Florence, where my heart resides


The firestorm killed the lights and knocked the ship deep in into space. Somehow, the instruments were still alive, but there was no crew to read them. Far below a red crescent shone, the edge of the burning planet silhouetted by the curve of a wing. It would be a lonely trip. She gazed through the porthole at the wavering stars. 

The cruise from Athens to Venice spanning 4 days was a journey of a lifetime. Shyra Shetty always wanted to experience a cruise in solitary, maybe because she liked being on her own or as she constantly strived for contentment, and not perfection or because she was free to finally be what she always wanted to. To be herself amidst everything else. To be happy. Nevertheless, this cruise no doubt made Shyra Shetty’s bucket list a lot more shorter. Shyra Shetty  was a professional tour guide, born and brought up in Paris but of Indian origin. The first day of the cruise, was rather unhappy for everyone as the weather was quite unsupportive and one of the passengers was diagnosed with a gastrointestinal illnesses. The cruise ship began to encounter strong gales on the second day.  At dawn on the 29th of March, the waves were gigantic and alarming. The premonition of an impending disaster came at about 8pm with an ominous silence. The waves were 20-26 feet high and the wind blew at 24 meter per second. A tornado- like wind broke over the ship, breaking it into two unsymmetrical halves and ultimately killing everyone. The crew, 9 passengers and Nick Scratch - the American stowaway were no more. They died and she was on her own.

“Why was it only me among the rest 7.7 billion people in this world?“ she screamed. She cried but unfortunately there was no one to her heed like they say ‘when you laugh, the whole world laughs with you and when you cry, you cry alone.’ She was unchaperoned just like a ship lost at sea with nothing to anchor her. Her stomach was kvetching. She could hear the echo of its anguished cries screaming into her head. Her mouth was parched as she was powerless to quench her thirst. Just as roses comes with thorns and thorns perforates through your skin and draws blood, it hurt to swallow as the lining of her throat seemed to brush against each other just like sandpaper. There was water, water everywhere but not a single drop to drink.

A cloud, ominous and black, impregnated with infinite droplets of water, drifted over the ship and descended a curtain of rain from heaven. She had to one’s name nothing more than dead cotton on her limbs. From freezing night, it turned to scorching day as the sun rose to its zenith.

Amidst all this chaos around her, she remembered her deceased grandmother’s sayings “ those who died yesterday had plans for this morning. And those who died this morning had plans for the after.  Don’t dare take life for granted as in a blink of an eye, everything can change. So, forgive often and love you and your people with a full heart.” She was in desperate need of something to keep her going in this chaos as she had already encountered thousands of negative emotions and that was it. 

The next day at dawn, she saw a rescue ship riding towards her.A solitary tear fell down her cheek. She could feel the warmth sliding and rolling off my chin. Then another. And another. Until her eyes flooded with them. Just like rainfall, they fell and fell. And she let them fall.

She pinched herself to ensure that she wasn’t hallucinating and was wide awake as what went down these past few days wreaked havoc in her mind, seizing away her tranquility. Everything was real. Hope hugged her and gave her the comfort of being held in her beloved grandmother’s arm. Her skin felt rejuvenated, she was genuinely happy and she smiled like it was the first time she’d seen the sun after a decade of darkness.

She was taken to her final destination, Venice- one of the worlds most picturesque towns in the Adriatic Sea. For Shyra Shetty, it meant a fresh start. Julius Caesar. Marco Polo. Romeo and Juliet. Cosimo de Medici. Dante. Galileo. Leonardo da Vinci. Michelangelo and her sincere apologies, if she forgot to mention anyone.

All the drama and the Renaissance, which she adored from the bottom of her heart ever since, defined Italy. And all that was also her past. Shyra Shetty was here, when she was 16 during spring break for a week. She had never been anywhere(except Paris and India), but it was on her list.

 The same day, she took to experience Venice, unlike her younger brother who’d prefer lazing around in the hotel rooms. She didn’t get tickets to the opera but that didn’t stop her from nibbling Busiati with Herbs, Pistachio Pesto, and Crunchy Zucchini and riding in a gondola.

She took to Milan for the weekend to get the taste of the Italian fashion capital’s hustle and bustle. On Monday, she hopped on the Frecciarossa to go to Rome.

 A whirlwind of memories came back to her, when she visited the Colosseum - the awe-inspiring amphitheatre, echoing with the ghost of the gladiators past. As she gazed at The Pieto in the Vatican City, nostalgia hit her. She’d remembered her travel blog titled  “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” She fell in love with this quote and the reference to Michelangelo couldn’t be more obvious.


‘ Et tu, brute?’ was all she remembered when she visited  the Theatre of Pompey, the site were Julius Caesar was stabbed by his own senators. “Legend has it that if you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, it will ensure you return to Rome” said the tour guide in Trevi fountain who was also a poet based in Rome. That was an accurate representation of what happened with her.

Her lost stop in the quest to rediscover herself was the birthplace of the renaissance- Florence. She took a walking tour of the romantic, enchanting and utterly irresistible city and feasted on world class art and Tuscan cuisine.  It was impossible not to be completely and utterly moved by the beauty of the lesser-known Michelangelo sculptures. She was overwhelmed by the House of Medici’s- an Italian banking family and political dynasty during the first half of the 15th century. The grand statue of Cosimo- under whom the House of Medici’s gained prominence stands near the fountain of Neptune at the Piazza della Signoria. 'It took the voice away from statues both ancient and modern', wrote Vasari as Michelangelo’s David was unraveled. She finally understood what Michelangelo meant by ‘Beauty is the purgation of superfluities.’

While Shetty was gawking at the impeccable and magnificent hues of the sky at sunset an Italian mumbled, “ La Signoria, it looks like you’ve fallen in love.”

 She hesitated, “VENI VIDI AMAVI. I came. I saw. I loved. I thought I’d never ever fall prey to love but I failed. I was irrevocably in love a decade ago and this love of mine was no more. Florence with it’s people, it’s rich culture and heritage, it’s delicacies and just-just the smell of its air, so very intoxicating ssoothes my beating heart and mends all of my aching slits, stitch by stitch. I don’t understand how could anyone possibly fall in love with Firenze anew?”

“Some people experience Déjà vu but that can’t be you.  You’ve been here before. Whatsoever, welcome to my Florence – the city of subtle beauty satisfying your eyes and spirit,” he said. “Firenze is a gem of a city – packed with treasures more beautiful than the last. To be able to walk the same streets that some of the world’s incredible artists and poets walked once upon a time never ceases to amaze me,” Shyra said.

“One more thing that makes Florence incredible is that it’s here where you create yourself instead of losing yourself in order to find yourself. Everyday Florence bestows upon you a blessing to inspire you, to metamorphose you, even more poetically than the Phoenix rising from ashes,” he said.

 Shyra said, “I had dreamt about Florence since the age of ten; I’d lay in bed and think how beautiful it’d be up close. I don’t believe in love but I swear to god Firenze made me believe in ‘love at first sight. ‘Florence is now where my heart resides, but I have to go as chasing your dreams is a painful journey sometimes. I’d be it’s Leonardo if we’d met five centuries ago. But as I say goodbye now, I’m forever yours and only yours Florence as long as I shall live.” And after a short pause he added, “Il nuovo amore. No one ever leaves Florence without a new love.”


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