As a result of my first successful flight without a parent’s accompaniment, I have made it to Florence!
I was lucky enough to snag a window seat on the last leg of my journey, departing from Paris. This allowed me a gorgeous view of the Alps as we crossed into Italy. I love how clouds put a mountain range’s enormity into perspective. I tried to capture this in a few photos. Having let these snow capped peaks recede behind us, we came upon a quintessential aerial view of the country. Lush green hills sported clusters of red roofed houses, perfectly aligned rows of olives and grapes lay in a haphazard patch work, larger cities had roads that sanctioned them into distinct shapes. In the distance I could see the Mediterranean, churning against a distant shore.
These images swelled as we began our decent, and I think it finally hit me that this was really happening, although, it remains slightly surreal to me as I sit in my apartment just a step away from the Basilica of San Lorenzo. In getting off the van that brought us to check in, we received a rather unique welcome. A 10K had just been run, and the square was spilling with sweaty Italians in deep purple shirts and running shorts. Much like the cars here in Italy, people walking about have their own prerogative and will not move from your path or side step as they barrel toward you. My time in New York prepared me well for this, and I was able to maneuver my suitcase over the cobblestone with relative ease.
After a little confusion at check in, I made it to my apartment. In doing so, I caught my first glimpse of the Duomo. I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll be snapping a picture of this magnificent building at least once a day. Despite a small blemish of scaffolding distorting its façade at the moment, it is breathtaking. It towers as if supporting the sky and is tiled in the most pleasing array of colors. Sage green plays on rusted red and off white, like a soft Italian flag set in mosaic.
My roommates and I later passed the Duomo again, eliciting the same response from me, as we headed out to explore. Firstly, we located one of our classrooms, an ATM, and a grocery. On the way, though, we passed some wonderful sights. It seems you can’t take a step in Florence without seeing something worthwhile. We passed through Piazza della Repubblica, home of statues, an enormous arch way, and festive carousel. We walked down by Fiume Arno and were delighted by rowers, pigeons, and a sunset that served to silhouette the rows of bridges beautifully. We passed through Piazza della Signoria, where stands the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Vecchio, what serves as Florence’s city hall. In passing these sights we also lost our way a few times, stumbling upon grand structures whose names and functions we have yet to discover as well as a few of Florence’s “sketchier” streets. These streets grow so narrow that you are forced to scooch past the graffitied walls in single file and the sun barely reaches the pavement. Owners peer from the doorways of tiny shops set between Florence’s few garages, inspiring me more to shuffle away than join them inside.
Of course, in our wandering, we also passed through pockets of amazing smells. Restaurants constitute a huge portion of the storefronts here, often offering outside seating or, at the small cafes, roadside service. The pastries stare tantalizingly from their cases out front, paninis are stacked high and wide in their displays, couples enjoy steaming pasta under covered tables on the sidewalk, and there are quite literally gelaterias every ten feet. Mounds of the Italian ice cream they serve call to you as you pass. The colors are gorgeous and the creaminess is evident just in visual observation. I look forward to defacing one of these beautiful displays in order to fill my own cup of gelato very soon. Of course, the trouble will be picking a stand, and more importantly, picking a flavor.
With night upon us and our feet growing weary, we returned to our apartment. I am glad to report that my first day in Italy was a success. I cannot wait to begin discovering the city in earnest and learning the language of its people. It will be a happy day when I don’t have to force an Italian to revert to my native English to help me in buying a few tomatoes. In any case, I am glad for the challenge and excitement that awaits me in this great country. Time for the adventures to begin!