(I know it’s been almost two weeks since I was actually in Italy *sniff* but I want to post about my trip, and better late than never, right? There should be one post for each day we were there, and then a couple of overall picture posts. Enjoy!)
The first day we got to Florence was the day that we flew in, so obviously we didn’t have a full 18 hours of excitement like we did on the other days. It sure seemed like it though!! Once we’d arrived at the airport, a lovely young woman from ACCENT (the group? company? that ran our study abroad program) met us and took us outside so that she could manage our taxi situation for us.
Then came the taxi ride.
I’ve heard stories about crazy taxi drivers, of course, but I’ve been in taxis in Boston and D.C. several times and nothing particularly exciting happened then. It was a very different experience in Italy. We practically careened down streets that I’m fairly certain should’ve only fit one car but instead fit about three. At the one stoplight I know for certain we stopped at, a car on the street perpendicular to us attempted to occupy the same stretch of road as our taxi at the same time as our taxi. Pedestrians and cars ignored each other equally, as exemplified by the couple and baby stroller standing in the entrance to the street that our hotel was on who were completely oblivious to our waiting taxi up until our driver practically ran them over.
It was exciting.
After all eleven of us (plus the ACCENT lady) had arrived at our hotel, the ACCENT representative – Lacey, to save typing space – showed us how to maneuver around the hotel (e.g. you leave your key at the desk when you leave, and pick it back up when you come back. And yes, they were actual keys) and we left our luggage in the rooms. She then told us we had roughly an hour for lunch, pointed out the restaurants around the Piazza della Repubblica – which thankfully was right next to our street – and left us to our own devices. All the students ended up eating pizza at the same restaurant together (except for two of the girls who got pasta). This was our first experience eating real Italian food, and it was amazing. Their tomato sauce, as far as I can tell, is literally just tomatoes, so it tasted much sweeter and infinitely better than the American tomato sauces I’ve tried. Their cheese was also much less sharp, and everything tasted fresh, and overall it was some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life.
After lunch, Lacey took us on a walking tour of Florence from our hotel to the ACCENT classrooms/offices in Piazza Santo Spirito. Since we were there anyway, we decided to go inside the church of Santo Spirito as our first taste of Renaissance art and architecture. We weren’t sure whether or not we were allowed to take pictures inside, so, alas, I have no photographic proof that I was inside, but it was a pretty darn fantastic way to begin our trip.
After touring Santo Spirito and ACCENT, we all headed back to the hotel to relax and unpack. I honestly have no memory of how long we stayed in the hotel, but we went out again in the evening to explore Florence at night. The hotel was barely five minutes away from the Duomo and the piazza and shops surrounding it, so we didn’t have to go far to find cool things. My roommate, one of the other girls, and I stopped by one of the street vendors near the Duomo so that they could buy hats. Much bartering and examining later, my roommate and I had bought matching knit hats, and we were on our way again. I think we wandered the streets for a while after that, just reveling in the fact that we were in Italy. We managed to circle our way back to the hotel, and back in the Piazza della Repubblica we found another street vendor who sold the other girl the hat she had been looking for at the first street vendor. All three of us were really tired at this point, and were about to head back to the hotel, which is when my roommate and I realised we hadn’t yet had dinner. And so the two of us walked back towards the Duomo, bought yet more pizza from a tiny shop in the piazza (it was just as good as lunch), ate in the common room on the second floor – which was called the first floor and was highly confusing for roughly the first 36 hours – and then made our way up to our room to discover the complexities of using a minuscule shower.
And thus ended our first day in Florence.