Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Giselle and Gelato Part II: Florence is Fabulous

That title have been one of the hokily alliterative things I've ever set to print. No matter, I'm rolling with it.


Anyway, after VERY little sleep on Friday night (early Saturday morning?), I leapt out of bed thanks to the adrenaline rush that traveling to new and exciting places always gives me, grabbed my seriously light overnight bag (which, probably for the first time ever, contained EXACTLY what I needed and not an item more - huge packing win), and set off for the train station. It was grisly, rainy, and dark, and I arrived twenty minutes later feeling a bit like a drowned rat. I had planned to spend the two hour train to the airport (seriously??!) catching up on sleep, but had overlooked the fact that my soggy state + a mostly unheated train cabin would make for seriously uncomfortable times. Instead, I spent most of the trip shivering lightly and trying to forget myself in a book.

(It was worth it, though!)

Once arriving at Gatwick everything went super smoothly - I managed to get a bite to eat, read an entire Horse and Hound cover to cover, and warm up a bit. Then, my airplane ended up being deliciously warm which allowed me to pass out instantly, giving me a few more precious hours of sleeping before touching down in Florence.

(Tuscany = incredibly beautiful)

And, my god, what an experience that was! I woke up a few minutes before landing and looked out the window onto an utterly alien landscape: sun-drenched green fields bordered by silver-leaved trees and terra cotta-roofed farmhouses. Big cotton ball clouds filled an azure sky. I think my jaw literally dropped.

(Is this real?)

When I got outside, it was warm. Like, I coat off and walked around in a T shirt level warm. I actually haven't been outside without at least two jackets on (excluding athletic activity) since Egypt over seven weeks ago. It was unreal how amazing it felt to have the sun shining on my skin, and I knew right away that I'd made a good choice even if everything else about the weekend fell apart.

(Picture perfect)

I met up with my friends Justine and Maddy (who I haven't seen since June of last year - so crazy!) and we quickly set about to catching up on one another's lives. Maddy has been studying abroad since September in Paris and Justine in Florence, and so they had a lot to reflect on in these last few weeks of their stays. It was interesting to hear how the programs differed and how different experiences could be form quarter to quarter. It made me both incredibly excited and bit nervous to see what next quarter will bring for me.

(This view + great conversation = the makings of a great evening! Even if we did have to pay 5 Euros just for some cokes to get to keep our seats by the river)

We wandered up to a lookout over the city, stopping for amazingly oily pesto sandwiches and gelato along the way--both of which I ate so quickly and passionately that I very nearly made myself sick. The lookout was probably one of the more beautiful things I've seen in a long time, and it made my heart happy to look out on so much blue sky and sun-splashed stone.


Afterwards we grabbed some drinks and watched the sunset (also unspeakably beautiful) before sitting down to a HEAVENLY dinner, enjoying some great conversation, and heading back to the hotel. Since I was running on two hours of sleep and Justine was getting sick we decided to call it an early night, but not before some last minute chatting and brief watching of a "Stars of Italian Rock" TV program that made me seriously question the legitimacy of Italian non-classical music.

(HEAVEN. Seriously. My stomach felt like it was going to explode by the end of the night but I would have gladly eaten twice as much of this if they'd been willing to supply it to me.)

(Seriously gorgeous full moon over the Arno)

The next morning dawned cool and quickly turned to cold and rainy, but the magic from the day before was hard to shake. We wandered through some beautiful gardens and climbed the 414-step campanile before grabbing one more gelato and sending Maddy off to the train station. Justine and I took a nap (soo amazing) and then wandered the city a bit more, seeing Santa Croce and a few other sites, before enjoying some early cocktails and probably the earliest dinner ever served on Italian soil (6:30 pm - gasp!!). Once again I had pasta that was indescribably awesome and gave my taste buds a much-needed jolt after so many weeks of chips and carrots. I had to get up at 4:30 the next day and Justine was, if possible, even sicker than the day before, so we decided to be old ladies again and call it early. In what felt like the blink of an eye, my trip to Florence was over. But man, what a good one it had been!

(Maddy and Justine)

(Smoky morning)

The whole experience, while utterly exhausting, seriously whet my appetite for more travel. Unfortunately, the amount of work I was faced with when I came back reminded me of how difficult that is in my program. I knew coming into Oxford that it would not be the ideal situation for weekly jaunts to different corners of Europe, and I'm at peace with that (I've been seriously lucky to see Europe a few times before now, after all, and the opportunities I'm getting at Oxford are pretty unique), but weekend like this reignited my wanderlust in a way that's pretty hard to ignore. Hopefully I can do a nice day trip this weekend, even if another international sortie is probably out of the question.

(Gin fizzes and bellinis - a great way to finish off a great weekend!)


  1. The fact that you read Horse and Hound just makes me think of Notting Hill (a classic for sure). SO jealous that you were in Florence, I love it there.

  2. Ahhhh that is my city! That is where I studied abroad during my junior year in 2008, and went for my wedding in 2010. My school was so close to Il Duomo that I could throw a softball from my desk and hit it, and my apartment was six blocks down from Santa Croce. I miss it so much, and I'm so glad you enjoyed it! If you get to go back again, let me know, and I'll tell you some of the hidden gems of Florence.

  3. Oh! Here you are!!!! I asked you yesterday if you have ever been in Italy...and I immediately find the answer!
    Of course...Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy! I read with pleasure that you also loved italian food!
    I hope you'll come back soon!