Continued from the previous post.
We sat in front of the gelateria while our cab driver got out to inquire about the address of our Airbnb apartment. It was the first time I had ever used Airbnb, and I was ready to bite my nails. I think that’s every traveler’s nightmare…accommodations not as advertised. But on the bright side, having free rein of a gelateria after hours could have its benefits, especially for a chocoholic like me. When I studied in Torino, I was so enamored by the fact that the city had its very own chocolate festival called Cioccolatò. So when I was late to a school event my roommate imagined I had taken a detour to the festival and would show up with chocolate stained lips and fingers, literally bathed in chocolate. I imagined myself that night in a similar situation, sampling each flavor one by one starting with chocolate…
The driver came back, interrupting my gelato fantasy. Good news. There was another number 4 on the same street that was in fact our apartment. Makes sense, right? I was put at ease when we were greeted by our very warm and friendly Airbnb host, and the apartment itself was beautiful, clean, comfortable, and in the perfect location, right near Ponte Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria.
My first visit to Florence was back in 2005 while I was studying abroad in Torino, and I kind of snubbed it. Not because of the city itself; it was beautiful. But Florence attracts Americans like flies to a picnic. I guess I was just shocked that there were Americans everywhere, unlike Torino. Not just any Americans, but the frat boy/Jersey Shore kind who pounds his chest like Tarzan before doing a keg stand and thinks he has super powers when drunk. In addition, English was everywhere, on menus and signs, and most Florentines speak it. I got lazy with my Italian, which was my whole point of studying abroad in the first place. In Torino we had to learn the hard way that acciughe means anchovies, and I liked that.
This time I really fell in love with Florence. After being away from Italy for so long, it was a nice way to ease back into the culture, and for my dad to be introduced to Italian culture for the first time. With all of the linguistic accommodations for tourists it’s kind of like training wheels for Italy. It’s an easy city to get around, very walkable, and big enough to feel exciting, yet small enough to feel intimate. The historic center has mostly pedestrian only zones, so it’s peaceful to walk around. Florence has some of the best art museums in the world, but even the streets are like a museum.
Florence is especially magical at night. Our first night there we ran across a woman with an angel’s voice singing Ave Maria in the piazza. This used to be one of my late grandma’s favorite songs to sing, and for that reason I have always loved it. It’s hauntingly beautiful and makes my eyes glisten, every time. Music can touch me in the soul like that. It was really special to hear a meaningful song surrounded by the candlelight glow of Florence at night.
Excuse my horrible filming skills. I got a little overeager with the zoom capabilities.
Even the street signs are artistic. My dad asked our waitress what it meant and she said it was a funny way to say access forbidden. We kept finding other versions of it all around town. I loved these cheeky little street signs that make enforcing the law so much more fun.
Italian graffiti seems to be all about love. I kept finding these hearts all around Florence. While I’m not a fan of graffiti, hearts make me happy.
The highlight of my time in Florence was having dinner with one of my good friends from grad school and getting this delicious organic gelato in front of the Duomo afterwards. Usually the best food places are not located right next to tourist spots, but this is an exception! Gelateria Edoardo Firenze is organic, and it’s filled with the smell of waffle cones being freshly pressed.
We all agreed that we didn’t have enough time in Florence to do it justice. So Florence, we’re coming back for you!