Today marks 35 days of traveling throughout Italy! I can’t believe how fast time flies. I know I have been very behind with all of my updates on my everyday travels, but I’m hoping to give you the intimate details of my first few days in Florence through this post.
January 7: I woke up early to walk down the icy roads of Assisi. A taxi driver picked us up and drove us to the train station. We arrived in the Florence train station, Santa Maria Novella/S.M.N. around 2pm. Instead of taking a taxi, we walked over 2 miles with our huge luggage and groceries just to get to my apartment. We definitely underestimated how far the apartment really was. As I walked through the city, I could not help but be amazed and stare at everything. In Rome, most buildings were not much taller than 3 stories tall. In Florence, the minimum height of the buildings looks like 3-4 stories tall. We pass by stores selling leather, scarves, souvenirs, etc.
At around 2:30/3pm, we finally arrive at my apartment. I was immediately greeted by my 2 housemates (introduced to you in my previous post). The boys left for their place and my roommates and I spent a couple hours talking and unpacking out bags. Later that evening, we decided to met at the Duomo with a couple other students who arrived early or wanted to explore. Our humanities teacher, Senya, as well as her two kids, took us on a small dinner and tour of the city. Since she speaks almost fluent italian and has visited Italy numerous many times, she was able to show us some of her favorite places in the city. From the Duomo, we took a 5-10 minute walk to a gelateria called “Perché No!…” It is by far, in my opinion, the best Gelato I’ve tasted… in Florence. The owner and employees are very friendly and they constantly have new flavors. Very affordable prices for us starving students. Plus, it is fairly close to my apartment and school!
As much as I love Gelato, it is not filling at all. My roommates and I are hungry still. Our teacher insisted on taking us to her favorite sandwich shop called “Pino’s.” The meat and cheese are freshly cut as soon as you order. They have a wide variety of specialty sandwiches, pastas, and pizza. They are very affordable. Around €4 for a sandwich! The owner loves Senya and her kids. He really loves meeting students and introducing us to delicious Italian food. It is especially wonderful because it is only 4 blocks away from my apartment!
After dinner, we all take a quick trip to a local grocery store, Conad City. It may look very small, but it is actually quite big. I have many stories of getting lost or losing people in this store. It is basically like Walmart, but for Italians. It is very low quality, but you can find some treasures in that store. My roommates and I discovered something called “Frosties.” Frosties are very similar to Frosted Flakes, but somehow, they taste so much better here! I think we go through a couple boxes of this cereal a week!
January 8: Today is the first day of the program! I quickly get up and get ready for the day. All students attempt to find the school and meet by 9:45am for a walking tour of the city. The city of Florence is much different than any of the other cities I’ve seen so far. The city feels so huge and beyond confusing. Every street looks the same as the one next to it. All the streets have funky names and pronunciation too. I guess that’s why we went on a walking tour, right? Well, you would think so, but, because I had no sense of where I was, the city felt even bigger and more complicated than it truly is. We started the 2 hour tour at the school. Since our group is so big, half of the students went with one teacher and guide, while the others were directed to go with the other teacher and guide. Despite the fact that it was about 30 degrees in Fahrenheit, the tour was great! We got to learn so much about the city and the history behind many of the landmarks. Our guide took us to every major landmark and significant spot in the city. She somehow even brought us to the bridge (Ponte Vechio) where you can watch the water flow and get great pictures! Our tour guide was so sweet and knowledgeable. She was a great lady to have as a guide.
We finished our tour at 2pm instead of 1:30, leaving all of us students 45 minutes to find food, order, eat, and walk back to the school! Luckily, my roommates, myself, and a couple other girls quickly found a tiny restaraunt with pizza, pasta, soup, and some warm tea to help us defrost.
After lunch, we rushed back to school for the official orientation. Between you and I, I was definitely falling asleep every couple of minutes. It was very basic, common sense topics. “Do not let strangers into your apartment.” Or “If it is illegal in the States, then it is probably illegal here too.” Nothing fancy. They explained how the toilets work… and that the bidet is not a second toilet. The most important fact was probably about taking out the trash. Here in Italy, they separate all of their trash from organic ingredients, common waste, plastic, etc. On a lot of street corners, you can find these big silver tins with handles. The stock up above the ground. When you take out the trash, you press a pedal to open the trash and drop your bags in then leave. The city is very clean and the trash is emptied 2-3 times a day so it is very rare for the trash cans to ever smell. It is quite interesting to me.
Because I have been here for a couple weeks, I was wide awake and ready to see the city… even at 9pm. My friends Michael and Scott joined me as I attempted to find the Ponte Vecchio for the “Firenze Lights.” Tonight was the last night to see the lights and colorful images being projected onto the bridge. There was music playing too. Absolutely beautiful! It was a very relaxed setting where people could walk up and view the lights or they could sit on the wall surrounding walls or benches and watch for the show for hours. The lights went on from 7pm-12am! You can imagine how much time I spent there.. as well as how many hundreds of pictures I took. Below is a small glimpse of the show.
Florence/Firenze is such a cool city with so much to do. I already feel overwhelmed with all of the activities. I am beyond excited to be here though. I couldn’t have asked for a better and more memorable trip!