It has officially been 24 hours since my plane landed in Florence. I didn’t get much sleep on the plane, so I am exhausted. I traveled from Chicago to Zurich and then from there had a quick flight to Florence. The airports are surprisingly easy to get around, and the flights went smoothly. I was a lucky girl getting to the baggage claim and finding all 3 of my suitcases, unlike some other students. (yes, I just said three suitcases. whoops)
When I walked towards the doors to exit the airport, we were intercepted by a woman holding a Lorenzo de’ Medici sign and thank God she was there. She assisted us with our bags to the taxi line. The taxi drivers know no English here. So I just had to take my first leap of faith and hope that she told him the right thing and that we would just end up there. The drive from the airport was alarming. Other drivers are coming at you from every different direction. The bikers and walkers just walk any which way in the street. The culture shock had started, and I had only been in Florence for maybe 40 minutes.
I arrived at housing check-in where we went through a small orientation session about our apartments. The woman had painted a picture that these apartments as older on the inside and that the humidity and heat will make it very possible for mold. Along with this, the woman decided to throw in the fact that bed bugs can be common in Europe so do not turn a blind eye to bug bites. Well, any of you that know me well, my head was spinning at this point. With all of this information, I was in over my head as I struggled even to get past her broken English. This is the point where I thought there was going to be a breakdown, and I started to ask myself what I had gotten into.
I went to the desk and ordered a taxi to take me to this “new” apartment. We went down some crazily busy streets with people walking everywhere. All of the taxis here make a beeping noise (like a truck backing up in America) to warn people that they need to get out of the way. We turned down a quaint street and then the taxi driver stopped at a building with the number 16 on it. I was there. I unloaded my stuff and started to carry three bags up four sets of stairs in 90-degree heat. Super relaxing.
I got to the door and was greeted by my three roommates. They showed me where my room was, and my jaw dropped. It was the most beautiful room I could have imagined. The ceilings have to be upwards of 12 feet tall and the window is so big that I could stand in it, with my arms extended, and still not reach the top. When you look out my window, you see an adorable cafe down below, an old clock tower to my right, and a shrub wall that lines the Arno (the river that runs through Florence). The apartment is picture perfect. I started to feel a little better knowing that I was going to be living so comfortably. I looked at my bed, and it’s brand new, so as of right now I have nothing to worry about with bed bugs. Stay tuned for updates.
I unpacked, and my head started to spin again because I realized I had to conquer somehow getting myself to a restaurant for dinner. Luckily, since my apartment is right near the Ponte Vecchio, there are plenty of places to discover right outside my apartment. I walked down the block with my roommates to this pizza shop called Mangia Pizza. It was nothing like Chicago pizza, but I could easily say it was the freshest pizza I have ever had. It had arugula and cherry tomatoes that were so sweet they tasted like candy.
We all then proceeded to leave the night on a little later than we probably should have, meeting other American students along the way. What a night to remember. It was awing as we casually walked through the city streets. Unfortunately, I am numb to the city sites of Chicago and find myself connected to my phone; I barely pick my head up to look at my surroundings. Last night, however, I couldn’t help but look up at the old architecture as the streets twist and turn, and before I knew it, I turned and looked right at the Duomo. Incredible.
Today was an early day, and the jet lag is getting pretty bad. Before orientation, I walked to a coffee shop (which is called a bar here). The lady was very genuine, and she spoke English and Italian, but used both with me, which I very much enjoyed. I ordered the most delicious croissant there. Maybe it will be my go-to place. After breakfast, the orientation went much longer than expected, and soon, it was time for lunch. My friends and I decided to try and find the market to get some lunch without using Google. We walked and walked and finally two other American students could tell we looked a little lost. They asked if we needed help, and my friends and I gave up our pride of attempting to find it alone and gave in to them. The market ended up being just a street over so we felt a little better about ourselves getting around. The good thing about being a little lost was that we learned so much about what Florence has to offer in just the small area where we explored.
The grocery store, or market, was intriguing I guess you could say. It is in the shape of a ‘U’ and you can only go in one way and out the other. But literally…I tried to go back out…got stuck because the revolving gate didn’t turn the opposite way to let me out. I had to giggle a little bit as this old Italian lady just looked at me and started waving her arm in a circular motion. I understood what she was trying to tell me: I had to go around. Finally, I got in. Everything is in Italian, but I did pick up on a few things. Luckily, I know pollo is chicken, so I was safe there. I grabbed some vegetables and a head of lettuce, but I had to get smacked in the face with the Italian culture, again. Salad dressing is not a common thing. Oils and vinegar were the only things I could find for my salad, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
The walk back was about ten minutes, and with groceries, it was a little challenging. I was proud of the fact that I had just grocery shopped, in Italy, while paying with Euro, and was now walking back to my apartment to make lunch. To top it off, I knew where I was going. That’s a big deal considering how the last 24 hours have been. I am having a blast, have met some fun people, and am getting a lot less intimidated by the layout of the city. The next few days I will be in Florence continuing to explore before classes start next Monday. I’ll keep posting to keep everyone up to date. Still missing home a lot but I know it will pass. Till next time….