A spontaneous, four-hour road trip to Florence, Italy in the bitter cold of January sounds like a good idea, right? Fortunately for me, it was.
Four Italians. One American. Zero English.
Well, we did have google translate, but that only goes so far.
The thing I remember most about Florence was how alive it felt. It was early January, so the Christmas lights were still hanging. It was magical. There were musicians playing in the plazas, people wandering the streets bundled from head-to-toe due to the freezing temperatures, but best of all, the people looked happy. There just must be something in the Italian air.
Before I go any further, I will fill you in a little secret that I was oblivious to before my little adventure in Florence – order the steak.
Our day started out with a long walk to a little restaurant with a nice reputation. When I say long walk, I mean we got lost in a city that no one knew very well, and let me tell you, if you have never heard Italians argue about directions, you’re missing out. On the verge of just finding a new restaurant, we finally stumbled upon the hole-in-the-wall eatery. Hind sight being 20/20, I would have educated myself on the Florence way of life before visiting. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t. Since we had walked out of the touristic area, there seemed to be a lack of menus in English, so I pointed at a random item in the menu and hoped for best.
I was so wrong. Apparently Florence is known for their “Bistecca fiorentina.” I know, it sounds odd. Steak in Italy? But trust me, it is a lot less weird than being the only one at the table without a t-bone on your plate. I had never felt so foreign in my life. At least everyone had a nice laugh, right?
Next came the adventuring – monuments, fountains, churches, and a lot of walking. Everything was so beautiful. I was like a little kid in candy store with wide eyes and a heart longing to see everything. My friends were a good sport, too. They lead the way, showing me all of the “must-see” spots like the Ponte Vecchio and Il Duomo di Firenze.
Ponte Vecchio was a bridge lined with shops and vendors over a beautiful canal. It was a dreary day when I was on the Ponte Vecchio, but it still seemed so surreal.
Il Duomo di Firenze was an enormous, magnificent church, but unlike any church I had ever known. It almost seemed like a castle with its perfectly carved details covering it from floor to ceiling and the towers on each side. The symmetry of the designs was unbelievable. I almost wanted to touch it just to see if it was real. People were coming from all directions to take pictures and take a tour of the inside. Next to the church there were several cafes with a nice view of the great cathedral, so after an entire day of walking, we found a table outside, had some wine and enjoyed our time together.
In amidst of all of the exquisite sites to see, there was a moment in a plaza with a man playing a song – Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. The entire square stopped what they were doing for just five minutes to listen. As he sang, we all stood there in a circle surrounding the one-man show, some holding hands, others embracing one another. But everyone was present. It was something so rare to see. People weren’t staring at their phones, they weren’t engaging in meaningless chatter, they were actively paying attention to the enchanting moment happening before our eyes. Like I said, there must be something in the air.
And I-I had a feeling that I belonged.
And I-I had a feeling that I could be someone, be someone.