I fell in love with a city I had just met. We arrived in Florence around lunch time, and we were given a guided tour of the city. The tour guide reminded me of the party planner from Father of the Bride and my flamboyant English teacher from high school. The best welcome to any city is a guided tour, so on free days, it feels like I know where I am going, even if I do not.
Street performers can easily be found at any corner in Europe. I will always stop to listen and throw a Euro or two in their case. Coming back from the group dinner, we saw a man playing Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence outside the baptistry in the city center. I get lost in the musical moments anytime I hear the magical chords being played. Music is the one thing that can be enjoyed without needing to know the language and goes without needing interpretation. Every street performer has a story, but only through listening to their music will it be told.
Our second day in Florence broke with sad news coming from Manchester. When I came down to breakfast, CNN heralded the news of the attack, and my heart sank. I knew this could have happened anywhere in the world and at any time, but it put into perspective how quickly something can happen to anyone, anywhere.
My free day began after breakfast. Not having a schedule was a nice change of pace. The game plan for me and my little group was to get as far as we could before it got hot and then work our way back to the hotel for some quiet time in the afternoon. I loved the feeling of being lost in a city and wandering the streets away from the city center hub-bub. Being away from the tourist traps and main attractions made finding myself and the hidden gems of Florence even sweeter.
We had a map of the city, but it was determined it would only be for emergencies’ use. As we wandered throughout the streets with no destination in mind, we stumbled on a location that overlooked the city. The tiered lookout points gave panoramic views, and I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming. While I had the option to go all the way to the top, I chose to stop at the middle tier. I was perfectly content sitting on a bench under a shade tree and taking it all in. It felt as though I belonged there all along, and I was spending a morning enjoying a city I loved.
As we made our way back to the hotel, we stopped at a nice restaurant. It was in a square, and I could not help but notice an increased presence of law enforcement and military personnel. A replica of the Statue of David that stood in the square looked different from the day before. On this day, he had a Union Jack flag grasped in his hand and a black band for mourning on his upper arm. As sad as it was, I was encouraged to see a neighboring country show support and solidarity in a time of crisis.
The afternoon was quiet back at the hotel. It gave me some time to journal and reflect on the trip so far. I even squeezed in a quick nap before the second part of the day took us to Pisa after dinner. This was an added quick trip that was planned last minute by our awesome tour directors. They went above and beyond our expectations to make sure we got the complete experience.
A bus ride to Pisa gave me even more time to think and reflect. The day spent getting to know Florence was a day I spent finding another piece of myself. I knew going into another study abroad trip, I would learn new things, but I did not know I would learn this much about who I was becoming. As the bus was nearing Pisa, I concluded that I was undoubtedly going to return home having grown as a person.
The sun was setting over Pisa. The scenic backdrop could not have been better for taking pictures. The goal of this trip was to not stick out like a tourist, but that is nearly impossible when we were all lined up taking photos trying to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I mean, I could not help myself. I also took this opportunity to snap some pictures of the church, baptistry, and tower. One of my favorites is of a rosy pink bonnet perfectly perched on a post in front of the tower. As I was gazing at the Leaning Tower, my hand brushed up against the hat’s fabric; I was startled at first, but I soon saw a photo opportunity when I saw that perspective.
Dusk fell upon us, marking a close to our visit to Pisa. The pleasant surprise of an added stop made it feel like I had lived two days in one. Both cities made me never want to leave. Florence stole my heart, and I will forever hope to return to the city where I began discovering the identity I never had.
©Inquisitive Perspectives 2017