Yesterday I woke up with the images of the green trees filling my mind, so I decided to return to the forest path behind San Miniato. It was another sunny day, perhaps the last warm, clear day that we'll have for awhile, and I wanted to see more of my new safe haven.
I often feel a longing to be alone in nature, something that was initiated back in 1994, when I traveled to Ireland. While I was there, I became enchanted by a certain tree and spent a week in Killarney National Park. It was the first time I experienced nature as a sacred space. There was a cathedral near that park, but I felt more at home in the park than I did in the church, and it seemed they both radiated a similar energy that one might refer to as " sacred space." Since that time, I've often felt the need to be alone in nature.
My initial trip to Italy in 2006 was planned around locations where I would be able to experience nature: Le Cinque Terre, Lucca and San Gimignano, in particular. In le Cinque Terre, I hiked alone along the Ligurian Coast; in Lucca, I spent time with the trees and the botanical garden; in San Gimignano, I discovered a path outside the city wall that offered stunning views of the countryside, and spent much of my time there, alone with the trees.
Even though I now have many Italian friends in various parts of Italy, and a more active social life while I'm here, at times I still have a longing to be alone in nature. This longing has been partially satisfied by visits to Lucca, Cortona, Segonzano and other places I've gone this year. But finding a sacred space in Firenze has been difficult, and I've gone north, south, east and west around the city looking for one!
I enjoy the park in Piazza D'Azeglio, but it's not really a sacred space. Nor is Parco delle Cascine: though grand and large, it doesn't fit the bill. Il Giardino di Boboli is vast and lovely, but again, not a sacred space. (Besides, there's a charge for entry and it's only open certain hours.) And though I enjoyed the formal gardens at the villas last week, they didn't do the trick for me. But the forest path behind San Miniato is "just right." I can get there within 10 minutes by bus, riding uphill along the lovely tree-lined Viale Michelangelo. The area seems to have few visitors, and once I cross the threshold into the forest, the city noises recede and I'm in paradise. Only the sounds of nature permeate this wooded area, and yesterday I heard many happy birds in the marine pines on the hills below.
I walked along the path, back and forth, and lingered in the sun to view the valley below. Encantevole! (enchanting)