England the whole time?”

Nick laughs. It seems that he enjoys my interviewing moment. Back in Melbourne, I get to meet a lot of fellow Indonesians. It takes about 5 steps to meet another one. Meanwhile, I barely meet other Indonesians on my solo journey in Italy. I wonder if it has been the same for Nick.

The bus takes a turn and we arrive at La Piazza di San Marco. Cars have already parked there along with some travel busses. A lady cheerfully talks to a young couple who seems to be on the same tour with her. A young teenager snapchats nearby an authentic-looking entrance. The square was a common meeting place for travel groups.

Nick and I spot our group standing across a monument. Exchange of introductions quickly spread warmth within the group. Luigi the tour leader is in his 30s with his left hand holding the group sign. A couple named Mary and Tom have traveled from the southern Italy, Naples to here. They note how the weather and language accents change once they arrive in Florence. Luigi quickly agrees; he has his own funny moments with accents and travels.

It turns out that Luigi has a big personality. He is both smart and funny, collecting different books from around the world. “You have to know what’s going on at the other side of the world.” Tour guides in Italy have learned to maximize their reaches through online websites. Luigi depends on his customers’ reviews for their next groups of tourists. They have to constantly push their boundaries to learn about foreign languages, ongoing trend, and maintaining relationships. It’s been 12 years since Luigi first guided around Florence.

We stop at Galleria dell’Accademia or the Accademia Gallery. The group cheer when Luigi announces that we have the Skip-the-Line tickets.

There’s a hushed silence as we approach the entrance. We pass the white painted hallways that give an unnatural vibe to the museum. Tall statues welcome us. Renaissance paintings with their subdued colors are framed high on the walls.At the center of the room, the David statue stands tall. His eyes are looking at the opponents standing afar as if to remind us about courage and faith during difficult times.

“See that? He’s wearing a slingshot.” Nick mentions to me enthusiastically. He points at David’s back where we can see traces of the fabric.

“How did you see that?”

“They say the fact it’s hidden emphasizes the meaning of Michelangelo’s statue. David wasn’t using force like Goliath, his opponent did. His confidence, you can see there in his eyes…” Nick guides me to look up into the depth of David’s eyes. “It’s because he thinks beyond the fight.”

I look back to Nick, “really? I always thought that the David statue is about beauty. It is what the Romans call as natural beauty back then. I heard males have the heavy burden of beauty standard.”

Nick grins, “not bad yourself. You know history.” I take a nod while we turn back to listen to Luigi. He unwinds the tales of Renaissance birth in Italy. “Although,” Nick continues, “it’s kinda funny to imagine armored soldiers carrying a mirror around.”

Luigi takes us around the gallery before heading to Florence’s Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore. I ask Nick if he has taken several museum trips before.

“I did. It’s pretty refreshing to watch The Last Supper alone.”

Nick tells how Milan museums were packed. “They were discussing Tom Hanks of course — Langdon I mean.” We share a smile again. “You’re pretty unique yourself,” he says. “In a good way.”

“Well yeah… I do love art museums, especially when they hold many collections.” I turn to catch Nick looking at me, waiting for me to carry on. “It’s the stories. Each artist spends hours creating his piece that is displayed to us. It’s some kind of a communication form. At first, you think it is what it is, a picture… or a statue… or video and contemporary stuff. But when you try hard enough, you get to see the inner side of the creations. You wonder what the artist felt or experienced. You wonder how much effort he spent. At times, you wonder why the artist wanted to create the piece.”

I catch a breath between my sentences. It’s never easy to explain different experiences I was immersed into. Tasya once reminded me that I had to look at different perspectives on ‘experiences’. We can’t replicate one’s experience to another person. Sylvia, Tasya, and I can only offer our collection of artistic products. But the customer experience remains solely to the customer alone.

What I shared to Nick is a personal experience, and therefore it is limited to my own scope of view. Other museum visitors will have different experiences and that is fine too. Not everyone has the same experience.

A chilly breeze strikes us once we enter the square. My heart leaps at the sight of the beautiful marbled structures. The white marble walls stretch in front of us in magnificent height. A sense of wonder and awe evoke within us. Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral holds Il Duomo on its top. Sunlight is reflected along the roof tiles that seem to sing a hymn of glorious joy to God Almighty. I take a deep breath when I see the shades on the frames of the walls. The earth holds the structure together… bearing its enormous weight through the arms of columns straight to Mother Earth. It’s as if the universe supports the idea of elegance and beauty of Florentine arts.

