Wednesday, March 07, 2012

"F" Is For "Falling In Love"

"F" is also for "Florence", which I did end up falling in love with. It was pretty irresponsible of me, really. The city was a lot smaller than I expected it to be, which made navigating a simple task. When my parents and I arrived at the train station, it only took us 15 minutes to walk to our apartment that we'd rented for three days. Three wonderful, perfect days that I never wanted to end. Our apartment was on the third floor and situated next to a curious old Italian couple who we chatted with every time we waited for the elevator, and we could only communicate with the small amount of English they knew combined with my Italian vocabulary. They invited us into their apartment for more small talk while I wandered about and appreciated the floor length mirrors and beautiful fresco's. Later on the same day, my mom and I picked out a big bag of homemade biscotti and a pouch with lavender to put in a drawer from the markets as a thank you.
Now. The marks in Florence. I could spend an eternity there, wandering around while admiring the tourists and locals as they pick out their fresh finds. In fact, there wasn't a single day where we didn't spend a good chunk of time hanging out there. I got to try honey biscotti,
Perfection at its finest.
red white, olive oil with fresh bread (dear God, the olive oil...) and cheese. For free. I must have done something good in a past life to have deserved this experience. Everything was homemade and grown in Tuscany. I have to admit that I had over my fair share of cheese and olive oil, but no one seemed to mind. The Italians were more than happy to shove their beautifuly crafted food in my mouth.
Then there are also the shopping markets where you can buy clothes, souvenirs, and accessories. Here you can bargain with the shop owners about how much you want to spend. I got a cool ring for both myself and my sister as well as a fantastic purse that I swear I've seen before in a dream. Its a large bag with a long strap and is decorated like a patchwork quilt. The best part about it was that while it was originally priced for 25 Euros, I got it knocked down to just 12.The markets stretch down several streets and all you can smell is fine Italian leather while walking about.
After spending time in Florence, I learned that there is no greater feeling in life than walking through an Italian city with good company while eating free food and getting tipsy off of Tuscan wine. Every day the sun was shining and somehow, I felt like I was home. Not that Florence was anything at all like Port Colborne. What I mean is that I feel as though 
I could actually live in Florence. Forever.  I was comfortable and at ease there, and I think that if I were to ever settle down in Italy, it would be in Florence. Yes, the economy is 
eternally unstable. Yes, the government is completely corrupt and, yes, there is a train, bus or postal strike almost every week, but I do love Italy. Whether or not I would actually want to be this far from my family and deprive my future children of a Canadian education, I don't know. But if I do, I will be in Florence living happily ever after.
Il Porcellino (Italian for the piglet) is in the neighbourhood just behind the markets where a famous statue of a boar is. It was completed in 1612 and tourists from all over the world flock to this little piggy to rub its nose for good luck. It also promises a return back to Florence one day, and just to make sure this does happen, I rubbed the nose twice. The nose has been touched so many times, in fact, that the grey colouring has rubbed off, revealing the gold underneath.
The Duomo is the very famous and very beautiful Catholic basilica located in the centre of the city. It was nearly impossible for me to get a picture of the entire thing because it really is that big. Not only that, but the many buildings surrounding it make it difficult to get a clear shot of it. For a steep price, you can climb to the top of the dome that offers a spectacular 
Mom and I on the Ponte Vecchio bridge.
view of the entire city. However, thanks to the knowledge of a friend who previously visited, I learned that you can get the same view from the Bell Tower which is right beside the Duomo for less than half the price. Just something to think about if you ever decide to visit yourself. 
Ponte Vecchio is the famous bridge that stretches across the river separating the south from the north. It was filled with shops selling gold, silver and diamonds and was a bit of a nightmare. Not because of the high prices of jewelry that I couldn't afford, but because of all the tourists pushing and shoving to shuffle from one side to the other. Even though I technically was one myself, I hate tourists.
On our last night in the city, my parents and I ventured back into the empty markets and rode the carousel that runs 24/7. We behaved like children and found a large bookstore not too far
away which I was very excited about. The shop was three stories high and offered a "pasta bar" on the first level. My parents kept themselves occupied with that while I wandered about, picking up Italian novels and running my fingers along their spines, wishing that when I opened the books they would magically make sense to me, as if I spoke fluent Italian all along. Of course this didn't happen, but there was an English section that I got lost in. I ended up buying a book called Between Shades Of Gray, and spent the rest of the night reading it while drinking a hot chocolate.
On the train back to Rome, my dad was seated in a different cart than my mom and I. Our company was a tiny, wrinkled old Italian woman who talked non stop and was oblivious to the
Enjoying lunch with my parents in front of the museum
where the statue of David resides.
fact that neither of us were fluent in her beautiful language. I was able to pick up some of what she said, but this woman talked so fast that her words were speeding by faster than the train itself. My mom asked her if she spoke English, and when she kept babbling on in Italian, she said aloud, "Honey... I think this woman is nuts." This woman told us that she was taking the train all the way to Napoli, and that she couldn't wait to get back to her casa. That explained so much. I told my mom that this woman wasn't crazy, but rather that she was from Naples. Everyone knows that people from Naples are loud and ballsy and don't have any fears whatsoever. As I listened to her rant about cheese (I heard the word formaggio in there somewhere), I drifted off while the olive tree fields and rustic houses blurred by.

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