2005 - Viva la Italia
A piece of my heart belongs to Florence, Italy. During my senior year at Washington State University, I lived and studied there. The experience became my Moveable Feast.
This was my first trip overseas and my dad was worried sick. My last
night in the states was spent in Seattle with him and my stepmom, Rhonda. The following morning, I set off on my life changing journey.
When I stepped onto the enormous 747, the sheer size was disorienting. Never had I seen a plane so massive. The strangest part was the plane was practically empty. This worked out well for me, as I had 4 seats to myself. My adrenaline wore off just enough for me to fall asleep as the sun was setting over Atlanta.
I slept for a few hours and awoke to a black sky, flying over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The black screen on the head rest in front of me flashing one tiny red dot - our plane in the middle of nowhere. I remember my stomach dropping and my mind racing. A William Shatner, Twilight Zone moment - minus the ashtrays. After fiddling around and fretting way too much, I fell back asleep.
When the sun rose and we approached Paris, the Eiffel Tower was in plain sight. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Reality hit, I was across the world alone and the flight was almost over. It wall became very real. Once I was off the plane, we all hopped on a shuttle bus to the main terminal. The bus was crowded, humid and about 100 degrees. I checked the time as the shuttle moved at a snails pace behind a long line of vehicles. I had missed my connecting flight to Florence.
Once I was in the airport, I had 2 important calls to make. First, contact my parents and let them know I made it safely to Paris. Second, my program to let them know that I wouldn't be arriving in Florence as scheduled. It took over an hour to convince someone to help me with the French payphone in order to use my phone card. Yes, payphone. Yes, phone card. 2005, yeah baby.
A French janitor, might as well have been an angel, eventually helped me contact my parents and program director. He was the first out of about 20 people I asked. I was beginning to fret and then the angel janitor helped me. It was the first obstacle I had conquered and I remember feeling extremely empowered. After that, I drank delicious beer, ate fresh pretzels and journaled at Bill Bentley Pub for 3 hours before boarding my flight to Italy.
I landed in Florence around 10pm, jet lagged and slightly drunk. When I exited the airport and walked across the cobblestone street to my taxi, it was sprinkling rain. I was there. The air was different. There was magic all around me. I had made it. The rain woke me up and I had a burst of energy like never before. A complete adrenaline overload.
The taxi drive from the airport to our apartment was straight out of a fairytale.
The driver, a nice, quiet old Italian man. He smiled, welcomed me and helped me with my bags. That was the only conversing we did. His smile was sweet and comforting.
There was a light rain that night and it made the narrow cobblestone streets shimmer. The storefronts were glowing. History and fashion; Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Versace, Pucci...all tucked in for the night.
After rounding a few more tight corners, my eyes fell upon the most majestic sight, Filippo Brunelleschi's Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore. The great Duomo - I fell in love. I had never seen a building so beautiful in my life. The feeling I had driving in that taxi was electrifying. After 5 semesters of Art History, I had studied the great dome for years. Now, it was towering in front of me, glistening in the rain.
My roommates and I came from all over the place; WA, CO, IL, MN, TX and
Mexico. When I arrived at the apartment, they were drinking wine, waiting for
their last roommate to arrive - me. We all hugged, they handed me a
glass of wine and informed me that we were all heading out to find some food in the city.
We found a pizza joint that ended up being one of our favorites throughout the semester. Buttery caramelized crust, buffalo mozzarella and crispy ground sausage. To this day I my mouth waters thinking about it. This moment in our ives was incredible: empowered young woman, together in a foreign country, eating Italian pizza under the moon.
I knew I was in for a trip of a lifetime.
We all attended Santa Reparata International School of Art and Fugi Studios, along with 30 others in our cohort. Our school was just down the road from our apartment, in the opposite direction of the Duomo.
Our apartment was unreal. To reach our top floor palace, you could take the stairs 4 flights up or brave the ancient 2 person elevator. Our place had vaulted ceilings, arched hallways, white plaster walls, antique gold chandeliers, an iron spiral staircase, a sunroom and terrace that overlooked the entire city. From our terrace, we'd people watch into the Medici Palace courtyard. It was absolutely fabulous.
There were doors on one of the sunroom walls that opened up to a private
terrace overlooking Florence. Across the street was the Medici Palace, and
from our terrace, we could see right into the infamous courtyard. We were 3
blocks from the city center and the Duomo looked as if we could reach out
and touch it. Arriving at the apartment felt like a season premiere of The Real
During the upcoming months, we absorbed everything Florence. We also took
excursions up and down Italy: Venice, Siena, Pompeii, Naples, Amalfi,
Sorento, Pisa, Orvieto and so many hidden gems in between.
** VIVA LA ITALIA **