"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Friday, March 25, 2016

Florence, Week #10: In Which I Ride a Carousel, Get Serenaded by a Professor, and Have a Perfect Last Day in Florence

Veiw from the Bardini Gardens
 Summing up my last week in Florence is going to be difficult. We did so much with so little time: we saw Michelangelo’s David, said our thank-yous and goodbyes to professors, host parents, and the students on our program who are not going on the London part of the program, wrote papers and took final exams, and tried to fit everything else that we hadn’t yet experienced in Florence into the cracks. While it was an emotional week, it was also made me more aware than ever of the wonderful opportunity I’ve been given to live and study in this beautiful city, in this beautiful country.

On Monday night my friends and I fulfilled a bucket list item that we’ve had since the beginning of the program: ride the carousel in Piazza della Republica. We must have walked by it countless times, but we didn’t get a change to ride it until our last week in Florence. We paid our two euros to the bored teenager at the ticket booth. It must have been around 10:30 at night, and we were the only ones crazy enough to be out on this drizzly Monday night. Let me just say this: it was a magical experience. I forgot how much I love carousels. Yes, they go slow and they’re kind of anti-climactic as far as rides go, but there’s something beautiful about being on a bright, spinning platform, riding brightly colored animals, the likes of which you will never see in real life. It’s almost as though, for those few moments, you’ve entered some of kind of fairy tale. They’re definitely best at night, when you can’t see the judgmental stares of people wondering why a bunch of twenty-somethings are laughing hysterically on a carousel. Afterward, we wandered back towards our houses, past the Duomo, lit from below. There are some parts of me that like Florence best at night.

One Tuesday we visited the Galleria del Academia to finally catch a glimpse of Michelangelo’s David. The statue is monumentally impressive in real life, and I don’t think you understand just how large it is until you see it in person. The strange proportions of the hands also make more sense when you’re standing under it, looking up. Considering that Michelangelo was given a defective piece of marble in order to craft this statue, makes it even more incredible.

On Wednesday we had our final dinner and reception at the art studio. Students, professors, and host parents were all invited and we stood around drinking champagne and admiring the art we completed throughout the semester. Seeing as I haven’t taken a drawing class since freshman year of high school, I’m honestly amazed that mine didn’t look terrible next to some of the more experienced students. The best part of the evening, by far, was the moment when our opera professor (I wasn’t in his class, but I’ve had conversations with him several times) got down on one knee and serenaded our two program directors, Jodie and Rosita. It was beautiful and a little dramatic and unexpected, and it was the best thing that happened all night. Then came the cascade of thanking, congratulating, and tears. Jodie and Rosita are the life of the Florence program. We call them Mom and Dad, and Jodita, for short. The amount of work, patience, and joy they bring to their work is truly inspirational, and I'm going to miss being able to say hi whenever I pass their office.

I spent my last full day in Florence by myself, because most of my friends had either already left for spring break, or their family members were visiting. That's not the say I was lonely: on the contrary, a quiet day wandering the city I love was exactly what I needed. I started by heading to a coffee shop I'd heard about called Ditta Artigianale. It was a nice mix of Italians and other Europeans and they serve blueberry pancakes and chai lattes which was all the persuading I needed to check it out. 

Breakfast of champions

After breakfast I headed to the Bardini Gardens, which are similar to the Boboli, but smaller and with a better view of the city. I bought my ticket and actually understood the woman behind the front desk when she gave me directions in Italian. The Bardini was peaceful and beautiful, if a little sparse. Apparently, in the spring, the covered archway blooms purple, and you can stroll under a canopy of flowers. I stopped for a few moments to sketch the view from the overlook point, and then made my way to the Boboli. I know, I visited the Boboli last week, but can you really spend too much time in a garden? It was just as gorgeous as ever and this time I checked out the costume exhibit in the Palazzo Pitti, which had elaborate dresses from several different eras, and even the fragments of renaissance clothing! I then retired to my favorite coffee shop in Florence, La Cite, for an afternoon pick me up. Here are some gems from that day: 

Thing to do in a garden: take selfies with the statues

La Cite

This is my favorite place to get pastries and pizza-by-the-slice in Florence. Oh, and they serve fresh donuts daily at 4pm.

After lots of letter-writing and people-watching I made plans to meet up with my friend and her parents at Piazzale Michelangelo, the best place to watch the sunset in Florence. The sky certainly put on a show.

What can I say about Florence, to sum it up? It's a city that feels like it's trapped under glass, a relic of the renaissance. I'm finishing this post miles away in my London flat, in a city that is in some ways Florence's opposite. London feels like it could change at any second- there's just so much going on. Florence is a fairy tale city, old and a bit worn but still pulsing with whatever magic made it the birthplace of the renaissance. And if the city is still and ancient, the people are vibrant and joyous. I've learned so much about how to live here: how to laugh and savor and appreciate. I'm not usually one for nostalgia, but I do believe that we leave pieces of ourselves in all the places we've ever lived. Cities are living, breathing reflections of the life that inhabits them, and I feel so, so honored to have been part of Florence's reflection, if only for a little while.

Ciao for now, but not forever!

1 comment:

  1. Hello! I just discovered your blog, and it is lovely! I really love reading about your time abroad. I hope you have a wonderful day!