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Ciao Italia!

Current Anxiety Rating: 2

overcast 58 °F

Hello all,

As I believe I mentioned in last weeks post, I visited Florence this past weekend! I wrote a first draft of this post on the plane back from Pisa which I present for you now with lovely photographic additions! Now in Technicolor! (Vanna-White-Gestures Wildly) :

Hey Errybody,

I am writing this up as a first draft on the flight from Pisa to Barcelona/ Barcelona to Granada, mostly so I can make sure it gets posted in a timely manner (Note from the present: Oh how the best laid plans go to waste). I am on my way back from my weekend-long Italian getaway! Four friends and I visited Florence from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon and it was truly an amazing experience. I am so glad that I went. We did tons and tons of things in our two days (give or take) and I didn't even have a horrible terrifying panic attack so I would say it was a resounding success! Rather than bore you with every little detail, I shall give you the highlights! (Which to be honest will still probably be long winded, but hey, nobody's perfect.) To begin....

1) PIZZA. ITALIAN PIZZA. DEAR GOD...Italy definitely had me at hello, so to speak, with regard to food. A place known for it's pizza, pasta, and gelato? Oh, yeah. I guess I could do that. Obviously, pizza in Italy was a can't miss for me. By the time, we had gotten all settled in at the hostel, our stomaches were quite rumbly. We ended up at a place called "Gusta Pizza" on the other side of the Arno river, about 35 minutes away from our hostel. It came recommended by a friend of a friend who had studied in Florence the semester before and boy was it worth it. By the time we got there, we were all ravenously hungry. Unfortunately, we got there 20 minutes before it opened,so we eyed the menu and just sort of stared in with hangdog eyes. The waiters remained unmoved. By the time they opened, there was quite the crowd happening, but I was willing to throw some elbows at anyone who tried to get between me and pizza. Because pizza and i are close like that. To my surprise, once the restaurant opened up, the waiters really got moving! It was like a well oiled machine in there and we got our pizzas in maybe 7 minutes tops! I went with Margarita (tomato, real mozzarella, basil, the basics) and it was worth every penny. Best five euro I have spent so far.

Take a peek!:
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2) NEW FRIENDS: We also had a tag along for the weekend from the US who was the same hostel as us and that was lots of fun, too. He had been there a day longer than us so he was able to give us little help navigating.

3) PONTE VECCHIO: After pizza we made our way back for gelato--naturally--to round out the night. We stopped on the Ponte Vecchio which we had sort of stumbled upon by accident and took in the view of the river, which really puts the "river" in Granada to shame. Even though the stars weren't out, it was a beautiful night and we were all in the proper state of mind to enjoy it now that we weren't hungry out of our minds. The bridge really gives an impressive perspective on the the city at night with all the lights reflecting and the architecture all lit up. Walking onto the bridge was sort of a "whoa" moment for me. It just hit me that I was in Italy with a bunch of awesome people doing things that I could have only dreamed about before...

4) GELATO: To shatter that sense of suspense right here, we did indeed make it to the gelato place. It was another recommendation from the friend who had studied in Florence, and even after an entire pizza to myself (not to brag or anything), it still definitely hit the spot. We got tons of gelato heap-age (that's a word right?) for our money, and there was the added fancy splendor that it was gelato from *Italy*. Also, like I said before finding the place also gave us some time to explore a bit and take in the city at night which was a real treat.

Here is a picture of the Gelato Shop:
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5) LEATHER MARKETS: On Day 2, our first order of business was to hit up the famous Italian leather markets. I had to keep reminding myself that yes, i already have a brand new purse at home and no, i don't need an italian leather jacket. It was a struggle.

6) THE DUOMO: From the market we also got our first view of the Duomo, the Florence cathedral. It is by far my favorite cathedral I have seen during my time in Europe. The coloring alone makes it seem so much more breath-taking. It has this alternating accent of green marble that gives the building a distinctive depth and pop. And it seems HUGE! You can see it from all over the city and when you are walking right beside it, it is immense.

