Doing the impossible: Florence, Italy in a weekend
Should I go to Florence for the weekend?
My boyfriend has been living and working in Germany for around three months now. He loves to pick up and travel to a new country on the weekends, as living in the center of Europe grants him this luxury. Cue his wanderluster of a girl friend in Atlanta getting the travel bug even more often than usual. Being in my final semester of undergrad has me itching for more of the world and less of the classroom. So, when Kyle, my dear boyfriend, informed me that he and a couple of his friends were going to road trip to Florence, Italy for the weekend, a lightbulb went off in my head. What if I joined them?
Of course, there were many pros and cons to be weighed – the most in-my-face one being that it is midterm season and I had two the following week: one on Monday, the other on Tuesday. Next was the scary case that I don’t get a seat on the plane. I fly space available, meaning international flights are very cheap, but there is no guarantee that I will actually be granted permission to board the airplane. Flying space available is a shaky experience, and I have been stuck in many airports with no hope of getting home for days. It is wise to give yourself days between traveling and commitments to make sure getting back on time isn’t a problem – something I would not be doing if I opted for this weekend full of travel. Not making it home in time for my midterms could mean potentially pushing my graduation date back - an entire fiasco that could be avoided if I comfortably stayed in Atlanta for the weekend.
After sorting through the “what could happens”, it was Wednesday night and my mind was made up: I am doing this.
Come Thursday the flights looked iffy – but somehow by 6 o’clock in the evening, I was boarding a flight for Rome. Without much planning and a quick packing session the night before, I would be landing in the beautiful country of Italy in the morning.
Conquering traveling to Europe for the weekend is not easy on the body. It is essential to have a set healthcare routine before taking on a whirlwind weekend. I take probiotics daily, I drink Bragg’s apple cider vinegar diluted in water as my morning beverage 4-5 times a week, and I exercise regularly. If there is anything that can get you ready for a day and a half trip to Italy, it is making sure your body is strong and healthy – ready to handle the worst of it.
Secondly, and the best tip of all when traveling, is to stay hydrated. Lotion, good chapstick, and the largest bottle of water you can find should do the trick. Make sure to steer away from alcohol while in the air – since as you can imagine, this causes an unnecessary amount of dehydration and restless sleep.
My goal of the trip, since Saturday was my only full day in Florence, was to be as well rested as possible upon arrival. I took a melatonin thirty minutes after boarding the flight and I was able to get a good five hours of sleep while in the air. This helped to ensure I would be lively and active in Florence instead of going through the usual jet lag.
I have traveled to nine countries within my (almost) twenty-two years here on earth. I have been to Italy before, to Venice, with my family for a quick trip following a Mediterranean cruise. Venice was lovely; however it was this trip, this day and a half in Florence, that drove Italy up to my absolute favorite country I have ever visited (with Greece and Croatia as close seconds).
I was lucky enough to sit next to a sweet Delta flight attendant on my flight – she was on a girl’s getaway and they were traveling to Florence as well. She offered a seat in the van they had scheduled to take them north to the Tuscan area, and as a trusting individual, I said yes. I love any chance to interact with new folks, and riding in a van through Italy, my first time traveling to this country on my own, seemed like a great start. They were all so kind to me, and the trip from Rome’s airport up to Florence was painless and comfortable.
Finally, I had arrived in beautiful Florence. The van dropped me off a few streets from our Airbnb, so my suitcase and I took to the Italian streets. After encountering a parade and getting turned around a few times, I finally came across our Airbnb, sweetly tucked away in a quiet side street. The apartment was airy, bright, and full of natural light and windows. The boys were still driving from Germany, so I settled in, took a shower, and grabbed a quick nap.
They still had a little while to go after my cozy nap, so I decided it was time for a sandwich and my first glass of Italian wine to officially commence the weekend. Back down to the streets of Florence I went. At this point, my body needed food, as I had done just about everything except for eat. I ventured into Osteria delle Brache Nome Atelier where I was greeted by a friendly face who told me the kitchen was closed, but he would gladly throw together a sandwich for me. Why yes please, kind Italian gentlemen. I think Italy makes a point to be the most Italian that they can possibly be – sound silly? Maybe. But when a nice man says “let me just make something for you, even though our kitchen is closed”, you can’t help but think, “wow, if this isn’t the most Italian start to a weekend, I don’t know what is”.