The hustle of visitors filled the grandeur space where we stand. A sophisticated lady passes me with a signature Burberry winter coat. There’s a trace of Chanel perfume on her that travels with the wind. Her painted fingernails remind me to the lustrous O.P.I. lacquer nail polish I once wanted. It is said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Luigi takes us inside the cathedral where he explains the history of the building. The interior takes me by surprise with its simplistic walls that exploit the bare structural bones. Then I notice the details on the floor. We are gliding through a garden of mosaics. Santa Maria del Fiore is the center of the city, center of its religion and its soul. It is a construction of 170 years of labor. The silent arches keep the secret of Brunelleschi’s wonders in finishing the church’s dome. It is said that he took 16 years to complete the structure without scaffolding. Luigi intrigues us with one particular question, “how did a hot-tempered goldsmith with no formal architectural training create the most miraculous edifice of the Renaissance?”

Brunelleschi was a goldsmith craftsman who was daring and creative. He trained as an apprentice with his father since he was 14 years old. For years, he learned how to create beautiful designs with gold, silver, and bronze. The idea of design was implanted to his daily works, conveyed through delicate hand carving and the warmth of the fire that changed metals.

Florentines developed their own artistic style that defied the trending Baroque arts in Rome, Sienna, and Pisa. They were competitive by nature and desired nothing but great art masterpieces. In the 15th century, the Medici family patronized Renaissance art in Florence. They contributed various buildings, including churches, institutes, and convents to the church as donated gifts.

Santa Maria del Fiore was built as the landmark of Florence. It was a signature of who Florentines were, what the city inspired to be, how art was in their heart and soul. The Medici sponsored the project and the design committee wanted no Baroque architectures incorporated in the blueprints. No flying buttresses, no tall and slim spiky towers, and no excessive grandioso details like the ones in Rome. They wanted to compete. They studied the Greek Pantheon dome single-handedly. The dome was made of poured concrete without additional supports from flying buttresses. Florentines were ambitious to start an Italian Renaissance movement.

“In the 15th century, it is customary to have a wooden framework to guide brick construction. Now, let say I have a wooden trident. Are you familiar with that? Can you imagine the shape? One body with three branches at the top.” Luigi shifts his right hand upward to three different directions as a demonstration. “To create an arch, builders would start from the bottom — on the ground, next to the trident here. Then they pile up bricks up and up… until it meets at the top. There, an arch you see?” Some of us nod our heads as Luigi brings his hands together in the air. “The wooden structure is no longer needed, so we can use it to build another arch.”

“So what’s wrong with the dome?” I turn to Nick and he smiles hearing the question. “You’ll see.”

The ambitious Florentines wanted a massive grandeur size of a cathedral at the heart of the city. For over a hundred years, artists included the Cathedral into their works. It was here and everywhere on the landscape background. ‘This is what we’ll have. This is what we promise.’ Even before the construction was finished, everybody was excited to call it as Florence’s landmark.

They neglected a pressing question about covering the structure with an appropriate dome design. It was almost impossible. The workers needed to cover a space with 55 meters in diameter. It is a quarter of the Colosseum’s diameter.

Brunelleschi took the challenge and joined the design competition. Previously, he had studied the architecture of Rome & Sienna’s buildings. He outrageously proposed to build the 8-sides dome without scaffolding. The problem was that Brunelleschi didn’t want to share his blueprints to the committee. He was concerned about the ongoing competition among Florentine artists: afraid that his idea would be stolen.

“There’s a story where the design committee asked Brunelleschi. ‘How would you build the dome?’” Luigi pointed out. “Brunelleschi asked for one single egg. Then he said, ‘anyone who can make the egg stands upright will understand how I’ll build the dome.’ Just like that, no one succeeded. Brunelleschi took the egg, forced it to a marble table, broke the bottom shell, and succeeded. Anyone could have done it! The point is… he was about to break the common rules, inventing a new ingenious architecture way to build the dome.”

As we move forward, a group of visitors passes us and smile. They just visited the top of the dome. There’s a shared understanding between us as if they know what we have in mind. It is the unique traveling experience we all share every time we meet other tourists. ‘I know you’re also captivated. I know you’re also drawn into the mystery.’ It is a beautiful language we exchange inside beautiful landmarks. Cities are built not only for the residents but for the global citizens as well. The everlasting structures signify the stories carried by generations of Florentines. Loud and festive decorations such as flowers and ribbons would last temporarily. The essence of life remains in the structure itself, the concrete… the masonry… the creation of the earth. We all know this… subconsciously within our mind.

We join the next party going upstairs. Nick asks me to look sideways while watching my steps. “There’s a defining moment whenever we rise above the ground. Look there, that’s what it’s all about.” Climbing the stairs allows us to see the church from a different perspective. From up above, the mosaics on the floor turn the modest surroundings into a magnificent Florentine tale. “Great designs consider a building beyond its common public use. You have to calculate the view from the exterior, the interior, above from the top, and others. You have to keep in mind that we are humans… who want nothing but a great experience in design.”

The scenery changes once more as we ascend further. Lights pierce through the high stained-glass windows bathing the space with colors. We are consciously traveling through perspectives.