After lunch, we came back later to get a peek inside, which, while lovely, couldn't live up to the outside. But that's not to say it wasn't beautiful. The Duomo actually had one of my favorite interiors of the cathedrals I have visited. The interior was way more minimalistic with lots of open space that made it seem like, with the addition of--I don't know--several hundred thousand books, it could be a library. But that might just be me being crazy. My favorite thing was that the religious aspect was less ornately present. It was understated and subtly, and somehow that made it feel more relaxed to me. Also, the Duomo dome (say that ten times fast) was exquisitely painted, so much detail everywhere you looked. It was incredible.

7) CIAO, GIMI: We also met a painter outside the Duomo and his work was incredible. He did them all in watercolor, all of different Florence landmarks--From Memory! His name was Gimi and he let us as lots of questions which was fun for me as someone who used to paint. He just seemed incredibly nice and seemed so flattered that we liked his work. He had one of those happy faces, you know? My friend bought one of his pieces, and Gimi even personalized it for him. For whatever reason, meeting him and seeing his work with this beautiful cathedral in the backdrop really struck me. It was just another one of those moments were I felt fully present. Like my mind wasn't moving a million miles an hour or thinking about what we were going to do next or where we were going to eat, I was just right there in the world in front of a beautiful cathedral, admiring someone's incredible art.

Here he is in all of his glory:
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8) DA VINCI INVENTION MUSEUM: On our way back to the hostel, we stumbled upon a Da Vinci Museum, not of his paintings, but with replicas of tons of his inventions. You could touch them and interact with lots of them to see how they worked and what they did. There were little explanations of each on in various languages. And of course, a table for coloring. Naturally, we got stuck there for a solid 15 minutes. That may not seem like a long time, but we just filed in and quietly went to work drawing in a silent, serious fervor. I went into zen mode. It was kind of funny because here we were, all 19, 20, and 21 year olds, sitting on children's stools very intently working with oversized colored pencils at the entrance of the museum. Literally, this was the first thing we saw, and we went right to it. The rest of the museum was pretty cool. Obviously, not as cool as coloring. (Duh!) It was small, but lots of things to look at and it was fun to get to go to a museum while we were there! We just sort of got side tracked and missed the other ones actually. Oops.

Here are the fruits of our labor. I think Da Vinci would be proud. And definitely worth missing the David :)
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9) FINAL HOURS: Another one of my favorite moments was right before we left. We had come back to the leather market on Sunday morning and decided to get some lunch fixings at the food market that was right next door. The food market had tons of booths selling pasta and fresh meat and wine and cheese and bread, the whole nine yards, on the first floor. On the second, they have tons of Italian restaurants that sell freshly-made food. With the Beatles Greatest Hits flooding over the speakers, we split a bottle of fancy Italian wine along with pizza, bread, and a ball of fresh mozzarella, and we just enjoyed the scenery and each other's company. It was another one of those moments where I just felt completely content. I just knew I was having one of those amazing, once in a lifetime moments. In Italy enjoying the food and the great company of the new friends I have made during my time here.

It really was an amazing trip. I don't know how else to describe it. I have been mulling it over for a week now, and I still don't think I have fully processed all the adventures we had and the things that we saw, nor do I think even with all the adjectives in the world I could properly describe those feelings of complete contentment I had while I was there. We packed a lot into those two days and I really enjoyed my adventure. Florence was an incredible, breathtaking snapshot, and I would love to go back and explore it further someday.
....

And that's a wrap!

T-minus 21 days left on my big abroad adventure, and I can't wait to tell you all about the last leg. Thanks for sticking with me so far and caring enough to check in and see how I am doing! You are the best!

Afectuosamente,

Alison

Thank you to the Helen Barr Rudin Grant for making this blog and my adventures abroad possible*

Posted by TrixiStella 15:51 Archived in Spain

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