As I waited at the board in Termini Station for my platform number to be posted, I scanned for “Florence” over and over.
“I don’t see it.”
“There it is! Platform 2 ES.”
Jen and Kell took off while I stood there realizing Florence in Italian is “Firenze.” I don’t know why Americans changed it to Florence…Firenze is WAY cooler! Sounds like a city of fire-breathing dragons!
On the go muffin in hand, the three of us look around for our train. It was supposed to leave in 5 minutes, and yet no where in sight. Too tired to function, I sit on my carry-on suitcase and stare at the blueberry goodness in my hand, having no idea something was wrong.
Suddenly a lovely Italian man graciously alerts us, “YOU ARE AT THE WRONG PLATFORM. FIRENZE? 9:13? YOU WANT 2 ES. YOU ARE ON PLATFORM 2. YOU HAVE TO HURRY! YOU’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT!!”
Before I knew what was happening, Kell took off running. I grabbed my things and began to dart across the station, and down a platform that was the full length of a train. I’m mediocre at best when it comes to running, and in this instance I had a terrible cold.
It looked like I had wings as I ran with my snack bag on one arm, and my falling-off-cardigan on the other. I was miserable. But, we made it!
The best part of Florence was the night. It is so magical! The three of us left our hotel after some shopping and napping to venture around, what seemed, a completely different city.
The lights ignited the streets with warm golden colors. Music was playing around every corner, and street performers drew crowds in from every corner. We saw a mime act, acapella groups, and jazz bands throughout the streets. It was so fun just to walk around.
This is the Ponte Vecchio. During a period of wartime, all of the bridges in Florence were burned, but those attacking the city were moved by how beautiful this bridge was, so they left it alone. How sweet!
After a lovely dinner next to the Ponte Vecchio, we turned a corner and stumble upon this sight…
It hit me like a ton of bricks! The Duomo in Florence is MASSIVE. It is the biggest building I’ve ever seen. When you look on the sides, this church stretches far past where my eyes can see.
The most incredible thing is how detailed the building is. There are sculptures all along the wall, even on the doors! From far away it’s magnificent, and with each step you take towards it, more details appear and it is just an incredible sight. We didn’t get to go in, but to sit on the steps at night at gaze at it was satisfying regardless.
This is a door of the Duomo. The design of it tells the story of Jesus’s birth.
I was surprised to see so many couples engaging in slightly sexual activities on the steps of the Duomo. Kell abruptly sat down next to one couple, giving them the stink eye, and they finally quit it and left. After sitting for a few minutes, a couple relatively my age started going at it. I’m thinking, “This is God’s house! He must be hanging out the window saying, ‘Hey you kids, get off my steps!’ I must do His work.” I then proceeded to recount a fictional, yet graphic, tale to my friends about a horrific bathroom incident involving some beans I bought off the street and irritable bowel syndrome. The two eventually turned around toward me, presenting their disturbed grimaces, and proceeded to get a room.
Hanging around Piazza de Ponte Vecchio was so magical. The people were a-buzz! The live jazz music set the mood as tourists browsed some art, jewelry and leather goods to buy. Everyone was mingling, dancing, and having a great time. What an atmosphere!
The entire first day we spent in Florence I had no sense of taste. I was so sick that I was walking around with a box of tissues and hand sanitizer. At dinner I couldn’t taste the bruschetta, tea, or soup I ordered. It was awful. Italy is the worst place to lose your sense of taste because not only is everything flavorful, but you can’t “cash in your healthy chips” by ordering something very healthy that tastes gross. It’s all carbs either way!
We ventured over to a gelateria after being called over by the man working inside. “Ciao, Bellas! I give you good price, yes? Special price for you beautiful.” Gelato and compliments? Yes, please!
With a puppy-dog frown I ordered my Dulce de Leche gelato, my favorite flavor. I took a few licks and to my surprise, a faint taste! A few more licks…GOOD GOD, THIS GELATO IS MIRACULOUS. It brought my sense of taste back to its full capacity! I screamed, “It’s a Florence MIRACLE!” I will forever justify my dessert habits with this gelato’s redeeming moment.
The next morning we walked back toward the Duomo in search of eggs for breakfast. We sat down at a restaurant with an “American Breakfast Menu” right outside the Duomo. Seeing an omlette in Italy is like finding a lake in the Sahara Desert, or a straight man at a Spice Girl’s concert. They’re just not around. Our breakfast view was of the gorgeous Duomo. All I could think to myself was, “I can’t believe this is where I get to have breakfast. I can’t believe I’m in Italy!”
The rest of the day was filled with leather browsing. Having my senses restored, I was able to smell the leather as we passed through the markets. The vendors in Florence are MUCH pushier than the ones in Rome. In Florence, you cannot make eye contact with a vendor or their product without being interrogated and hustled.
I looked at a wallet for all of 3 seconds before I heard a man calling after me, “For you bella, 20 euro, special price!” Either I’m THAT good looking, or these people want my money desperately. It’s likely my good looks. Here’s a picture of Kell and the vendor that took off his ring and proposed to her. Twice.
We met up with the rest of our group and headed over to an outdoor restaurant we noticed the night before in the Piazza de Ponte Vecchio. We wanted to go because they had a great live jazz band that played during dinner.
My ravioli in a butter and sage sauce was so delightful, especially when accompanied with some vanilla tea. Tea and jazz? SIGN ME UP. The greatest thing about the Italian dining experience is the fact that the check doesn’t come until you ask for it. You can sit there forever! And boy, did I intend to. The music put a smile on my face, especially when they played a song that is in Back to the Future during the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. It was a lovely time.
I felt so grown up being on my own, with my friends, in Florence. I definitely would love to go back there.