The Medici & Me — A Week in Florence
Having been to Europe before, I thought I knew what I was getting into. I prepared myself by asking friends and colleagues for recommendations, reading Trevor's travel blogs, and of course, binge eating a whole leftover pizza from Vocelli's — in an equal effort to expand my stomach for the incoming carbs and to avoid packing the night before my flight to Florence.
With everything packed in one bag, I left for Union Station at 2:17 — exactly enough time to barely miss the Marc train to the Baltimore airport. I paid the $48 required to ease my anxiety for a seat in the quiet car on the express train, and arrived at my gate two hours before departure. Allah has never been more surprised by my accidental punctuality, I'm sure.
Two flights and three espressos later, I arrived to a bouquet of roses in the hands of a sun-kissed, smiling EuroTrev, who shared in my disappointment of an unstamped passport — the pre-Instagram validation of a globetrotter.
Our cab took us past terra-cotta apartments, under garlands of clothes pins, across cobblestone streets that spread like veins from the central spine of Florence, up to Trevor's student housing in Piazza San Remigio.
We spent the next several days bobbing in and out of trattorias and museums, as Trevor's Renaissance Art professor was kind enough to let me join their morning class, and pass me as a student for free entry to the Capelle Medici and Palazzo Vecchio.
The rest we did on our own: Mercato Centrale, Museo Galileo, La Galleria de Accademia, the Bargello, sunset at the Piazzale Michelangelo, and even a day trip to Lucca through the Tuscan countryside. After five days of nonstop exploring, I still feel like I've only seen a small fraction of Florence — a slice, if you will. There's so much to do here, and not nearly enough time.
Time is such a funny thing. We're all obsessed with it in different ways — and by "we," I mean the Florentines.
On one hand, the Medici family, who ruled over Florence for hundreds of years, was afraid of what time might do to the memories of Florentine generations to come, evidenced by the Medici crest plastered over every corner of every wall in the city's museums, chapels and piazzas. God forbid anyone ever forget the fortitude of a family whose members commissioned a painting of themselves sitting alongside the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus.
On the other hand, scientists whose inventions and equipment filled the emporium at the Museo Galileo were so curious and desperate to define how time and space shape our world that they risked their lives to explore the laws of physics and mathematics. Because of their bravery, we now get to take for granted basic scientific concepts.
And of course, there's 2017 Florence, where children dab on the Piazza de Michelangelo and next to every monument is a string of boutiques with sale signs plastered above the window. Street vendors have swapped their replicas of Michelangelo's David and the Birth of Venus with selfie sticks and fidget spinners.
Florence so starkly presents the old and the new, and after one short week in this magical city, I feel as if I've been exposed to completely different cross sections of time.
On our last night — my 23rd birthday — Trevor pulled these cross sections as closely together as possible. We explored Boboli Gardens in the morning, got lunch at the renowned SandwiChic, bought some Italian goods at the Mercato, toured the Accademia and saw Michelangelo's David — all before dinner at Acquapazza. The chef recognized Trevor from a cooking class he had taken at the beginning of the semester, and our waiter brought champagne in glasses filled with fresh berries — topped with a candle for me.
We met up with Trevor's roommates to help finish the rest of their chianti at Trattoria Anita — their preferred Florentine hole-in-the-wall — and continued together for my fifth scoop of gelato in five days. Our last-ditch effort to stretch the night out took place at a bar called Konnubio, where the limoncello mojitos flowed as accidentally as the Euros from my pocket all week long.
All of this is to say there's something for everyone — even a 23-year-old going on 90 — which explains why the entire continent of Europe has come to Florence this week, only to find there's about 5 or 6 electric fans in the whole city, and we've been hoarding them all in Trevor's apartment during this heat wave.
Check back in a few days for my next blog post about Rome!