As a recovering Yelp addict, I used to always want to know where the best spots were, what was trending, what people enjoyed. In San Diego, I visited new restaurants, museums, installations, photo spots. I compared my experiences to those I found on Instagram, Pinterest, Yelp, Facebook. Then I realized I always went in with higher expectations than I should. If the place lived up to the hype, I was happy, but not overjoyed. If it didn’t, I was annoyed at the business’s lack of what I considered follow-through.
We visited Florence with no previous research and (history buffs cover your ears) simply walked towards the tallest pointy things. Was our experience any less because we didn’t see the real David or climb the inside of the Duomo? In my opinion, no.
I picture cities as chocolate boxes — you pick a chocolate up with no idea of what you’re going to get, and usually you are pleasantly surprised. And those you don’t try, you’ll carefully save for next time. If you want to ask the expert which chocolate is which, you’ll end up comparing them to the ones you’ve had before, and you’ll usually avoid those you wouldn’t normally try.
We wandered into a cute cafe near il Duomo and asked the woman behind the counter how to say the names of the pastries in Italian. She was delighted in our interest, coming out from behind the counter and explaining all the pastries and how to order in Italian. As we ordered our pastries, a waiter came over and said, “I don’t know if she told you the history of this cafe,” he paused, then continued, “but Leonardo da Vinci’s father owned this building. Leonardo didn’t have an atelier in Florence, so he painted here. It was rumored that the Mona Lisa was painted here.”
We were in awe!
We met up with one of my friends from childhood, and walked all around the city with him, and he recommended we visit the Piazza Michelangelo. There are what must be thousands of steps up to the top, and I laughed when I saw a girl being almost dragged by her boyfriend up the uneven stone steps.
I paused and reflected on the importance of perspective when traveling.
As we climbed up those thousands of steps, I looked back and watched the people climbing behind me. There was a grandfather with his granddaughter on his shoulders, taking the stairs one at a time, her blonde hair bouncing with every step. There were Americans grunting and panting as they charged up the stairs. People from all walks of life, brought together by a common goal: to see a beautiful sight.
As we rounded the corner, the site took our breath away. There were 60 people all watching the city being lit up by the sun. Earthy tones from the buildings were reflected in the river, and we could hear the drums from the King’s Day parade. People raised beers, waters, mojitos to the setting sun and continued their chatter in multitudes of languages.
Florence was nothing short of amazing. We got lost, we bartered with salespeople, we found lots of tall pointy things, we snuck into a Impressionist exhibit, we saw a three hour-long parade, we found an amazing record store. We came, we saw, we loved.
Florence, as a box of chocolates, was well sampled by us. We may have left bits and pieces here, but we’ll be back.
Paige Doherty computer science sophomore. She is studying entrepreneurship in Rome over Winter Break.