A few weekends back I embarked on my first solo Italian adventure. I had been at Spannocchia for a few weeks and decided it was about time that I got out and saw the sights. The idea of travelling in Italy by myself was making me a little anxious, so I dropped some subtle, open-invitations to the other interns. I was okay going alone, but if somebody else was stoked for a weekend in Florence, I was happy to take the easy way out.
Nobody over enthusiastic. Vato solo. I go alone. I caught a ride to the ‘burbs of Florence with the intern coordinator from Spannocchia, and then hopped on a train to the city center. Florence is conviently a little over an hour away. Of course, when I get off the train at the main station it is pouring down rain. I suited up with rain jacket and daypack rain cover and walked into the unknown, hopping to find my AirBNB before I missed the check-in time or my pants soaked through.
Mission accomplished. I crossed at the bridge adjacent to Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) and made it just in time.
Earlier that week, I booked a shared room after having no luck finding a couch surfing host. I was hoping to find a friend by default to spend some time with. Well, when I checked in, my host said with an unreadable smile, that my roommated was out “dancing the tango.” So I went out for dinner alone. It was kind of a sad affair. I felt inept negotiating the restaurant process. I knew enough Italian to feel I should be able to do better, but still struggled to communicate, in English or Italian. The other less than thrilling part was the tripe. I had an open-mind, in fact, was excited to try a new, weird food which I understood to be a Florentine specialtiy. It was okay, but it tasted reminiscent of the fresh casings we bring back from the slaughterhouse to clean and then fill with Buristo (blood sausage). So, meh. Mediocre dinner experience.
Get back to the room: still no roomie. I made some plans for the rest of the weekend and crash, hoping that mystery roomie isn’t too disruptive when he returns… at FIVE in the morning. Very impressive. I figure he must be a pretty hip guy to be out dancing all night. I try to-not-so-creepily sneak-a-peak while he is asleep, and it looks like he has a gray hair cap on. He must also be super fly if he is that careful with his hair. I reckon he isn’t going to be up for a while, so I don’t wait around. Made some espresso and embarked out into the city. No real rain that morning.
My plan was to head to the Galleria degli Uffizi (literally, the Gallery of the Offices.) The museum is housed in a gorgeous old government office building, with the gallery rooms being situated on the outside of a grand U-shaped hallway on the third floor.
There was a lot of Jesus and Virgin Mary. Some of it was interesting, especiall with the added context provided by the Blue Guide (thanks Tara and Kevin), but it got a little repetitive. A lot of the masterpieces were stationed in an impressive octagonal room that was topped with an impressive, highly ornate dome. Only bummer, you can’t actually go into the room.
I got to see work by all the Ninja Turtles, which I guess is what one is expected to do in Florence. My favorite parts would have to be the grand hallway. It seemed like such an appropriate venue for all of the art. Also since the art was almost exclusively from one region and time period, it was arranged chronologically by room in a very cool way. You could see how the style changed over very small amounts of time.
After the museo, I stood in a very Italian “line” for a panino. The little lunch place was packed wall-to-wall with people slowly moving in the direction of the counter in the back. I scarfed down some porchetta, and headed back to my room to rest a bit.
I got back to my AirBnB and the party animal himself was up and ambulatory. And he was old! The gray cap was actually his gray hair. He kind of looked like a skinny Albert Einstien. AND, he was hanging out with a very young women, probably around twenty-one. I don’t know what their relationship was, but it didn’t come off as obviously familial. The young women spoke to me for a second, (I don’t think he spoke much English), and then they left.
At this point I was feeling a little down. The Uffizi was great but I had spent the last twenty-four hours by myself, only muttering the bare minimum required to make vital transactions. I had very little human interaction. So, in something of a last-ditch effort, I logged into my CouchSurfing account to see if anybody had replied to my requests. Better late than never, I thought. Maybe we could just hang out and get a drink or something.
No replies. But, a “Tuscany Wine Tasting Tour” was listed under the events for that night. I was a little nervous about going to meet a group of strangers. Merely speaking out loud seemed intimidating when you have barely talked all day. But I did go, and it was wonderful. I met people from all over the world (India, Italy, Argentina, United States, Portugal) and we drank wine and talked about life in different places and travelling, until around midnight.
The next day, I went to the Galieo Museum. It was super cool. They had about 400 years of scientific intstruments, mostly from Florence and Tuscany. They even had some of Galileo’s fingers preserved in a jar. Weird. It was a pretty small museum, but I spent hours there.
The rest of the afternon I spent wandering around the city. I stopped in an ethnic grocery store and got some Thai and Mexican ingredients, which are really hard to find in Italy. Italians really like to eat mostly Italian food. And just food specific to their particular region. I had an arduous search for a good piece of pizza by the slice, which ended in hunger winning and me spending way too much money on crappy pizza. The cherry-on-top, though, was painting the Duomo, the main church in the town, on a postcard. An Italian man came by and watched me paint for a few minutes, and then complimented my work. It was pretty cool. Somebody out there should be recieving the postcard in 3-5 weeks because the mail leaving Italy is painfully slow.
Sorry if this post was a little verbose. I need to practice a bit and hone my blogging skills.
Bonus Picture of Alec from my time spent writing this post: