Writing about Florence is quite nostalgic for me. Therefore this piece is more sentiment then travel blog. There was so much about my time there that was amazing and transformative for me. I did a study abroad program there, but what I learned most could not have been taught in the classroom. Even though one of my teachers was the kind of woman to kick off her shoes and get real about something like the use of important slang words!
The girls I lived with in those 6 months ended up being the best adventure buddies and life long friends. Our apartment was old. So old in fact that my bedroom wall had a recovered 800 year-old fresco from floor to ceiling. We could look out our bedroom window and see the tower from the Palazzo Vecchio; which is also called the Piazza della signoria- the main town square, if you will, of Florence. Built in the 14th century and still a hub flowing with people. It was an enlightening experience to be able to walk down my (many narrow) stairs and across cobble stone streets to wander through such ancient and beautiful spaces. The statues outside the Palazzo are incredible! A copy of the David is there, the real one just a short walk over to the Academia di bella arte. Cellini’s “Persues with the head of medusa” on your right as you walk down cobblestones towards the Ufizi Gallery. You could spend a whole day just in there, especially if you are an art lover.
We lived by Piazza Santa Croce, which I loved. I remember our first night we were so excited to be there that we got a bottle of champagne and walked over to the Arno, thinking “lets celebrate by the infamous river!”. The moment we looked over the stone wall at the stagnant water we realized we needed to stop over- romanticizing Florence, and just enjoy, just be there. So we took our giddy mood and our bottle of bubbles and sat on the steps of the Piazza, like all young Italians do. I love how Italians will just hang out outside together. We made friends sitting on those steps, sharing our drinks and practicing our Italian. All the while surrounded by a church older then my home country. Santa Croce is the burial place of some of the most famous Italians in history, Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli to name a few. It was the perfect blend of old and new Italians, smoking a spliff with a huge statue of Dante next to us.
In the winter, Santa Croce filled with strung lights and stalls of sweets and gifts. The Christmas Market was so wonderful to walk down to, bundled in our scarves we would stop at the mulled wine cart and chill on the steps until our wine got cold and our bums numb, then it was off to a late dinner!
Our first Italian friends Alessandro, Rudy and Lorenzo really made sure we had a real Florentine experience. They took us to the white sand beach in Rosignano. The tiny little car was packed with people, it over-heated, we stalled on the highway, the girls freaked out the guys spoke loud Italian over each other. It was fun. Alessandro’s family owned an incredible ristorante called Filipepe, the most delicious and beautiful food and ambiance I have ever experienced. The area of Florence that Filipepe was in, is called San Niccolo, and it’s fabulous. Oltrarno, means the other side of the Arno, and it’s way more local there, not so many American students.
I often opted to hang with my Italian boys rather then the American kids in my program. One night I went to a reggae party with Alessandro, and we danced with his DJ friends til 4am. Walking out of the club, refreshed by the warm summer air, he said, “come on.” We hopped on the scooter and pulled up to Filipepe.
“What are we doing here?” I asked him.
“ Mangiamo qualcosa.” Let’s eat something he said. He had a key, and there we were 4am, partied out, and secretly munching on the best cheese cake on the planet (masacarpone, ricotta, and a house made strawberry awesomeness).
There was a man named Rocco who owned a trippy little tea shop called Mago Merlino on Via dei Pilastri. He was somewhat of a spiritual advisor during my Florentine life. He was quite accurate when reading my palm the first time I met him. On one particularly emotional, pre-quarter life crisis night, Rocco sat with me in his tea-house, serving me tea and reading my tarot cards. He is a magical, intelligent man. Go visit him and make sure you drink some tea!!
There is delectable gelato all over that city! I luckily had the famous Vivoli gelateria on my corner. I ate one from there on my way to school during summer, and one from somewhere else on my way home every day. That somewhere else was usually from Rivareno or Vestri.
People say there is one way to learn a language- in bed. It is true that if you become smitten with someone who speaks a different language than your own, that you will inevitably learn how to communicate with each other. But I would like to counter this cliché and add that for a writer (or an avid reader), having a foreign writer friend is key in learning new lyrical things about their language. Lorenzo was and is my Italian poet friend. One day, he took me on a long walk away from the center, down old narrow roads, to a field where we sat in the sun and shared our poetry with each other. Teaching each other words by explaining their feelings or actions. It was a magical day, and he only further instilled my hunger for the Italian language.
There is so much more I could say and reminisce about Firenze; and perhaps I will after I visit again next month! Stay tuned!
American beach babes at Rosignano beach
One of the many amazing stalls at Sant'Ambrogio market
Love Locks by Ponte Vecchio bridge. All year round tourists leave these locks with their names and the date on them. A sweet idea, but there's so damn many, the city cuts them all off every few months to make room for more.
Once a year the Duomo, opens up la terrazza to the public. It's a beautiful view. This is me being a statue.
Moroccan lanterns at Mago Merlino's Tea House
Reggae party (Dj's are part of Banpay Crew) https://soundcloud.com/lotto-banpay
At The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte. This place is stunning. Worth walking up all the stairs to get there.
A caprese in Italy is like no caprese in the US.
Tiramisu at Vivoli
A brief lesson on Italian's favorite naughty word.
A view of Ponte Vecchio from Ponte alle Grazie
Small walk street hundred of years old.