It is hard to put into words just what Florence has meant to me. I’ve only been here five short days, but in them has been so much life. The joy and trepidation of traveling alone, for starters. Women in Italy don’t often travel alone, it seems. When people find out I’m on my own, they seem to think I’m either brave or sad. Admittedly, it would be wonderful to share this with a friend or significant other, but there is an adventure and self-affirming nature to solo travel. And sometimes, it is for the best.
On my last day, I soaked up every inch of Florence. I started with the Pitti Palace, the residence of the illustrious Medicis, and the stunning Boboli gardens. I can tell you now, the Medicis lacked neither money nor ego.
Every room in their apartments was dedicated to a different Greek god, and the frescoes often featured a member of the family as a god or hero. Subtle.
This was my favorite work in their collection. A boy apprentice. His look of concentration is so childlike and endearing.
Isn’t this a place Mr. Darcy would own?
The grounds were magnificent, and I took long minutes to sprawl under a tree and watch the ducks in the pond.
Soon enough it was time to move on to the Uffizzi Gallery, the finest collection of Italian paintings in the world. Yet for all that, it was my least favorite museum. Sure there were recognizable masterpieces.
But the museum is poorly organized to cope with the traffic flow, and many rooms are roped off, making works inaccesible. Maybe paintings aren’t my thing or maybe I was bordering on museum overload, but I started taking pictures of everything that seemed to warrant a funny caption. Here are some favorites:
How I feel when people tell me I handle stressful situations well.
The look my students give me when I nerd out about history.
My struggle in Costco or Home Depot. Every time. “Yes, I’d like that one.”
How I feel when I get home from the theatre and slip into my jammies.
“Stop eyeballing my apple, dude. Get your own. ”
Somehow the thought of John the Baptist whispering “This is really gonna hurt, bro” in the baby Jesus’ ear right before giving him a purple nurple makes them feel more relatable. Why did the artist choose this pose of all possible poses?
“OMG, dude. Check it.”
“I know. Those scrunchies are hella unflattering”
Clearly, I was distracted. But that’s ok, because the news when I got back to the apartment was far too serious. That’s when I found out about the Orlando shooting at the Pulse club. I was planning to go to Santa Croce for mass, but I couldn’t do it. I wanted to be alone with my grief. To experience a national tragedy while abroad feels so helpless. It would feel distant were it not for my ability to see the distraught and hurt social media posts of my family and friends. The people I love are hurting and I’m not able to be there with them. I thought about canceling my dinner reservations, but in the end, decided to go.
I had plenty of anxiousness about eating alone, especially when I didn’t feel like celebrating at all, but I crossed the Arno to the Osteria Del Cinghiale Bianco (Osteria of the White Boar). The beauty of the river itself lifted my spirits.
And then I sat down to a wonderful meal on a rainy night in Florence.
About halfway through, a lovely couple from London, Navka and Kaushil, were seated next to me. We got to chatting and I soon escaped my sadness as they told me how Kaushil had whisked Navka away for the weekend so he could propose to her.
We closed the place down. It was a perfect reminder that whenever I feel anxious or sad, there are lovely people to meet and great times to be had. It is important to go out and reconnect with the world, because there is great joy in doing so.
For these reasons it would be hard to put into words what Florence has meant to me. Even a short time can leave a deep mark. From the depths of my heart, Grazie, Firenze.