Florence was the first city I ever visited in Italy. For that, it’ll always hold a special place in my heart- but if we’re being honest here, I wasn’t much of a fan two years ago. It was my first time overseas, my first time traveling alone (unless you count New Orleans), I stayed way too far out of the way, and I had no clue how to navigate a city. The experience was a little overwhelming; after an evening I decided to take a day trip to tiny nearby Lucca and then went to the Cinque Terre for the rest of my visit. On my final night I stayed one more evening in Florence to get to the airport the next morning (which ended up being an ordeal in and of itself- I have way more crazy taxi stories than any 21 year old ever should) I just ate cereal in my apartment because I was overwhelmed and, in all truthfulness, cities just aren’t my thing. This time, though, Florence felt completely different. Maybe part of it is I have more practice with navigating cities; in the two years that have passed, I’ve figured my way around lots of them across 7 different countries. I’ll think I’ll always prefer small towns and villages because it’s just my personality, but by now I’ve grown to appreciate the excitement and culture that cities have to offer. Also, seeing other places made me realize just how unique Florence really is- it’s the coziest city I’ve ever been to.
And this time, it was the people that I met that made my Florence visit so noteworthy- people who are good hearted, passionate, and care about helping others and bettering the world around them. On my first evening, I got to sit down and talk with the artist who founded a really wonderful international arts school in Florence. The next day got to talk to an incredible nun who is the caretaker of a historic cemetery and does amazing work helping those who are most in need.
I really don’t have to describe why Florence is such a wonderful place, especially for artists- its rich culture and history aren’t exactly a secret. This time around, I was in awe the entire time I was there. Florence has become my favorite city in Italy… I think I’m going to be spending a lot more time here.
And of course, since Florence is so close to the Cinque Terre, I couldn’t resist spending a little time in my other Italian favorite. This place is pretty different in January- the weather isn’t always ideal, and most places are closed. But there are absolutely no crowds; you have the trails and the harbor and the wonderful rugged charm all to yourself when you come in the dead of winter. I wasn’t here for long, but the time I did have was lovely, as it involved a beautiful hike, pesto pizza, reading, journaling, and gelato for breakfast one morning. I mean, when in Italy…