Man, what a week, I must say. My intensive language classes are over (thank god, because four hour classes are ROUGH), I took a pasta making class, and best of all, I went to Florence. The intensive class was really helpful, my family told me I’m speaking a lot better, using better and more proper vocabulary, conjugating verbs better without really having to think, and I’ve noticed I’ve become more confident as well. Thursday, the day before our final, most of the group went to a pasta making class where we made our own dough and made whatever pasta we wanted to. I chose bowties, one of my personal favorites (and also super easy to make), but they threw them out and we ate cappellacci, which is still my favorite thing I’ve ever had. To celebrate finishing our intensive classes, a bunch of us decided to spend the weekend in Florence – shout out to Mackenzie for organizing this and finding us a great hotel.
So we took the train from Ferrara to Florence – regionalle with two stops for about 25 euro round trip. We got to Florence pretty late, but it was still so amazing and beautiful. This time, we came prepared with a map, the location of our hotel, and basically where we were going. This helped a lot, so I suggest planning this as much as possible, and if you don’t have GPS, google maps can locate you offline! Florence also has a citywide wifi that you can reach in the city center and other random areas which is very helpful.
So we stayed at Hotel Azzi, it was 20 euro a person with breakfast included and we could leave our bags in a locked room even after check out so we didn’t have to lug them around everywhere, which was great. It was also really clean, and super cute. Absolutely recommend to anyone going to Firenze. So it was Anthony’s birthday weekend, and he was staying with a friend, so we all went to meet up with them at a bar. After walking a bit down a street just expecting nothing, Vivian tells us to turn left and there it is – the beloved duomo.
I can say we all felt the same reaction: blown away. The only way I can describe is that before I even could process what I was looking at, I already knew what I was standing in front of, taking my breath away and my heart just dropping into my stomach. For the last few years, exactly what I was looking at has been in textbooks, I’ve learned about in so many classes, I’ve stared at pictures dreaming of seeing the magnitude of this structure, and there I was, in awe just laughing at the fact that I’m actually here. I think the best part was that there was no one around. There were a group of boys playing soccer in front of the duomo, a couple having dinner, and us, basking in all the glory that is the duomo and its shadow. It was illuminated only by the street lights, and it was still one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever stood in front of. After that moment passed, we obviously did what any other 20 year old would do – take a selfie. After about a half hour of being obviously tourist-y, we decided we would be back first thing in the morning and took a trip to the bar. Here, I drank a Magners which is kind of like an Angry Orchard hard cider, but worse. Also overpriced, but that’s probably just Florence.
The next day, we woke up early, capitalized on the free breakfast, and made our way to the duomo at 10 am. Everything starts to open up at 10, so the Cathedral was pretty empty when we entered, which was free to walk around. It was so beautiful, observing the shapes on the floor, the painted ceiling, the stained glass windows, the bronze doors. Truly amazing. We went downstairs and bought a 15 euro pass that gave us entrance to the catacombs downstairs, the duomo, the bell tower, and the baptistry – totally worth the money. The catacombs are cool to see because they’re so old, and it kind of hits you where you are and the history it holds. Next, we went to the top of the duomo. No idea who convinced me to do this or how they did it or why I thought I would be okay climbing 55 flights of stairs to get to the top… but I did. It was so difficult because the space is so small and there’s winding staircases and no lighting, so you’re blocked by your own shadow. Definitely realized how out of shape I was too. It took probably 20 minutes to climb in total, but we made it to the top where my heart was beating so hard I thought I was going to have a heart attack from the combination of climbing who knows how many steps and being scared of heights, but we got up there and it was truly worth everything. The view was amazing – just like a painting, so surreal. We stared out at Florence for probably 40 minutes before realizing we had the rest of the city to see, so we went back down (it wasn’t any easier than the flight back up) and went to the baptistry. This was unexpectedly cool because I never studied the baptistry specifically or looked into it. It was really small, but the ceiling is cool. It tells the story of the bible with each story being told in only three panels, so we spent time staring at the ceiling trying to figure out which story was which. After this we went to the Medici Chapel. Cool, but they kicked us out because we got there kind of late (1:30… forgot Europe does that thing where they close in the middle of the day).
We took a break to eat and grab some gelato. We ate gelato at a place called “Venchi” where the wall is a chocolate fountain and they layer your cup/cone with chocolate for an extra .50 (not really worth it unless you love chocolate because the chocolate here is much richer). But the most important thing you can find in this gelato shop – DULCE DE LECHE GELATO. I swear to God, the Argentinean in me was weeping.
After our break, we went to our hotel room to take a nap, and then go to Piazzale Michelangelo, which was something I really wanted to do. We brought two bottles of wine from Ferrara to sit up there and take in the view. It’s about a 30 minute walk (if you don’t get lost, which we did). We walked down Ponte Vecchio, which is full of expensive jewelry shops and it’s easy to get distracted. But anyway, after getting lost and going up and down 4 hills, we finally made it to Piazzale Michelangelo, and I can really say it’s a beautiful sight. It overlooks all of Florence, and you can see the separation between the land and the city, and it’s truly amazing in every way. We must have stayed here for an hour and a half, having a photo shoot and then sitting on the steps talking. We all agreed that this was the trip where it hit us the most that we’re actually in Italy. It’s real, we’re here.
I’m glad I took this trip and I’m glad I took it the weekend that I did, because I really appreciated everything I did there, all my parents and family have done for me to come here, and that I’m just so thankful to have the opportunity to experience the world the way I am doing now. Florence has become one of my favorite cities in the whole world, and I’m so glad I was able to experience it. I will absolutely return to this city just to sit on the steps, maybe even alone, and really look at how much there is to the world. There is so much left for everyone to experience, and there’s so many breath taking moments that are just out there – we have to go find them, and I think that’s what I found on this trip. I was able to stand out there alone, look over the city, find myself and think to myself of what I’m doing with my life, where I’m going, and how truly content I am.
Next trip: Venezia & Carnevale!!!