I can’t believe I’ve been in Florence for exactly one week. It seems like the time has flown by, yet so much has happened, yet I still don’t think it’s truly hit me that I’ll call this place home for the next 51 weeks. I guess the best place to start is from the beginning: Day 1 a Firenze (even though I would REALLY like to tell you about these amazing mushrooms Robert and I found at this outdoor market yesterday that we cooked last night (and devoured) and I am still swooning over… but we’ll get to that later I guess).
So! Last Wednesday Rob and I left Munich at around 6 am, standard “Piccolo time” as he calls it. This trait of mine (extending directly from my Mother) to leave for road trips before the sun comes up stems from many summers spent in Montauk, NY. As a child and to this day, when I know I have to travel on the Long Island Expressway to get through 27 East (the Hamptons) to reach Montauk, a pang of anxiety and fear of being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic overtakes me. Since getting my license at 16 and taking friends out for the weekend, I’ve required departure times as early as 5:30 am. While some claim this demand irrational and a form of torture, I stand by my affirmation: we’ll sleep on the beach!
Anyway, Robert is accustomed to this ritual and was on board for a 5 am wake-up call (God bless his soul). So we hit the road with a car full of luggage, some mix cds (of songs we’re already sick of since we listened to the same ones during last August’s road trip) and headed South. After about an hour’s drive I started to get hungry (seriously?) and requested we stop to get a snack. Not sure if this was delirium or nerves but I was getting nauseous! Robert complied and we stopped for a croissant in Austria to find that it was 12 degrees celsius outside! We ventured into the only small bakery in town to find a toothless woman with the thickest eyebrows I’ve ever seen behind the counter and one twitchie eyed mountain townie reading the paper. Being surrounded by the Alps at 6:30 am freezing in a tank top and capri shorts was a wake up call that we needed to get moving pronto!
Alright, I’ll try to pick up the pace. So after a great drive (no traffic), in 6 hours we reach the periphery of Florence. The drive was not as scenic as expected but the last hour or so was a pleasant surprise of green rolling hills (when one thinks of Tuscany, it seems that browns, red and oranges more come to mind). I will not bore you with our first 2 hours in Florence which involved trying to find a parking spot for foreigners in this city. Let’s just say that the research we did beforehand all warned: DO NOT TAKE A CAR TO FLORENCE! Because of congestion and the amount of tourists in and out of the city (approx 18 million per year), there is a law that foreigners cannot drive into the city unless they pre-register with a garage (that as you can imagine charges an insane fee for parking). Ya da ya da ya da, eventually the concierge at my father’s hotel told us a shady street to park outside the city center – we both have a looming fear each day that the car will be gone and/or a homeless man will be sleeping in the back seat.
So finally we are out of the car and ready to roll. Suited up with an exhaustive amount of luggage, we head due West on foot along the Arno to find my apartment. Keep in mind, it’s late August in the 3rd most visited city in Europe, it’s 31 degrees Celsius (double that add 30 = 92 degrees Fahrenheit), we’re exhausted and heading along the busiest street in the city, right near the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio. Let’s just say I think I rolled over a Japanese tourist or 2 as we trekked along.
Luckily, I had a good idea of how to get to my street. Having spent a semester of undergrad in Florence I realized that one of the bars my friends and I used to frequent, properly named, The Art Bar, is on the same street! So we finally get to the door and I ring the buzzer. I wish I could report feelings of sheer excitement and anticipation on finally reaching the apartment with an understanding that the year to follow will be life changing, etc etc, but in reality my emotions we more overrun by feelings of exhaustion and just really needing a glass of cold water. My apartment was listed on the 3rd floor, which means 4th floor in American standards, so after the final schlep up a long, windy staircase, we arrived!
Ted, another tenant in the building, let us in and to say that I was unable to process rationally all that I saw was an understatement. I both fell in love and hated everything. The walls were mucous green, the floor a beautiful rusty red terra cotta, nik naks everywhere, lime green fleece blanket on the twin cot that is to be my bed, gorgeous midday light streaming in from 2 windows, an aggressive painting of a woman cleaning on the wall, ah I can go on and on. I tried to register everything at once, but rather just needed to get the f out of the there. For those who know me well, know that I am not keen on new situations. I am easily overwhelmed and once I feel a sense that I’ve lost control, I retreat and typically break down. I’ve been like this as long as I can remember – from 3rd grade birthday parties where if I lost at some sort of sports game I would go home devastated to choosing the wrong topic for my undergraduate thesis and letting it get the best of me during my last semester at school. I think it’s a mix of middle child syndrome, being the only girl in the family, being a summer baby and Cancer sign, and well just being me.
So anyway, when life gets you down, what do you need?! Your parents! Luckily for me my father and uncle just arrived at their hotel in Florence and after telling my father everything at a million miles an hour, having him say, “so whaddya wanna do? Find some place else?,” made me realize that there were other options. After catching my breath and talking it over some more, my father, uncle and boyfriend made me see the good things about the place: it’s in a safe area, 5 minutes from school, decent rent, and after a few months of getting settled and making friends, I can always consider moving out. I am so grateful that my father was with me that day. I feel like I could cry writing this. Both his rational outlook on a situation and knowledge of how to deal with me when I am a tranny hot mess overwhelms me with love for him. Ah, didn’t want to get too touchy but just had to put it out there.
So to finish off day 1, Robert and I spent the afternoon walking around a bit while my father and uncle napped at their hotel. We met for a perfect dinner at a restaurant called Quattro Leoni (4 Lions), located Oltr’arno, or across the Arno. This part of the city is quieter and set apart from the hustle of the city center. It was nice to slow down for the first time that day and after a few glasses of vino rosso, my father and uncle shared stories of growing up outside Naples and also told tales of more recent trips (my Uncle Dominick is a playboy and was just in Italy 7 weeks ago, not bad right?). We shared a few antipasti and all got pastas as our main courses. I chose a home made pasta arrabiata, a personal favorite, made with a simple red sauce and red pepperflakes. Arrabiata in Italian means “annoyed” or “hot headed” making it a perfectly clever description for this dish. Your whole mouth becomes ignited with the heat of red pepper flakes which if you’re into it, is both intoxicating and delicious. The fresh pasta was perfectly cooked. I typically choose to cook with dry pasta at home as fresh pasta always runs the risk of becoming gummy and overcooked quickly. But this pasta was made and cooked by some one with obvious finesse for the ingredient. We finished the meal splitting 2 orders of tiramisu which was surprisingly satisfying. I usually find tiramisu to be too creamy or not enough liquor or too dense, but this one was perfectly balanced and devoured by all parties involved.
So that concludes the whirlwind of my first 24 hours in Florence. I will try to update more often now that I am quasi-settled. Next post will highlight how Rob and I gave this apartment an HGTV “Design on a Dime” make over. You’ll be shocked at the before and afters!
This afternoon I have my first day of orientation. We are obviously meeting at a restaurant for aperitivi to get to know one another. Gotta love a school run by a Italians…a presto!