So out comes two beautiful pieces of bread, toasted, doused with olive oil, sandwiching sliced, salty ham, fresh mozzarella, and grilled zuchini, oh and a tall glass of vino, of course. I sat in that cafe, surrounded by travelers and locals alike, taking in the sandwich, the wine, and the scenery. Open windows, open doors, a fresh breeze. Upon finishing my meal, the nice man who made my sandwich brought me out a shot sized glass of green liquid that turned out to be a pistachio liquor. Thick, sweet, and indulgent. “This is for you. We make it here. It’s on the house”. How Italian.
Finally the boys arrived. After getting them settled in, it was finally dinner time. We wandered around the city a bit, getting lost in the crevices. We finally stumbled upon an upscale eatery and decided to give it a go. Two bottles of wine, a cheese and meat plate, and a dish of spaghetti with fresh clams later, we were happy, full, and ready for a night out on the town. We had an enjoyable night full of laughs, love, and plenty of Italian drinks.
The next morning we were up early and ready to begin our one and only day exploring Florence. We started the morning on the right foot: pizza and cappuccino for breakfast. We situated ourselves at a place called Caffe Bistrot (however I believe this is a common name for cafes, this one is located on Via de Proconsolo). It was delicious and the service was phenomenal.
We went all over Florence that Saturday, touring around the Duomo, a beautiful old church, venturing to the age old bridge, Ponte Vecchio, that is a defining factor of Florence, and then finding our way to Boboli Gardens.
When in Boboli Gardens, the boys were walking around, and I, feeling a bit jet lagged and worn out from beverages from the evening before, laid down in a large open field in the gardens. The sun was shining, it was cool but not cold, the skies were blue, and I felt that in this garden, surrounded by trees, light, and casual conversation, was exactly where I needed to be.
The best thing about Italy is that it isn’t weird to lay down in an open field surrounded by trees and close your eyes. People do it all the time. In Italy, they enjoy things. They enjoy meals, they enjoy wine, they enjoy scenery, they enjoy conversation. One of my favorite books, Eat Pray Love, addresses this as “dolce far niente” – “the sweetness of doing nothing”.
Next was lunch at a restaurant near the gardens called Trattoria Boboli. Kyle and I opted for white wine for this meal, something we rarely do. We ordered a beautiful filet, large enough for the four of us. It was melt-in-your-mouth incredible. We had some hiccups with the service; however all-in-all, it was an enjoyable experience, as most dining experiences in Italy tend to be.
We picked up some street art and ventured back to the apartment. Kyle and I decided we would use Saturday for a date night, as it was our last night together for another month when we will be meeting in Amsterdam (stay tuned for that). We cleaned up, shared a bottle of wine, and took to the quaint Tuscan streets for one last restaurant experience in dear Florence. We stumbled on Ristoranta Natalino. Burrata with shaved truffle for an appetizer, linguine and lobster for Kyle, noodles in a meat sauce for me, a bottle of red wine for the two of us, and two shots of lemoncello later, we closed out our last night in Tuscany with our taste buds in a state of bliss.
The next morning I had an early train to catch. On our way to the train station, we stopped and picked up pastries and cappuccino. Kyle and I said our goodbyes to each other as I hopped on my train to take me back down to Rome. The rolling hills with the sun rising, paired with my chocolate croissant and cappuccino, made for a scenic and delicious ride south. I would never expect anything less from this country.
My last meal in Italy was pizza at the airport. I assume I am not the only American who thinks of airport pizza as normally limited to Sbarro. While Sbarro was founded in Italy, this airport pizza was no comparison. In the midst of travelers catching early morning flights, I sat down to one of the best slices of pizza I have ever had in my life. I approached the counter while the man working was slinging dough and mozzarella, taking orders, and simultaneously handing out slices larger than my head. I opted for fried ham, hardboiled eggs, artichokes, and black olives. Incredible is the best way I can even think to describe it.
My weekend in Florence was fast, beautiful, and so tasty. Florence was easy to navigate, inexpensive, and filled with an overflowing amount of art, history, and carbs. The best thing I could have done in the middle of a hectic few months in my last semester of undergrad was to pick up and travel to Florence. While not everyone has the opportunity to fly space available - I urge you to travel; although being jet lagged for a few days after getting home, I found that the quick trip rejuvenated me and gave me the boost I needed to keep rolling through this semester. Sidenote: I made A’s on both my midterms.
After falling even more in love with my man, exploring incredible history in a beautiful city, and eating at every opportunity possible, my greatest takeaway from my whirlwind trip to Florence is that nothing tastes bad in Italy.