This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Firenze with Duquesne on our first excursion! While Duquesne planned our activities for Saturday and Sunday, we were on our own to book transportation and a place to stay. This was a daunting task because it was my first time booking any sort of travel accommodations without my family. After a small issue I was having with an online ticket ordering system was resolved, I was ready to go! After the experience of booking a train and a flat for the weekend, I felt like all of Europe opened up to me for various adventured throughout the rest of the semester.
Three of my friends and I decided to travel to Firenze a day early and explore a bit on our own, so we hopped on the bullet train Friday afternoon and were in Florence in less than an hour and a half! When we arrived, we checked into the flat we were staying in for the weekend. It was a beautiful, old, little place that had a ton of character, comfy pillows, and a welcome bottle of wine! After settling in, we went to the central market for a lunch of delicious panini. Then, we wandered around the city only occasionally glancing at our map. I loved this way of exploring! Everything was a surprise – we would turn a corner and happen upon a stunning piazza or building. Along the way, we shopped a bit and I bought a new pair of Italian leather boots! For dinner that night we chose a hole-in-the-wall trattoria that had a wonderful, warm atmosphere and even more wonderful spaghetti carbonara! By the end of the night, we had walked about eleven miles and were ready for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning before our official Duquesne tour of Firenze began, I had the very special opportunity to meet up with one of my childhood friends, Emily, for breakfast because Emily is also studying abroad this semester in Firenze. It was so great to catch up and to be with someone from home even when we are on a different continent!
After breakfast, we visited the Academia Gallery to view Michelangelo’s David statue which was amazing. Then, we went to see the Duomo in the daytime and actually attended a Mass in English while we were there! Later in the evening, we went to Da Mimmo restaurant for a delicious, multi-course dinner, and then returned to our flat after another great day!
On Sunday, we went on an extensive walking tour of Firenze and saw sights such as the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the Lucky Bronze Boar sculpture, and the Ponte Vecchio. It was a wonderful way to see most of Firenze within a limited time frame.
For me, the highlight of my first excursion (and the week!) was the free exploring of the city that my friends and I did on Friday night. It felt very adventurous to roam with no specific plan other than to discover the city. While the structured tour that we took later on in the weekend was also enjoyable, touring on our own was something special. We learned to trust our instincts and sense of direction. We stumbled upon small backroads that we did not get to see on the structured tour. We were out of our comfort zones in a way that was exhilarating, kept us on our toes, and forced us to notice small details about the city that we otherwise would have overlooked. One of my favorite moments was when we realized that we were nearing the river because it had become more windy and cold, and not even ten steps later we were at the Ponte Vecchio!
On the other hand, the low point of my week was when we unable to climb the dome of the Duomo. My friends and I had planned to climb the dome during some designated free time in our Duquesne touring schedule. I had heard that after climbing hundreds of steps to the top you would be rewarded with a magnificent view of all of Firenze. Our tour guide had given us a ticket that was supposed to grant us access to all of the main attractions of the city, including the dome of the Duomo, but when we got to the front of the line, our tickets were reading as invalid. So, unfortunately, we were not able to climb the Duomo. I was disappointed because it was one of the major things I had wanted to do in Firenze. However, we filled the time that we would have spent climbing with some more exciting exploring and still had a fabulous time!
In all, I had an amazing weekend in Firenze and am so excited for more adventures to come!