Florence by Foot: Endless Walks in the Renaissance City

By Aimelie Moen, BA 2014-18

Walking always gets you somewhere, right? To the spot where you are now and the places you will go, your footsteps are a spool of thread that weave your life together, carrying you from past to present and the future after that.

You might not know where you are going in this city filled with seemingly innumerable and confusing streets, as some take you into alleyways like “via dell’Inferno,” where you might hope to find a path to take you to the nearest church, or you may end up on “via di S. Niccolò” and feel the artistic roots of the Renaissance city transformed into modern muses and expressions in the new art district. That said, maybe the best way to discover not only the city, but who you are and where you are going in only the most existential way, may be to simply lose yourself in these streets and find answers to the purpose of each footstep.

“If you seek creative ideas go walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” -Raymond I. Myers

The many walks I have taken in Florence began first as a way for me to understand the city and its history, and I sought out many historical details to embed meaning into my walks. However, as I kept going through each walk and further into time, I began to relate these walks to myself and wonder where I was really going with each step and who I would become at the end of all these walks.

When I let myself walk without thought of where I was going, and only stopping when something inside me said “this is right, this is where you need to be,” some fantastical and strange things happened. I began to remember experience Florence as a city—living, breathing, and thriving, filled with new life despite the its wealth of past history. Yes, this is a city of the ages, but it is still a city for all ages and grows in meaning and opportunity each day.

The ancient city secrets its newer, younger, and vital side: that of the newer artists, urban and classical, in these winding roads. These artists use Florence’s aged walls as canvases for their modern murals, transforming a space which had been frozen and crumbling in time into a place of modern art, a fresh breath and new hope for these young artists.

These walls are only discoverable by walking the streets endless patterns and mazes, sometimes hiding in the smallest and most unimaginable streets, dimly lit and almost forgettable but for the masterpiece waiting to be seen.

These artists use their walks not only to find purpose within themselves, but also to find new walls to decorate; I, too, use my walks to inspire me and instill within myself new creative meaning, purpose, and rejuvenation for my soul and art. I will walk somewhere today, maybe to San Niccolo and peak in to the Giardini Bardini (far better than the Giardini Boboli, I think!) or maybe take a hike into the mountains of our valley. Who knows?

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