There aren't enough words, enough pictures, to describe this place or my feelings about it. It is absolutely possible to fall in love with a place, and I fell in love with Florence.
I arrived mid-afternoon and walked from the train station to my hostel. I was greeted at the door by a lovely, smiling woman named Nadina.
"Jessica?" she said as she held the door open for me.
"No, Meika," I corrected her.
Her face fell. My stomach did, too. "Oh, no you are not here until tomorrow."
Apparently, when booking my next couple hostels in the middle of the night while I was in Verona, I totally skipped a day on the calendar. Nadina's place was completely booked. I had nowhere to stay.
I must have looked on the verge of a complete meltdown, because Nadina jumped into action. She sat me down and went about making me a cup of coffee and a snack. "Don't worry," she said as she worked. "We'll find you a place. No problem."
And, true to her word, she looked up hostels in the area and found me a bed just up the road. "See you tomorrow!" she said as she sent me on my way.
That night, I had dinner with a lovely woman from Taiwan named Fleur (her nickname, she said. She never did tell me her real name), and settled into bed. The next morning, I packed up and went back to Nadina's place. Got settled in, and went out to explore.
It was instant, the love I felt for this city. The rain-slicked streets, the smell of leather in the market, the magic in the air (could've been the humidity, but hey. I'm calling it magic). My first full day in Florence went a little something like this:
The next day, I woke up early, had breakfast surrounded by chatter (everyone in my hostel this morning, it seemed, was Korean. I didn't understand a word they were saying), and left with my heart set on the Duomo. It was easy to find--something I loved about Florence was that it's not a huge city. For someone who gets lost in her own city at least once a week, I navigated Florence rather easily.
Dudes, there were a lot of moments during my trip that took my breath of away. One of them: rounding a corner to catch my first glimpse of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. I mean, COME ON!
In front of the church, a woman stood in a long, flowing gold gown, playing the violin--a nice soundtrack for the moment. I walked around the building, taking in all the tiny details--and there are A LOT of tiny details. This building is magnificent. Overwhelming. Astounding.
I toured the inside, and climbed up to the top of the dome, the cupola. That was a lot of stairs, ya'll. Like, a lot. But the view:
Once I finished the tour, I decided to be a crazy person, and climb that there bell tower, too. In case anyone was wondering, there are 463 stairs to the top of the dome, and another 414 to the top of the tower. One piece of advice: if you go to Florence, and you wanna take in the views, go with the bell tower. Less stairs, AND a better view. For realsies:
So, so, so, so, sooooooo beautiful. But, for the love of God, guys, do NOT do both sets of stairs! I was 99.999% sure my legs were going to fall off by the end of the day. Especially because I was not done with the stairs and walking.
Later that evening, I met up with my friend Karin again for her last day in Florence. We went to Piazzale Michelangelo--rumor had it it was the best view in Florence. I would venture to say it was the SECOND best view in Florence. I'll let you decide:
You ask me, I thought the view was better here:
I cannot, for the life of me, remember the name of this church, but it was across the street from Piazzale Michelangelo, and up a bunch of stairs. Karin and I went here and sat in on a mass, which included monks singing. My favorite part of this was when the church bells started while the monks were singing. So surreal. When we exited the church, it was to this amazing sunset.
I may or may not have cried a little bit.
We finished the night with dinner. A pork steak and roasted potatoes for me:
I still dream about those potatoes sometimes...
Anyway, that sums up the first two days in Florence. There are three more to write about, but that's another post (or two).
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm suddenly starving...