On Thursday Grace and I woke up at the lovely hour of 5:45 a.m. to catch our flight out of Berlin. We made it to the underground with plenty of time to spare, feeling prepared because we knew exactly what stops we needed and where to transfer. Part one was fine, we transfered at the right station, found our platform and waited…and kept waiting. The train to the airport finally came up on the sign but without an arrival time. Our lack of German language knowledge was not helpful at this point. We spotted a couple who also seemed to be headed to the airport and asked them if they knew what was going on. We concluded the train had been cancelled, so we went back up to the street and shared a cab with the couple to the airport. After somewhat of a panic we checked in and had plenty of time before our flight took off.
Our flight to Bergamo was under two hours so we arrived around 10. Major déjà vu at the airport in Bergamo. We both couldn’t believe that three weeks ago we had arrived there from Morocco about to embark on the greatest adventure. We laughed about our confusion of not actually being in Milan and how disoriented we were the first time.
We walked to the luggage storage place and my suitcase was there!!! Everything was in its place, good to go. (So many answered prayers!) We found a bus to Centrale Milano and off we went. Sadly our EuRail passes had ran out, so we had to buy separate tickets. The train we originally planned on taking was full, so we had a couple hours to kill in the station. We had a nice lunch and then got on our train to Florence.
It didn’t hit me until I was getting off the train that I was about to live and study in a foreign city for a month knowing absolutely no one. Within the craziness of the station and arriving to the city I didn’t have time to be nervous. The check in point was less than a ten minute walk from the station and super easy to find. Grace hung around while I checked in and went through housing orientation. I got the keys to my apartment which was conveniently located right next to where we checked in. The apartment is awesome and much nicer than I was expecting! The coolest thing is that the building is hundreds of years old since it is in the heart of Florence. The front door is a massive, wooden door with a super complex lock. Our apartment is on the third floor which in Italy means the fourth. The staircase is all stone and wrought iron and very steep. After making it up I couldn’t figure out the lock to save my life, but thankfully my roommate Reyanne was already there and let us in.
I’m sharing a room with Reyanne who is from New York. She is super great and I’m so excited to live with her the next month! Meredith and Juliana are sharing the other room in our apartment and we all go to UNC. We have a great living room and kitchen/dining room. Think classic Italian living and that is exactly what we have, no air conditioning, shutters on all the windows and creaky little beds. I absolutely love it! I also still can’t believe that where we live is less than a five minute walk from the Duomo, aka Florence’s downtown and one of the most well known spots in all of Italy. Unreal.
After getting settled in and finally feeling clean after a while (#backpackingprobs) we headed out to dinner, joining a couple girls Reyanne had met. I had my first real Italian meal, spaghetti of course!
Our waiter was great and of course the first question I asked him was where the best gelato places were. He wrote down a couple recommendations for us and off we went. It was amazing and the first of countless I will get here! I got stratecialla and this chocolate coffee flavor, seriously so delicious. (Writing about this is making my mouth water)
We spontaneously decided to hike up to the plaza that overlooks all of Florence to watch the sunset. It’s a pretty steep hike up, but a beautiful one, all stone and ivy. The plaza was packed with tourists and people everywhere but we squeezed ourselves in and grabbed a spot. Like so many places I’ve been to on this trip it was absolutely stunning. You can see the mountains that surround the city, the Duomo, the various churches and the bridges across the river that run through the city. My goal is to catch as many sunsets as possible for the next month in the hope that I won’t take my time here for granted.
We headed back, turning in pretty early after such a busy day and our early morning. Reflecting on our backpacking trip as well as our time in Morocco was sweet. It still feels like a dream, the whole experience was more than I could of ever imagined. In retrospect I’m amazed everything went as smoothly as it did. Of course we spent plenty of time lost and frustrated with various things throughout our trip, but all in all it was fantastic. From the major shock of day one in Morocco, to making the best of our rainy days, every minute was spent experiencing something new, pushing ourselves and learning an infinite amount about the world and ourselves. Thankfully Gracie will be here until Monday so we still have a couple adventures ahead of us!
The next morning we slept in a bit, catching up on lost sleep. Grace headed out to do her thing and explore Florence since I had orientation and meetings for the majority of the day. Reyanne and I grabbed breakfast at a coffee shop down the street and spent the morning getting organized. We had orientation most of the afternoon, lots of information and advice for us! After everything wrapped up we decided to try out the grocery store or market as they call them here. Our program doesn’t have a meal plan so we will (hopefully) be cooking most of our meals! We found a market right down the street from our apartment. Saying it is small is an understatement. They have packed plenty of food in the store, but two people can’t stand next to each other in front of the shelves, it is so tiny. After filling my basket with questionable items since I can’t read all of the labels, I packed my bags and had a nice half English, half Italian conversation with the cashier. We headed back to our apartment for a meeting with our landlord. I was so relieved after our first market excursion, knowing a store is so accessible definitely made me feel better. We had a brief meeting with our landlord to learn the ins and outs of our apartment. Our stove is a true gas stove where you open the valve and light it with a match, pretty neat.
For dinner, our program Lorenzo de Medici (LDM) put on a welcome event for all of the new students. We showed up and literally ate dinner in an old palace. It was beautiful, every single ceiling was painted and the chandeliers and statutes were extravagant. Dinner was delicious and of course a variation of pizza, pasta and bread dishes. After chatting with some people and teachers from the program, we walked back to our apartment.
(This is our apartment, Julianna, Meredith, Reyanne and me)
I forgot how beautiful the city was at night, especially the Duomo. Also the weather here is perfect! Sunny and 70s during the day and cool in the evening.
Grace was just hanging out at the apartment for the evening so when I got back we hung up our laundry to dry (finally clean clothes!!) and ventured back out to try the other gelato place our waiter from the other night had recommended. We found in a little back alley and of course it was amazing. This time I went for the fruit, trying mango and raspberry. Delicious.
We walked along the river enjoying the breeze and filling each other in about our days. We ended up finishing our cones in a little park right across from the water. It was so peaceful and I already feel so comfortable here in Florence! Not having Grace to spend time with and travel with will definitely be an adjustment for the next month. We both travel very similarly, wasting no time, but appreciating every place we go. But I’m also ecstatic to make new friends and make this sweet city my home for the next four weeks.