Originally written September 28, 2016

Florence is a magical city.

As soon as we stepped off our train, I knew Florence was going to make for one fun weekend. My cough was getting worse and worse though, so after we dragged our bags to the Hotel California in the sweltering heat, I took the maximum dose of cough syrup. I quickly figured out that that was the worst idea (and maybe the best idea) I had had since landing in Italia. I tried to take a quick power nap in our un-airconditioned hotel room, but I was woken up pretty quickly by my eager and hungry friends. As soon as we turned out of our hotel, we came upon something so revolutionary, so American, so exciting…we found pepperoni pizza. I know you’re thinking “well duh you found pepperoni pizza, you’re in Italy.” But no. You cannot find pepperoni pizza anywhere in Italy…that is a completely Americanized thing. Pepperoni is not Italian and neither is regular, greasy pizza.

After enjoying a greasy piece of “pizza”, we started our adventure around Firenze. We took a tour of the famous Duomo and I can honestly say I’ve never been so awestruck by a church. Every little thing about the Duomo was beautifully made and the size of the Duomo can’t be understood from a picture. The Duomo was so big that we used it as a central landmark in the city in order to figure out where we were at all times because you could literally see it from everywhere. We also got to see the breathtaking David by Michelangelo. Florence is a lot different than the big city of Rome that we’d been. There aren’t many cars in Florence so there aren’t taxis readily available but its cool because you can pretty much walk anywhere since Florence isn’t near as big as Rome. One thing that will always be within ten feet of you in Florence is a freaking leather shop/market/or someone attempting to sell you leather goods. By the time we had been walking around for half an hour, the large dose of Italian cough syrup I had taken earlier started making me a little loopy and everything became quite funny to me. I don’t know what exactly is in their over the counter cough syrup that is different than ours, but it was a lot stronger than I had bargained for. My friends took me back to the hotel to take a nap so that the cough syrup would wear off, which was just what I needed.

Once I was feeling a little less humorous and loopy, we went back out to explore Florence. Let me tell you about the leather markets. You have to be careful who you choose to buy from because half of the leather is completely fake. The truth is, you may never know when you’re buying it if it is real or not. But hey, you got leather from Florence, Italy, and that’s pretty cool so who cares. One way our program directors told us we could tell is that when you bargain for the leather, if they accept or quickly jump to a super low price, its probably not real and they are just trying to make some money off of whatever it actually is. You can also sniff the leather to try to determine if it is real…but some sellers will spray the leather with a leather scent spray.

After walking around for a bit, we came upon one of my favorite gelato places in Italy called Venchi. This place is quite literally heaven and the line was out the door and down the street. So so good. After exploring the city a little, we went to dinner at a restaurant called “Yellow Bar” that was recommended by a local. This was the first place I tried Chianti and boy was it amazing. If you visit Florence, Tuscany, the Chianti region, all you’ll want to drink is Chianti I swear.

The next day basically solidified my love for the Tuscany region and for Chianti yet again. We loaded up a charter bus in our finest attire to take on a day at the most beautiful winery in the whole world. The vineyards are called Castello Di Verrazzano. This place was quite literally a taste of heaven. The owner, Gino, was the cutest and funniest little Italian man, the pasta, cheese, and meats didn’t even seem real they were so delicious, and the wine…oh the wine. Gino told us that the wine was like true love– the older it gets, the more perfect it becomes. He taught us that wine is meant to be enjoyed, not abused, and that it is a delicacy that many people (Americans specifically) take for granted. We got to see all of the wine barrels where each one was made and try the heavenliest balsamic vinegar on earth. I have never tasted something so rich and perfect as this balsamic. Too bad it was a heaping 50 euro for a small bottle. I did, however, buy one of each of the bottles of wine for me, my mom, and my dad. After learning how to properly taste a wine and becoming a true ‘connoisseur’, we even tried cow tongue…yes cow tongue. I honestly had no clue what it was until I was done eating it but it was definitely worth trying. Verrazzano was one of my favorite days on the whole trip and I hope that one day I can go back, but for now I’ll enjoy looking forward to drinking my bottle of Chianti Reserva on a special occasion.

When we got back to our hotel in Florence that afternoon, we were all so tired from the wine and food but we decided we would check out Florence’s nightlife that night. We had heard from so many people that Florence had awesome clubs. So we threw on something and headed to the bars to get drinks before the clubs. We found an awesome Irish pub called The Lion’s Fountain that had USA school jerseys and signs all over the bar from all of the students that studied abroad in Florence. We also found this weird hippie-looking bar right around the corner that seemed cool but ended up having the absolute strangest drinks/shots I’d ever laid eyes on. So then we took of to one of the clubs, called Space. Y’all, this place was a little sketchy and maybe a tad bit trashy, but definitely a ton of fun. We stayed at Space pretty much all night until it got too weird and headed back home. On the way back to the hotel, we skipped along the streets of Firenze singing our theme song “The Middle” by DJ Snake and got yelled at by Italians hanging out of their windows. The night left us wishing we had more time in this magical city.

Needless to say, the next day I didn’t feel too hot. Yet, we had an entire tour of the Uffizi museum ahead of us. Normally I would enjoy that, but I ended up falling asleep standing up in the museum, sitting down in the museum, leaning against the wall in the museum, pretty much everywhere I was I was falling asleep. We each got our own heart-shaped pizza from a delicious little place called Gusta Pizza and sat on the streets to eat it. People thought we were homeless and we were attacked by a few pigeons but it was an experience. Then we trudged back to the train station in the heat and said goodbye to our first weekend in Italia and the beautiful city of Firenze.

The world is so beautifully made. You can check out some of my photos from Florence below, enjoy!

Ciao for now