Then, a damp earthy essence surrounds us. We were inside the spiraling staircases. I look sideways again and recognize the bricks pattern laid centuries ago. Then it changes into a new space, the inner side of the dome. “Look above.” I do as Luigi instructs and gasp at the paintings that cover the dome. There were endless biblical stories hung above us, circling and surrounding us. “Il Duomo di Firenze is actually two domes built together. The one that we see now is inside the outer shell.”

The story of Brunelleschi continues. An ordinary masonry builder usually laid bricks horizontally one above the other… making it a stable wall structure. But a dome would only make things worse. The further you went with the common method the higher the possibility that gravity would pull the structure down. Brunelleschi invented a whole new method: he outdid his predecessors by using both horizontal and vertical bricks layout. The Italians call it ‘spinna di pesce’ or Herring Bone. It created a spiraling masonry pattern…

“Imagine it as an ice cream sundae. You see the top? You see the spirals?” Luigi smiled as he explained. It was, in fact, a very stable design.

We wander around the top of the dome. There’s the whole scenery of Florence laid out in front of us. The journey began from admiring the decorative exterior, passing through the iron doors, entering a wide space, climbing up the stairs, and dwelling inside a double topped dome, and finally reaching the horizon at the top of the dome. “It’s as if it’s all come back to Florence itself.” I captioned my panoramic picture and send it to my family.

Sea of roofs ripples across in the city. I remember the strange word Nick mentioned before, chiaroscuro about lights and shadow. Light indeed dance around the roof tiles in a rhythmic pattern. Sunset is yet to strike and celebrate beauty through these tiles.

There is a gentle song playing in my head, evoking a nostalgic feeling from my childhood. I hum the familiar notes and find myself pronouncing the words.

“O sole mio Sta ‘nfronte a te”

Then I suddenly leapt out. “It was Pavarotti… I finally remembered,” I smile to Nick who is watching me.

“That will be O Sole Mio, I think.” Luigi drops by and gives a nod. “One of our favorite songs indeed.”


Somehow I enjoy discovering foreign languages. They are all beautiful in their own way. There was one time when I watched a sitcom on a TV. I was about 8 years old, barely understanding what the whole group was talking about. They laughed and I would, in turn, laugh too. It was as if we could understand each other beyond the language differences. Studying a foreign language is pretty much studying a country’s culture. One word may translate to a particular word in my native language, or even branches to several synonyms, or strangely has no comparable word. Take ‘comprehend’ for example, it would translate to ‘mengerti’ in the Indonesian language… the word you said as you nod to another person, understanding what they’re talking about. But then Indonesians have a modern word called ‘jayus’ and it translates to ‘a joke so poorly told and unfunny that you can’t help but laugh’. It’s just the same as an American word ‘jeopardize’ that translates to exposing risks and danger. All these words just make you wonder what goes in people’s mind in that particular region. A language is an authentic culture each country has as their own way to tell who they are.

One time I was walking with Tasya down the St. Kilda beach in Victoria. It was rather a humid day in late spring. Waves wash down the bay, coming back and forth with its soothing sound. I could smell a strong sea salt fragrance as I walked barefooted along the soft sand.

“What language are you speaking?” A lady caught us chatting excitedly in Indonesian. She was smiling, expressing a certain curiosity that we rarely met.

“Indonesian,” I answered politely.

“It’s nice. I have no idea about the language but it sounds like you’re singing.” Apparently, the tone we used ascended and descended. She described it as emotional and expressive, although we thought it’s just the daily language. But I guess that’s how we view foreign languages. They carry their own sound, rhythm, character, and culture.

Nick and I took a rest at an open corner in Ponte Vecchio. It is the oldest bridge in Florence completed in 1345. There are a variety of shops on the bridge and tourists hustled on the pedestrian walk. A scent of damp moss blends with the sound of rippling water. Beautiful city lights stretch across the city.

“So you get that?”

“Yes. I know the basics… Io sono — I am, tu sei — you are, loro sono — they are, voi siete — you, as in plural, are, lei and lui… wait, what’s that again?” I laugh.

“Lei is for she,” he opens his right hand and with his left finger, touches his right forefinger. “Lui is for he,” Nick stretches his middle finger and touched it with his left hand. “Lei è and lui è… and then you have we,” he points to me first, and then himself. “We is noi. Noi siamo — we are.”

“Noi siamo… in Ponte Vecchio?”

“Si,” he laughed. “Now when we are mad… we can call on both meat and vegetables.”

“… meaning?”

“Well you can say ‘Cavolo!’ or ‘Porca miseria!’” He watches my half smile and raising eyebrows. “Basically it’s cabbage and pig’s misery.”

“Ha!” I stifle a laugh, “as in… darn it? Like that?”

