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I'm a 21-year-old journalism student. I spent last semester living in Florence, Italy. These are my adventures.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Welcome to Italy, Mum and Dad!

Sunday was an early start. Very early.
We had a flight to catch at 6:30 a.m. from an airport an hour outside of the city, which meant a taxi at 4 a.m.
Jay made me the English tea I had failed to drink all weekend. It was fantastic and now part of my daily routine. Despite the caffeine, the travel was largely a blur. I sat between my parents on the way to the airport and was practically lulled to sleep by the street markers rhythmically disappearing underneath the car in front of me.

The airport was far more busy than we were expecting. We started to get worried as we waited in line to check in. We had assumed the weight limit would be the same or close to what it was for their flight from the US. I was wrong.
We were 7-8 kilos over the 15-kilo weight limit for each of their 50-pound bags. (And they gave me a hard time for two 50-pound bags for four months) The charge was £20 per kilo overweight. It would have neared $500 in fees. Instead we ended up doing the same thing I did in Greece: pay for an extra suitcase instead of extra weight. We were going to be cutting it close. We ran around the corner and found the cheapest biggest bag we could. It was a rolling duffle for £40. Perfect. As my mom and I threw stuff from suitcase to suitcase in a tornado of clothes and belongings, my dad ran across the open area to a scale, frantically weighing one at a time for 1 pound.
He’d come hurtling back with our verdict. “One more kilo in here! Give me another one.”
With some random stuff shoved into our carry-ons (My mom took one of my boots on the plane. Only one), we ran back to the check-in counter. The man let us line jump, and we reweighed our luggage. 15.4, 14.7, 14.9.
Close enough.
Even better, my mom had already paid for a third bag for me when she bought the tickets. I only brought my backpack for the weekend, figuring it would save us stress and money. It still did.
On to security! I hopped from one foot to the other, anxious to get through in time, but we did. We ran all the way to our gate, barreling down the final empty hallway only to practically run into the long line to board. We stood around for 10 minutes before walking outside and up to the plane.
We took Ryan Air, which is a free-for-all for seats, but my mom and I found some next to each other. I settled in with my cough drops and bottle of water and dozed for most of the flight. We landed in Pisa around 9:30 a.m., welcomed with Ryan Air’s customary triumphant landing music I had heard about.
My parents resituated our luggage again and shoved our carry-ons into our newly acquired duffle as I went to buy bus tickets into town. I snacked on the banana I bought as I led them out to the bus stop, asking a couple times for directions to the right one. The bus arrived soon, but we were nearly the first one to sit down. Thank goodness, because we were more of sardines than passengers. People were trying to get on by pushing against the wall of people inside with all the force they could muster. Eventually the doors closed on these people and we were off.
When we got to the train station, we walked to the end to drop off our luggage. It was about €3 per bag for the day if I remember correctly. Relieved to be rid of our extra weight at least for a little bit, we headed toward the Leaning Tower of Pisa! It was nice to know the way this time, after having been there in January. Before we got too far, the first order of business was caffeine. We all needed it.
We took a pit stop in a small café that seemed to be the only one open for three cappuccinos and three pastries.

As we approached the Arno, I could hear shouting and cheering. We got closer and saw there was some sort of race going on. A few people were scattered along the wall
Some people who appeared to have finished the race/run were jogging back to run alongside people in support. We walked along trying to stay out of their way.

My parents kept noticing small things, like the shutters on the windows and the plants sitting on balconies. It was cool to see them have similar reactions as my CCI family and I had when we came here for our first trip this semester.


We rounded the corner to see the tower. It’s still just as startling. I’m walking along simple Italian streets and expect to find another one around the corner at the end, but am instead faced with the famous landmark.

I walked around as my parents read signs about the tower. They followed me eventually around the church. We slipped inside the church to find a mass going on! There were several other tourists standing quietly in the back behind the rope that blocked off the aisle. I hadn’t gone inside any of the buildings before, so I’m glad I got to this time. It was really cool to see, but I felt weird. I can’t imagine sitting through church with people watching it behind me.
We walked out and around the baptistery, where we found a place to sit on the grass.

