Friday February 3
Time to catch our first Italian train. We get out of class at 5:15 and our train leaves at 7:50. It is about a 15 minute bus ride and a 20 minute metro ride. However, the bus is super unreliable and it could take over an hour to catch it. Turns out when we get out of class we are in luck. The bus is leaving in 15 minutes so we sprint upstairs to grab our already packed bags and run to the bus stop. We even have a couple minutes to spar. We end up getting to the train station with about an hour and a half before our train so we spend the time getting some dinner. We are finally given a track number and head to the train. The train is one of the fast ones so we should be in Florence in about an hour and a half.
The train ride is uneventful and it was also super empty. I ended up having no one sit next to me which was great. When we get to Florence we hustle to where we will be staying; an airbnb. 6 of us will be staying in a one bedroom one bathroom apartment. I guess mornings will be alot of jumping over people trying to get ready. When we finally get to the place and walk in it was super nice. It was well decorated and clean. We decide on who is sleeping in what bed and who is sharing a bed with who and then it is time to head out and explore the city. Our first stop, the Duomo. Our place was only about .3 miles from the Duomo so it was amazing being able to walk for less than 5 minutes and it suddenly appeared in front of us. We stop to take pictures we a group of guys ask us to take their picture for them. Turns out they were students from Washington State. What was the likelihood we found another group that spoke english. After taking pictures for them and them doing the same for us it was time to walk around a little more before heading back and getting some sleep. The next day starts out super early with a tour of the Duomo.
Saturday February 4
This trip is one that Duquesne sponsors. While they do not do everything for us, they do take us on the tours. We meet in front of the Duomo at 9 to be assigned to our groups and given our listening devices. The tour ended up being super interesting and informative. The tour guide was great and made everything come to life. After the tour it was off to Tour the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo. There we were able to see some very interesting statues before heading to the roof for a view of the Duomo. It was amazing. After that we headed to the Academia Gallery to see the David. It was amazing. I could not believe how tall the David was and how Michelangelo was able to make him continue to stand all these years later. I am definitely happy that I decided to go on the trip. We now were given an hour long lunch break. I ended up at a pizza shop were I go a piece of pizza with some vegetables on it. It only cost 2,70 euros and it was a super big piece. It also tasted great. After resting it was time to head out on our tour of the city.
The second we got to the meeting place for the tour it started to pour. Luckily I had my rain coat on but I wish I remembered to grab my umbrella from the bottom of my backpack. I ended up sharing one with the different people around me. Our tour guide decided to start the tour at places that were undercover. We were able to see the different architecture of the city, small road barely large enough for a car and we even saw a replica of the David. However, this replica was outside and because of its location in front of a very tall building it looked about half the size of the real David. I could not believe that they were both the same size but I guess our eyes can trick us. However, nothing I had seen today was as amazing as the scenery of our last stop. Ponte Vecchio. This is a bridge that houses the gold shops of Florence. However its location over the water next to yellow and orange apartments makes for an amazing view and pictures. After stopping for a photo shoot and to learn some history about the bridge it was time for a gelato break. Despite the fact that it was still raining, kinda windy, and cold because we were by water free food will always be accepted and this gelato was amazing. Just what we needed after walking all day.
After our gelato break it was time to part ways with our tour guide and gave us some free time. We headed to the bridge to look at the jewelry (it was all so beautiful but expensive) and then we slowly made our way back to the room weaving in and our of markets. There were so many leather bags and scarfs for sale. There was mass at the Duomo so while my friends all went to that I went into different stores that I encountered and then headed back to the room to get ready for dinner and warm up a bit. After dinner was one of Duquesne infamous multi course meals. I was so excited. Turns out my excitement wasn't well met. While the food was good the portions were tiny. They served the food family style, but only enough for the 6 people sharing to get about 5 noodles each. We did however, go through at least 15 bottles of water which since you have to pay for water in Italy, made up for the small portions of food. After dinner was over it was time to head back to the room before our day of exploring tomorrow.
Sunday February 5,
We have today to do whatever we want. Our train does not leave until 3:13 so we have a lot of time to get souvenirs. Our day starts out early at 8 am to get ready. Luckily, its still raining outside so I guess we will all be bundling up. We head out to breakfast before walking throughout the whole city. Our first stop was to head back to bridge so that one of the people in my group could buy a necklace. While she was buying a necklace I strolled up and down with another friend admiring all the jewelry and being stunned by some of the outrageous prices. afterwards we then admired the view some more before heading back to visit some markets. We ended up stopping on one market that had a lot of leather bags and scarfs. While some got bags, I headed over to the scarfs. I ended up purchasing one after negotiating with him to lower the price. Now I had something extra to protect me from the rain. While wandering into and out of different shops we eventually made it back to the Duomo. There, we ended up getting pizza to bring back to the place. After walking back trying to avoid as many puddles as possible, we finally made it. We sat down to eat our food which tasted amazing after walking so much. Despite walking around the city for a couple hours, we still had 2 hours before we needed to be at the train station. The train station is only a 5 minute walk so we don't have to leave too early.
The amount of walking finally caught up so we decided to take this time to relax and do some homework. Before we knew it it was time to head to the train. We get there and we are early so we stand around staring at the military officers with their huge machine guns. When our train finally gets into the station we board and choose our seats. This train, because it is a slow train, is situation with 4 seats facing each other. We all sit in our own row facing one other person. It was amazing because we were able to spread out and get comfortable for our 3.5 hour ride. I love when the trains not full!
Turns out the slow train is not slow just because of its speed but also because it had 12 stops between Florence and Rome. Luckily the train did not start to get full until 3 stops from home so I only had to share a seat with someone for about 30 minutes. The train ride was filled with homework, sleeping, and people watching as they got kicked off the train. Turns out they really will cook people off the train when they don't have a ticket. When we finally got to Rome we were so excited to get back. However, our train seemed to stop at the farthest track possible. It was at lest two full trial lengths until you reached the main platform. We were in Rome yet we were so far away from being back at campus. We still had the walk to the platform, metro ride, and bus ride before we were home. Luckily we had very good timing for the metro and bus so we barely had to wait. By the time we got to campus it was time to have dinner and I was starving. The night was then filled with showering and some homework before an early bedtime. Florence was an amazing trip and I am glad that I went on it. I cannot wait until next weekend for my trip to Assisi, Italy.
I'm Sabrina Kirsch a sophmore physical therapy student at Duquesne University. I will be spending the spring semester of 2017 in Rome, Italy where I will eat my way through all the gelato and pasta they offer. My goal is to see everything possible and visit as many countries as possible.