Can we just take a moment of silence to recognize the fact that this is the drive up to my hotel? I mean c’mon, look at that! Firenze, you have stolen my heart and I have no intention of ever attempting to claiming it back. A cloudy morning eventually faded into a sunny but breezy afternoon as dad and I explored the city. “Save the touristy stuff for when you’re here with school,” he told me. “Right now, we’re going to see the real side of Florence”. After stopping in a few more stores, and buying another pair of shoes (last pair I swear…jk), he took me through Piazzale deli Uffizi. I snapped pictures of everything-for Kendra Magill of course-and was then led down another off shoot. “Here it is, the people I’ve been telling you about, just wait to you see this apartment” Stevebro exclaims. I patiently wait outside two massive wooden doors, adorned with no other than the infamous Medici lion knockers. One of my dad’s old friends from Tommy Hilfiger opens the door and lead us into the foyer. After clambering up three flights of stairs, we reached another large set of wooden doors, propped open by a petite brunette woman. “I’ve been instructed to give you the grand tour,” she tells me. I laugh and follow her inside, and immediately gasp. Apartment is an understatement.
The first thing you notice is the scent of fresh flowers assaulting your nose. This house smelt as if someone was following you around and misting the fragrance of roses every where you turned. She lead me through room after room, each one more spectacular than the last. Antique tables and chair furnished every room, each piece with its own story. I marvel over the barrel vaults, coffered ceilings, exposed bricks-form the original 11th century church it was built into, and the antique beauty the home had to offer. It was simple yet elegant. She lead me down a flight of metal stairs into the office. “Now if the rest of the apartment wasn’t enough, this is what sealed the deal for me,” she tells me, walking over to a wooden door, painted to match the wall. She wiggles the ancient lock out of its place and opens the door. We walk out onto a small balcony, adorned with the symbol of Florence woven into the woodworking. I audibly gasp. Here I am, in a balcony attached to the Gallinaro’s house, staring into an 11th century church. “This is all the original church,” she tells me. The only thing not from the 11th century was the wooden roof, repaired after it was bombed in a war. I turn and look at her, not able to form real words. Rich husband….where you at….?
To my sadness, we left the “apartment”, but at least it was finally time for lunch. We hobbled over the cobblestone streets around Ponte Vecchio where we ended up at one of Gallinaro’s favorite lunch spots-Bussola. We were brought freshly toasted pizza dough drizzled with olive oil and salt while we waited for our pasta dishes to arrive. This place was the real deal, complete with vintage espresso machienes and I’m pretty sure a Sport’s Center host at the table behind us (at least that’s what Steve said). An eclectic mix of people lead to an eclectic mix of pastas, as each of us ordered something different and sampled off each other’s plates. Un espresso dopo abbiamo pranzato, and we were off strolling the city again. Andi promised us the best gelato in Firenze and we followed her without complaint. Two words: Caffe Moose. It’s like coffee gelato, but lighter and creamier. A dream in a cup. Seriously take my word for it.
And now I’m lounging by the pool, gazing out onto the Firenze country side. I can’t even begin to fathom how blessed I am that this will be part of my view for the next 2 months. I don’t know what I did to ever deserve to be this lucky, but I can promise that none of it will ever be taken for granted. It’s not everyday you can wake up one morning and board a plane to a different country. It’s not everyday you arrive in Italy with no intentions of leaving for another 10 weeks. At the end of the day always remember: to live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist. I took the leap, wings spread with hopes to fly, and I can’t wait to see how far I go.
Until next time, Firenze, mi amore.