We were exhausted, but I reminded them we had a lot more in store for today, so we better get it together. We walked down the long line of souvenir stands. My mom picked up a few presents for Lorraine and others, and I bought a couple things I missed getting last time.
My parents took the obligatory Pisa pictures before we headed to lunch.

We went back to the same place I got pizza last time. It was just as good. My parents liked it too. My dad said he wasn’t expecting it to be good based on how it looked. It proved its worth.
Don’t judge a pizza by its appearance.

By now we were pretty much done with Pisa. And I was really excited to get to Florence. We decided to take the bus back to the train station just to save time. 

In the end, I’m not sure the bus made a huge difference. The waitress pointed us in the right direction to find the stop, and once there I asked a man at a food stand where to buy tickets. He told me on the bus.
We waited for almost 10 minutes. When we got on I asked him how to pay. He said something about “finito,” and directed me past. I was a little confused, but sat down. I guess that means we pay at the end.
But we didn’t reach that point. About three blocks away from the train station, the driver pulled to a stop and opened the door. He exchanged a couple of words I couldn’t hear with someone standing outside, then without warning bolted. He literally just darted off the bus and took off running — sprinting. The man outside didn’t seem fazed. He just stood around as he was before we pulled up. I looked around at people on the bus. They looked equally confused. I waited a minute or so, but didn’t see any sign of him. “Guess we got a free ride,” I shrugged and led my parents off the bus. It was the strangest thing. It didn’t even cross my mind until now that it was actually April Fool’s Day. What a coincidence.

We walked the rest of the way to the train station. My cough was starting to sound worse, so my dad bought me some cold medicine and cough drops before we caught our ride back to Firenze! My parents napped most of the hour ride, and I dozed off a couple times myself. We got into Santa Maria Novella around 2 p.m. Still plenty of day left! The wonders of waking up at 3:30 a.m.
My parents showed me their address, and I was surprised to realize I actually knew where the street was. I checked with some police just to make sure and took them a couple of blocks away to their Italian home!
They were staying at an apartment owned by Barb’s brother. Barb is the woman my mom backpacked with 30 years ago. The place was absolutely gorgeous and gigantic. It had three bathrooms, two of which had lofts inside of them with desks or beds above, two full baths, an entry way, living room, kitchen, dining room, laundry room (how strange to not have your washer in your kitchen) and the best part: a rooftop terrace.
The entire CCI family could have stayed there. It’d be a little cozy, but we like each other well enough. Just give us a couple of air mattresses.
My parents admitted defeat and took a nap. I took a shower instead to refuel. Eventually we got back out there. We walked into town and around the Duomo. I showed them my school and my apartment before heading up to Piazzale Michelangelo. I wanted to do it that first day, but I didn’t suggest it because I figured they were too tired. My mom actually proposed the idea! My dad wasn’t wearing the right shoes, but we talked him into it. We stopped at Gelateria dei Neri, and I spent everything I had left in my pockets to buy three gelatos.
I hadn’t walked up to Piazzale Michelangelo in about a month. I wish I had time to do it more often. It was beautiful as usual. 

We took our photos and stood around looking over the city. I pointed out everything I knew on the skyline.

Mumsie made friends with Pinocchio
Soon hunger got the best of us, and we walked back down to the city. After a quick pitstop in my apartment, I took them to Osteria del Gatto e la Volpe.
It was delicious as usual. My dad didn’t get exactly what he was looking for, but he had all week for incredible Italian food.
After dinner we walked to Meta so they could have some food for breakfast. I wanted to walk around more, but we were all tired and my dad told me my cough was beginning to sound like the Bubonic Plague. I couldn’t really argue. Over the next week I realized I could literally part a path for me through crowds with the sound of my cough.
I led them to the Duomo, and we said goodbye at the intersection for their street. They were off to Rome for Monday and Tuesday. I wished them a safe trip and walked home.

It was such a great first day in the city. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did! How could anyone not? We’re in Florence!

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