“Yes. Now you’re getting it. Bread is good, though. You can say ‘buono come un pezzo di pane’.”

“Buono… good — good what? Good bread?” It must be good luck or something, I imagine.

“Buono come… un pezzo di pane,” then Nick points to himself. “A good person is hard to find.” I smile at his explanation and catch an unusual joy reflecting in his eyes. Nick leans on the stone handrail and says, “so what about you, Kirana? What brings you here?”

I explain to him about my intention to capture different ideas in Italy for my clothing line. “But aside of that, I always like traveling. I spent the last 4 years in Melbourne studying marketing in their business school. I guess that’s when I got immersed in traveling. Sylvia and I went to beaches, deserts, and hills around Australia. You?”

He gently sighs and takes a moment to paraphrase the experiences he went through. “I guess mine is no different than you. I had a lot of experiences moving around. I moved from London to TU Delft to study architecture.”

“Europe where?”

“Spreekt u Nederlands?”

“Netherlands?”

He smiles at this. “It was an interesting change with the language and food. My favorite spot was always the canals, just like this one.” He points at the waterfront view we’re exposed to. “There were boats passing through the canal, bicycles catching up with pedestrians, and open restaurants blasting with inviting music. It’s easy to forget how the time passes once you’re settled there.”

Nick tells me about the architecture projects he took on. He was particularly interested in a technology they call ‘Building Information Modeling’ or BIM. “Imagine this… an item in our everyday lives has multiple dimensions.” He goes explaining how things can be simplified to the basic form. A line can represent a railway track, rows of trees, and forces applied in physics. When you draw a line, you begin with a one-dimension perspective. Then you start exploring the prints of a face, copying a mental image into the two-dimensional paper. Streaks of additional lines create shadow, enforcing a three-dimensional perspective. In truth, three-dimension is all about volume — bringing width, height, and depth into the elements. “There’s another dimension called time. Time is the fourth dimension. Finally, in terms of architecture and building construction… there’s cost as the fifth dimension. Together, they all give you a five-dimensional design.” The BIM technology incorporated five dimensions into their equipment, allowing designers to estimated their projects more accurately.

I imagine that the five dimensions as an embodiment of a person. It is just like how we represent ourselves, enwrapped with languages, gestures, society, cultural bringing, and personal story. There are many layers that influence how a person thinks, works, and enjoys his lives. “Like traveling,” I tell Nick about my idea, “one person might be comfortable with coaches tour, scheduled systematically to get to as many destination points as they’d like. Another type would be the explorer type who prefers wandering about. So forth and so on…” One decision is often shaped by our personal and moral values.


Sometimes a picture cannot tell the overall experience when you observe a scenery. You realize that you are inside a greater space, a part of the bigger universe. In a brief second, I draw myself into the sunset. Pink and yellow smudged together and slowly decreased into a subtle blue color. Instead of dark clouds, I see the purple and muted green in favor of blue and brown. They dance in repetitive curls, twirling and dissolving… colonies of pink bubbles here and there, accentuating the warm feeling and a sense of light. The movement is almost idle and unnoticeable… It is as if different components weave a fabric in the sky, cultivating my understanding of nature along with the imagination of what could be, and what could happen. It is not black or grey… it is yellow and purple with a tint of white… complementary colors give out the illusion of shadow to our mind. I feel grasped by a greater force who craft with the words of colors to create peace in my mind.

Nick and I travel to Tuscany on our last day in Florence. There is an ethereal light in the Tuscan hills, so people say around Florence. As soon as the sun rises in the morning, it shines over the hills and green landscape. You can almost hear a symphony played through the air… sweeping your feet around the city. A kite takes a deep dive after passing an extensive vineyard. Tiled roofs decorated the natural view, grouped together and built a village town. The palaces and castles silently watch the majestic scene, laid in front of them. There is certain warmth that lasts in the region. You breathe it deep and you tuck it inside. At that moment, somehow you realize that there are a million of colors above in the sky. Green has muted into an earthy shade, merged bits by bits with gravel, dirt, and sweep of dust. Setaria grass sways silently while displaying red wildflowers at the side road. The trees are darker… bringing individualizations into space. Then farther beyond, grayish blue curves disappear into mountain valleys. It is the border between the earth and the sky… the gate to a vast shining horizon.

I learn that there’s an idiom says someone can be as beautiful as the sun — bello come il sole. As I look upon the disappearing sun, I reflect on how the Renaissance brought life to Florence. It was their light… their beauty… their passion… their life… I close my eyes at that brief second, absorbing the words from ‘O Sole Mio’.

But another sun, that’s brighter still
It’s my own sun that’s in your face!
The sun, my own sun
It’s in your face! It’s in your face!

I imagine a thunderous applause rushed to congratulate to celebrate the beauty of life in the middle of the Tuscany hills.