Tuesday, November 12, 2013

European Adventure, Part 2: Florence!

There are very few places in the world where I instantly feel at home.  Now I have the great pleasure of knowing that Florence happens to be one of those cities.  Never before have I been so immediately taken with a place.  I fell in love the moment I set foot on those aged cobblestone streets, and once I met some of the lovely locals and ate their pizza and drank their wine and espresso...it was all over.  I was a goner.

Now I don't have to wonder why Italians are so full of passion.  Look at where they come from!:
Having arrived at the train station only an hour before, I had no idea that this beautiful iconic sight would greet me as a rounded what seemed to be a normal street corner. Il Duomo.

If you can ignore my GIANT FINGERTIP, then you can gaze upon the stunning sight of Florence in the golden sunlight.
 This was the city where my senses came alive.  I felt so connected to everything and everyone here, and I think it has a lot to do with those terracotta rooftops and the light setting everything aglow.  Florence is a busy tourist destination, and although I certainly was very aware of that fact while I was visiting, I also think the Florentines genuinely enjoy newcomers to the city.  I never felt like an annoyance or like I was unwelcome, but of course, I was on a perpetual food and coffee high the entire time.

One of my first actions: to obtain some gelato right away.  I had it every day I was there.  It lives up to the hype.

First night in Florence: a (FREE!) movie festival...

...in a building built in 1462.  FO' REAL.

My first Italian pizza.  I've daydreamed about this ever since.  We just don't do food right here in the States.

Davide, my host in Florence, and I at the movies.  :)  This guy is awesome, y'all!

Post-movie walk around.  This is Ponte Vecchio at night. 
Florence was also the first place I ever Couchsurfed, and it was an awesome experience!  My host, Davide, was an exemplary host.  I felt at home right away, and we shared lots of good talks and meals.  I learned a lot from him in the few short days I had in the city (including how to say the word "eyeglasses" in Italian -- ochiali), and I really hope we get to see one another again someday!  Come to Annapolis, Davide!  I'll take you for good coffee and then out for some crabs.

The street where Davide's house resides, just half a block from Piazza de Santo Spirito.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention all of the glorious art to be seen in Florence.  This is the home of the Renaissance; the home of Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, da Vinci.  That heritage was oozing out of every nook and cranny here, and I ate up every bit of it.  I visited the Accademia (where Michelangelo's David resides), the Uffizi Gallery (which houses some of the most famous works by the likes of Botticelli, for one), and the Bargello (which is underrated and houses wonderful collections of paintings, sculptures, and textiles from the Renaissance era).  I walked down every little street in the city center.  I got yelled at by a museum attendant for sitting on the steps of the Uffizi.  I drank so much espresso that I was jittery in the happiest way possible.  I had to buy insoles for my shoes.  Life in Florence was beautiful.

Locals claim that Michelangelo carved this portrait into the stone with his back turned...

The view of Ponte Vecchio from the Uffizi Gallery.  It rained a lot before I arrived, so the Arno River was a bit muddy.

A shot of the David that I snuck.  Of course, I caught his good side... ;)

In the courtyard of the Bargello Museum, which was apparently used as a prison for a period of time.  I love that it now houses fine works of art. 

Inside Il Duomo.  Scenes from Dante's Divine Comedy.  

 I have kind of a funny story about climbing to the top of the Duomo.  It was my last full day in the city, so I knew that pizza would be on the menu for lunch (duh).  After I ate my weight in the stuff, I decided that it was finally time to go visit the Duomo and go inside.  After quietly walking around the interior and snapping the shot just above, I wanted to go up into the dome!  I paid my ticket and was directed to a narrow door where stairs greeted me.  462 steps total.  On a belly full of pizza.  Do you see where this is going?  Luckily, I made it to the top without incident.  I'm just going to go ahead and thank CrossFit for that one.

I felt so good breathing in that warm Florentine air at the top of the dome while looking down on the city and surrounding areas.  Here I was in Florence, on my own halfway across the world from my friends and family.  And I felt whole.  From below, the dome looks like a beacon rising out of the ground; it calls out to you to get nearer to it, to examine it and feel the imposing nature of it.  At the top of that dome, I felt like the rest of the world was rising up to greet me, like I had overcome something (more than my stomach), like I could see things from an uncommon view.  Surely this is what Brunelleschi wanted?  That dichotomy between feeling small and infinitesimal and large and infinite.  Both things incite wonder and curiosity, and both things cause you to go outside of yourself.  I did plenty of that on this trip...Florence was just the first place that I was so vividly aware of it.

I can't wait to go back.

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