It was love at first sight for me in the summer of 2012, when I first landed in Florence. I barely spoke a word of Italian, when I decided to spend my summer in Florence, with the hope of learning Italian at an Italian school. I remember showing the taxi driver the address and crossing my fingers and hoping he’d take me to the right place. We then had the most awkward 20 mins taxi ride as neither of us understood the other very well, and the continued attempts at conversation were abysmal.
Bless his heart he was very gracious and cheerful with me, he didn’t quite understand what this starry eyed girl in her early 20s was doing all alone in Firenze.
As I approached the block of apartments where I was staying for the summer, the creamish-yellow walls stared at me in the scorching heat, which was at least 10 deg C hotter than Newcastle that I had left in the morning. My landlord was waiting for me, another cheerful petite older gentleman who spoke no word of English. He proceeded to show me around the apartment using just sign language in my opinion because I couldn’t understand the few words of English he spoke:(
It’s truly incredible how much you can get across without using any words at all! At the end of the tour I knew how to us all the little, vintage looking appliances. Everything was just that little bit old and creaky, as if it had been frozen in time, stuck in the 1950s looking all elegant. I suspect, in fact I know, this is the moment I fell in love with all things vintage and shabby chic. It was so beautiful in a different way and provided a form of escapism.
After my landlord left, leaving me confused and holding a piece of paper with directions and bus routes scrawled for my way to school the following morning, I ran down the hard stone stairs, only because I did not trust the little rickety lift. I went outside to the telephone box to call my mum. I was astounded when this telephone box in the middle of the park actually worked! Who still used them in 2012? I know there are a few in London but surely that’s just for decoration? I should definitely give it a try next time I’m in London.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had used a telephone box, in fact I don’t recall ever using one. I remember watching my mum use one when I was 7. Lucky for me, they don’t design them complicated. The plan was to buy a sim card in the coming days but it turned out I had to produce my passport in order to obtain one.
The following morning I woke up extra early, because being late on the first day of school wasn’t my style, yes I was a teacher’s pet….
I had enrolled at Instituto Italiano which was just by the main street leading towards the Duomo from the bus station. Given I was early, I decided to stop in a cafe, have a soothing cup of coffee (in that heat yes..). I sat on a little bar stool overlooking the main street and asked for latte.
The barista gave me a rather confused look, then repeated latte? I nodded confidently as the guy disappeared to get my drink, and wondered if he had trouble understanding my accent. As he approached , holding a glass of milk, I couldn’t help but laugh (internally of course) at my ignorance. So this is why he was confused, what grown woman orders a glass of milk at 8.30 am, ha ha.
Turns out Italian cafes do not do Starbucks menu, that’s all made up American Italian , ha ha.
I loved the school, met so many people from literally everywhere, Brazil, Australia, Norway you name it. I met people who taught me to appreciate good pizza and love Italian cars. Numerous after school afternoons were spent searching for the “It” gelateria. We delved into renaissance art and spent countless hours in museums. when the heat outside became too much. We gulped up history of the Florence “it” family, the Medici’s; wandered aimlessly for hours in their many palaces, my favourite being Palazzo Pitti due to the beautiful Boboli gardens behind.
We spent countless hours exploring the beautiful churches, admiring the works of Michelangelo and tombstones of these great artists in Basilica di Santa Croce. To be honest it felt a bit eerie, but that’s where I found the best gelateria in my humble opinion. I loved just watching the busyness of Ponte Vecchio bridge. The bird’s eye view of Florence from Piazzale Michealangelo was breathtaking.
I remember having “hiked” up to Piazzale Michaelangelo, finding this really cool looking apertivo place, then having to negotiate to get in, whilst wearing trainers. Apparently we were not aptly dressed, ha ha. So if you planning on getting into an exclusive apertivo place up on Piazzale Michealangelo, better wear heels, though it might prove to be difficult if you intend on taking the stairs up!
With all the time spent in museums, I slowly began to appreciate the works of Sandro Botticelli particularly La Nascita di Venere. My all time favourite is still Il primo bacio though, due to its innocence, aww. I was swept into the romanticism of it all.
Most importantly I learnt to drink proper Italian cafe, an espresso. After spending the days exploring every bit of the city we would find the nearest apertivo places. These were great for students as for 7 euros you could eat all you wanted and I think some included drinks too. The Duomo as high as it was, became our beacon for directions from wherever we were in the city.
By the end of the summer I was irrevocably in love with Florence and I knew I had to be back. This summer opened a lifelong love affair with Italy and I promised myself I’d be back, to explore more of it bit by bit:)