Under the Tuscan Sun
Study abroad changes you in ways you can never begin to imagine. This is something that my sorority sister Kimberly instilled in me before I left for Italy. Kim had the life altering experience of doing a summer study abroad program in London. At first I wasn’t really sure if Kim’s hypothesis would prove to be correct. However, I must say after three months abroad I truly feel like a new person. One way I have changed is my adventurous spirit. I have always been independent, the truth being that in originating from New York City, it is pretty much a character trait instilled at birth. I needed to be independent in order to get around my humble home. However, I learned quickly while abroad what a difference there was between being independent and truly having an adventurous spirit. Sometimes I tend to doubt myself, my capabilities, and abilities to succeed in difficult obstacles. Time and time again I have wanted to reach for the phone to call my parents and have them fix the obstacles in my path, but time and time again I have amazed myself with my resourceful attitude in order to fix any problem that comes my way. I don’t think I realized how many problems I would need to fix abroad, things that I had never had experience with in the United States. Plus I have the added challenge of a language barrier making it even more difficult to get things fixed.
As you see from my blogs, I have certainly been traveling the world. This past weekend (despite being opening weekend of the expo in Milan) I decided to explore once again. Unfortunately for me, my friends abroad did not have the same desire as I had to visit Florence. I felt, how could I come to Italy and not see Florence? So despite a lack of travel companions, I decided I would venture to Florence regardless. Many people take solo trips abroad, however I was not sure I could succeed in this daunting task. I delayed every step of the planning process. I enjoy doing abroad research, so I was happy to find hostels, food, transportation, and activities. But when it came time to book these things, I did not find motivation to do so. I think I just kept waiting for someone to change their mind and want to come with me. Finally right before my Ireland trip, I figured I want to book my hostel. I needed something to be set in stone before I leave for Ireland. So of course, since the trip was in one week, most of the marvelous hostels I found (one including a pool & sauna) were booked. I had no choice but to settle. I did go off to Ireland though with the satisfaction that I had managed to book something.
When I returned from Ireland I booked a day trip to the Chianti region, and a day trip to Pisa. I felt I had to go to Pisa while in Florence, because they are so close. How could I visit Italy, without seeing the Leaning Tower? But I still hadn’t booked transportation. I figured a train would have better availability by going to the station itself. So the day before my trip I went to Central station in Milan to find a ticket. Sure enough to my disappointment the only remaining tickets for Thursday were 116 euro one way. There was NO way I wanted to pay this. So after hesitation I dove into the world of bla bla car. Two girls from my program had used it to get to Florence. It is so cheap that I wanted to use it to go to Florence as well. But once I discovered I was going alone to Florence, I wasn’t quite as comfortable with the idea. Until of course that is, it seemed my only option. I had to arrive Thursday, since I had a hostel reservation that night, as well as a trip to Chianti the next day. So after lots of nerves I was able to find both a bla bla car to take me there, and another to take me back.
My next obstacle was waking up the day of my trip, to receive an email that not enough people signed up for Chianti, so they were canceling the trip. Luckily, I decided to wake up early that morning, so I had time to deal with this situation. I was given a refund for the trip & was able to sign up for a different trip with a different company. Phew dodged a bullet there!
I was off to Florence without a hitch. My trip was truly incredible. There was something something so illuminating about traveling on my own, but more importantly accomplishing so much in a foreign place alone. I was able to go where I wanted to go, eat what I wanted to eat, see what I wanted to see, sleep when I wanted to sleep, etc. Every morning I found myself waking up early and by choice as opposed to feeling forced. I wanted to get up and explore. I never created strict itineraries, more like possible ideas of places I wanted to go each day. It was such a fantastic voyage.
Friday I awoke and headed straight to the Boboli Gardens. I took a bus although I certainly could have walked. I walked ALL OVER Florence that weekend. It is small, and yet every turn there is something new to see. The view at Boboli was impeccable. I’m so glad it was recommended to me by friend Sarah, studying abroad in Florence. After Boboli I headed off to All’antico Vinaio for a quick lunch. Florence had a ton of amazing looking sandwich shops, but I must say I was glad this was recommended to me by both Sarah & my Unicatt friend Kim. The line is a little crazy, but it really is worth it. I had no idea what to order, I just kept looking at what others had. I do wish in retrospect I asked the men working behind the counter what they would recommend, so I could have gotten the best of the best. However, I was quite satisfied with my sandwich. Yum, Yum! After the sandwich, I was off to Chianti. Chianti was so beautiful & green. I went with Caf tours, and I would certainly recommend that. I booked Caf tours for Pisa as well.
The next morning I was off to San Lorenzo for a leather shopping spree. My oh my did I drop some euros on leather! I bought two purses & a wallet. I tried on a jacket and liked it but anytime I feel rushed I don’t like to shop. So I didn’t buy the jacket then & there. I figured if I really wanted it I would go back. I then headed to Pizzeria O’Vesuvio for a ricotta stuffed pie. This was another place Sarah recommended, but it is also where the cast of the Jersey Shore once worked as well! The pizza was delicious. So it was pizza before Pisa. I am very glad I got to Pisa but to be honest, if I could do it again I would go independently without a trip organizer. I feel like I could have saved money & stayed longer. But hey you live and you learn. I am glad I got my picture with the Leaning Tower, because after all isn’t that the main reason to go to Pisa? I did make sure to get some gelato in Pisa because I had some free time and that’s the perfect way to pass time.
That evening upon my return to Florence I ate dinner at Gusta Pizza, a place both my roommate and Kim had told me about. I ordered the Gusta Pizza and it certainly was one of the greatest pizzas of my life! Both of the pizzas I had in Florence were Napoli style, so I must fit Naples into my future travel plans for sure! Gusta Pizza did have a line but it was so worth it to wait! All good things are worth waiting for.
After eating my meal I hiked up Piazzale Michelangelo. I do mean hiked! That is quite the hill. But upon arriving at the top you can find one of the most magnificent views overlooking Florence. But of course my reasoning for the trek was for the 2015 Gelato Festival. It was so cheap and I ate a ton of gelato. Every flavor was something I had never tried before. To be honest, after the hike & pizza I was unable to complete all of my gelato, but don’t fret I certainly made a dent.
Sunday morning I woke up earlier then ever in order to check out of my hostel and wait on line for the Academia. I am really not a big museum fan, and despite being a New Paltz Hawk, I am not super into art. But my father recommended seeing the David, so I figured why not? I waited on line for only thirty minutes! Then even better was getting into the museum for free! Since it was the first Sunday of the month. So this made the visit even more worth it. The David really is pretty magnificent!
After seeing the David I grabbed a Subway sandwich and headed to San Lorenzo to buy a leather jacket! Then I was between a free walking tour & the Galileo museum (another place Sarah recommended). Unfortunately for me I decided upon the museum despite breaking one of my cardinal rules. I neglected to look up the museum beforehand, so I got there and it was closed. Bummer! I should have picked the walking tour! I started walking to the tour, even though I was late. But all of a sudden I heard “T-Litt, Tamara?” It was my ex co counselor from camp, Sandra. Perfect timing! I didn’t even realize she was abroad in Florence, because so many camp friends are abroad there. I knew she was abroad but didn’t know it was in Florence. It was perfectly timed for me! I spent the next two hours with her before heading home to Milan. Safe to say this was another successful trip!
Till next time readers!