Florence. Aaaahh… SO beautiful! I could have stayed months there, no, I could have stayed the rest of my life there. And I wanted to stay there with L. First thing was first, find a place to sleep. L didn’t make reservations which was kind of our first argument. There we were, 9pm after a very long train ride, dragging our luggage up and down streets, searching the city for a place to stay. We went into a ritzy hotel, me rolling my eyes at L knowing we can’t afford it. We inquired of the price and of course, I was correct. When we asked for cheaper recommendations nearby the man said wait here a minute. We looked at each other a bit confused, but we waited. A couple of minutes later he returned and said, “Follow me.” We followed hesitantly into the dark alley across from the hotel, through a door bigger than any door I have ever seen, and into an elevator right out of a 1930’s movie. There was barely enough room for us 3 to fit in it, and I swore if we would have jumped, it would have plummeted. But neither L or the desk clerk would jump with me, so we’ll never know if I was right…. “It look older than it is.” says the clerk in a condescending tone. Riiiiiight, then jump I say! I am so right.
The room was amazing! It was 2 stories, with a spiral staircase right in the center sitting room leading up a room with 2 king size beds. The bathroom had heated floors, heated towel racks and even a bidet!!! There was a balcony overlooking the whole city and I could see the Duomo, fully illuminated and majestic! We got this amazing room for the low price of 60 Euro! Can you believe that? We were under budget. So all that irritation with L slowly melted away, as L and I snuggled up and watched the city come to life.
I could not wait to celebrate my 18th year with adventure! Now, something about L and I that differs greatly that I learned on this trip was that we both view “adventure” differently. I also learned that we have different interests when it comes to exploring and sightseeing. I like culture, history, architecture, and a bit of chaos. He preferred safe, leisure, and semi-Americanized surroundings. Hehehe, this made for an uncomfortable time for him, as I won. It was my birthday.
We first headed out in the pouring rain. Yes, pouring. We were drenched in seconds and I knew from that moment this day would be AWESOME. L however, was not impressed with my dancing about “catching your death of cold in Florence, on your pretend birthday” and soon found us both sweatshirts and umbrellas from a street vendor. Fine, fine. I complied. But then I was off. The city was abuzz and the word was that the San Lorenzo Market was going on several blocks away, in a direction pointed by someone who apparently had no sense of direction. We wandered in the rain, ducking in and out of quaint but far-too-expensive stores, tons of bakeries (oh wow, gained 3 pounds), and espresso shops (peed a lot). We went about 12 blocks in the wrong direction until another tourist pointed us in the right direction. Thanks out-of-towner! Grabbed some of the best pizza ever, and went on our way, the other way.
The market was huge and packed full of people. I bought a bunch of stuff I didn’t need and labeled them as “souvenirs” with little intention of actually giving them to the intended people. We walked through rows after rows of hand crafted gems, ate more food (well I did) and the rain never let up for a minute. When we were done with the market, we made our way to see the older parts of town.
This is where I would post amazing pictures but, my camera was in fact stolen out of my bag on our return trip… so, no photos. The city of Florence is so rich in history and beauty, we barely even scratched the surface of discovery. We did however see the most beautiful cathedrals, several neat statues including David, and a few landmarks like the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio bridge! My favorite site was the Basilica of Santa Croce, it was breathtaking. Up close you could see the craftsmanship and I was in awe the whole time. I didn’t want to leave its steps but my stomach told me otherwise. Dinner time!
Finding a restaurant was challenging. Not for the lack of restaurants but because L wanted a menu he could read. I was more willing to take a gamble. So we settled on a place with an English menu and an Italian one. He ordered right away, I pondered over Italian words, trying to think of what Giada would order. I went with something that sounded rustic and pretty, it didn’t disappoint! We ate in true Italian fashion, slowly, with strangers and buckets of wine. I guess this is the thing to do here. Dinner was delicious and the company was entertaining. 3 hours later, on to birthday drinks.
We wandered about some more, in the general direction of our hotel. Not long after the search was over. We came across an Irish pub called “The Dublin Pub” and ducked in as it seemed like the hot spot in the area. Talk about fun! People from all over the world were in that pub. We made some Aussie friends, Irish Friends, English Friends, a couple American ones too! No Italian though… Strange. Shortly a contest was in full swing. L didn’t believe my drinking abilities and neither did a couple Aussies, and so it was on. Long story short, I won. I had about 10 shots, 2 foreign concoctions, and a couple Redbulls. L was done after 6 beers. After the high-fives went around the pub and a couple of hugs from drunk strangers, we staggered back to our hotel room. Or did we? OK, we got lost. Really lost. It was around 2am and we had no clue where we were. We went in circles for over an hour trying to find our hotel. Just when all hope was about to be lost, and we were going to settle for the sidewalk, we see our special little alley way…. Literally next to the Dublin Pub. Oy Vey. Really???? We crashed as soon as our heads hit our pillows. Good night Florence.
The morning came quick and so did the hangover for me. We packed up, grabbed some yummy confections at the bakery on the corner and went to catch our train. Those 2 days were unforgettable and far too short. I loved every moment of that trip. L was a great companion there, and we sure learned a lot about our differences. But ya know what? I didn’t mind that we were so different. I felt that we made a good team and that we brought balance to each other in our extreme areas. Our humour really clicked when it came to having fun and being silly, which has always been a big thing for me in relationships. I could be myself with him, and that was nice.
I only stayed a couple more days with L in Aviano. We went for a few drives and romantic walks, on a few shopping trips and ate at some unique cafes. I took tons of pictures, that of course I can’t show you but at least I have my memories. And those will never be stolen. Well, until I grow old and senile of course.
Saying goodbye to L was hard. I was teary-eyed and he took it rough as well. He even inquired about me staying until he was set to leave Italy, but it just wasn’t affordable. So we hugged and kissed and kissed some more, and I was off.
Farewell L, Farewell Italy.
Hello Mountain Home AFB, again…