Disconnect to Connect

The amount of art in Florence is overwhelming.

The streets themselves are full of art. The picturesque cobblestone streets lead to the massive Duomo that sits in the heart of Florence. This breathtaking edifice served as a landmark point during our explorations throughout this massive city.

The Duomo

You can see the influence of artwork as a facet of culture everywhere in the city. Art is the heartbeat of Florence; it is in every town square, every church, and of course every museum.

It is easy to get lost in the sea of culture – both new and old – that floods the streets and history of Florence. Sometimes, you want to remember every detail and so instead of getting swept up in that tide of beauty, you dive into the illusion of permanence that technology provides. The Uffizi Gallery had a wonderful modern exhibit during our time there showcasing how people get caught up in getting the perfect picture of the artwork, the city or the world around them that they forget to live the experiences they are given. It was shocking throughout our time in Europe how many people turned to their phones to make lifelong memories instead of the people and places around them. One of the beautiful things about the entire CR experience is that it allows all of us to truly interact with the world. We are pushed to find the heartbeat of cities on our own and to make unique discoveries along the way.

Florence taught me an important lesson: Art has the power to truly create connections between people if you simply disconnect from technology and open your eyes (and ears) to the world around you.

We spent so much time interacting with beauty while we were in Florence. The commonality between all of these interactions was just how easy it became to feel connected to those around me as we were sharing these experiences.

We had the unique opportunity to be in Italy during their Republic Day celebration. This allowed us to get a glimpse of the more modern side of Italian culture. As the people of Florence celebrated the Italian decision to become a republic (a vote that happened a mere 70 years ago), we stood as onlookers to the parade and band that took to the streets. The events were somewhat reminiscent of American celebrations. Even without being able to understand a word that was spoken during the event, it was easy to see the Italian pride in this part of their heritage. As American visitors, we do not share the same history as the Italians, but we could all identify with the celebratory spirit we felt in the air, providing a commonality among the world of difference that we were experiencing.

The parade on Republic Day with the Duomo in the background

To say goodbye to Florence, we took a traditional gondola ride on the Arno river, and Madelyn, with her stunning voice, serenaded us throughout the ride. While we all enjoyed listening to our incredibly talented friend, the tourists and locals on the bridges above all stopped to listen to her sing. They filmed and watched as we drifted by on the river. The beauty of music was enough to make them stop their journeys, take a minute to quiet their minds, and simply take in the city around them. So thank you, Madelyn, for allowing us and strangers to experience this quieting of the soul.

One evening, we sat near the Uffizi Plaza and listened to an incredibly talented street performer play the guitar for a half hour. It was wonderful to simply take a moment to observe the incredible scenery around us and the beauty that we had the opportunity to experience. The 16 of us sat together on the streets of Florence and watched as crowds gathered around this performer. His music had an effect on everyone in the area that night: the young and old, the tourists and locals alike.

This is what the beauty of Florence can do. The art that is this city has a unique way of bringing people together to share incredible experiences and to marvel at the wonders of the past and present. You simply have to disconnect and allow yourself to see this vibrancy to create true, meaningful connections.

I hope to continue to be plugged in to the beauty our world can provide and to create connections that matter with the people around me.

Next stop: Rome, our final destination. Till then.


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