My imagination couldn’t capture it before I got here, and words certainly can’t now, but I will do my best.
After hours of travel, we finally got to Florence. The six-hour time difference leaves me a little hazy on just how long I was in airports and on planes, but I don’t care enough to figure it out.
We got to our apartment around 11 a.m. local time after a brief taxi ride. I sat in the back, giddy, sitting on my hands to stop myself from pressing them against the glass as I watched pages of an art history book fly by me outside. Caitlin and I tipped the driver €5, which I forgot isn’t custom here. But oh well. We had the taxi money from KSU Florence anyway. We just made someone’s day.
We climbed to our “third-floor” apartment, which is in reality on the fifth. We stumbled inside as two kind men followed us with our suitcases. When we thanked them, they had to ask the woman from the housing program how to say “you’re welcome.” It was cute.
Alesandra, from the Florence and Abroad Real Estate Agency, reviewed apartment rules and city laws. We can’t have two big appliances on at the same time; the heat is scheduled to be on at certain times, totaling 10 hours a day; wasting water (or anything, really) is not allowed; and noise after 10:30 p.m. will result in a €1000 fine.
After she left, I washed the day of travel off myself and emerged from the bathroom clean and ready to take on the city. My roommates weren’t so chipper. They were all asleep. I conceded and took a nap that, in the absence of any alarms, ended up lasting five hours.
But we eventually got ourselves together and went to dinner around the corner at Ristorante Pizzeria Il Teatro. I had bruschetta and spaghetti al pomodoro. Basic, but incredible.
We wandered down to the river, a mere three-minute walk from our apartment. I stood on the bridge in awe, staring at the city I can call mine for four months, despite everyone’s ability to peg us as Americans before we open our mouths.
We went back to our apartment, which is just a few doors into a street that looks out onto the Basilica of Santa Croce. Really though. All we have to do is walk out and look to our right to see this work of art.
Today was a much busier day. Still without functional alarms, we woke up late, but with enough time to meet the rest of the group at the Duomo at 12:30 p.m.
Deborah and her husband, Stan Wearden (also dean of the College of Communication and Information), treated us to lunch at Il Gatto e la Volpe, where I had pesto gnocchi, followed by a true macchiato.
We continued to tour the city and found each of our apartments. Stan and Deb took us to Gelateria dei Neri, where I got two scoops of gelato — Nutella and Fior de Latte. It was hands-down the best gelato I’ve ever tasted. To be fair, it was also my first, but I have a feeling it will be hard to beat. Just a short walk of a couple blocks and €2,50 will get me more. Give it a day or two. Next flavor combo: lemon and strawberry.
Deborah and Stan continued to guide us through the narrow streets as we trailed behind mouths agape, pointing, taking pictures and trying not to get flattened by traffic. With our eyes high on every building, there were several close calls.
We crossed over the Ponte Vecchio Bridge over the Arno River. It was breathtaking.
We walked through piazza after piazza. I couldn’t tell any apart by the end. They all blurred into one beautiful mass of architecture and culture. I’ll have to explore on my own to learn my way around. I’ve been doing well so far. My roommate, Caitlin, called me a walking GPS and her personal Google Maps. I’m honored.
I did remember a couple of key spots. They showed us where to exchange our money with the best rate and no fees. We got to see the Palazzo dei Cerchi, the Kent State campus, which is located conveniently on our street. And of course, Gelateria dei Neri.
Before we knew it, it was past 5 p.m. We went our separate ways for a while. Caitlin and I started walking aimlessly, but then I remembered talk of a hill with a view, so we set out in search of that. And boy did we find it.
After reluctantly walking back down, we met up with several other girls to get pizza. We wandered some streets in search of one place, but ended up somewhere entirely different, not worried about the quality lacking in any pizzeria. I’m not sure where it was, but I need to find it again because my margherita pizza was delicious. The cook laughed at us as we watched him bake through the glass in a fashion remnant of the beginning of “A Christmas Story.”
I could have eaten a whole pizza. Fortunately for my stomach, I split one. I don’t know how I’ll eat American pizza.
After visiting for a while, Caitlin and I walked back to our apartment and relaxed.
I’ve noticed I’ve taken considerably less pictures than I expected to at this point. I think I just want to take everything in before I put a camera between myself and the view. I’m not worried though — I have months in this city, and I will document every inch of it.
This may be my first time in Italy, but I promise it won’t be my last.
Buonanotta, bella città.
Editor’s note: Former Grand Haven Tribune intern Lydia Coutre´is spending a semester in Italy. She is a junior at Kent State University, studying journalism. Her blogs during her stay in Italy will be posted here and at http://lydiaislost.blogspot.com. All photos by Lydia Coutre´.