Today was an awesome day! I went alone to Florence on the train this morning at 11 AM and I went to the same train station that I went to when I came to Florence two years ago. I recognized the station and walked out along the street in the direction of the Duomo. It was an absolutely beautiful day, chilly but bright with sunshine, and I walked along in the pretty atmosphere.
I had planned on just going to the Uffizi Gallery and then leaving, but the museum took much less time than I had thought it would. I was in awe of all of the works of art, that I had seen in books and posters and talked about in tons of classes, right there in front of me, just behind the glass. I could walk up and basically put my face onto the paintings by Carevaggio, Michaelangelo, and Giotto, some of the greatest painters that the world has ever known. I saw the Venus of Urbino and the Holy Family (by Michaelangelo).
It was incredible to be so close to the great works of art, and there were also original statues from Roman times, of Julius Cesar and Augustus and Cicero. It was crazy to have them staring back at me!! I liked walking around by myself and moving however I wanted to, and not having to wait for anyone or anything.
After the Uffizi, I went for a walk in the sunshine on Ponte Vecchio. It was way more beautiful than I thought it would have been. The Arno river is a really cool color of greenish-white-blue, which I think is from is absorbing minerals in the mountains. I walked along the river to Santa Croce, which is the church where Michaelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli are buried! What a day of being close to history’s giants!
After the church, I walked back to the main square and from there to one of the markets in the city that I had passed earlier. I bought myself a pretty necklace and then I found the most perfect Venetian Carnevale mask ever. It is beautiful and blue and sparkly, with jingle bells.
After that, I still had an hour and a half until the train left for Ferrara, so I just went on a walk though the city and wandered into and out of the many very very fashionable stores all around the city center. I went and got a caffe and a bottle of San Pellegrino at a café right next to the Duomo. Then I went back to the station and got onto my train to Ferrara, and was back in time for dinner.
An interesting phenomenon began today. As I was walking around in Firenze, four separate times someone walked up to me and asked me for directions in Italian! I think I must have looked like I knew where I was going, and I must have dressed appropriately for the city because people mistook me for a citizen. I’m not sure what that means in practice, since I tend to think that I look very not-Italian. Either way, it was really exciting to have Italians asking me for help!
Another interesting thing that I noticed today was that I was not singled out as an American by the multitudes of foreign tourists in the city. It was actually kind of off-putting to hear English spoken in such thick American accents…I purposely said very little so that I wouldn’t be identified as one of them. It was very weird to feel like I was a foreigner to people of my our nationality, and made me feel slightly like I am floating around through space without a country or a home. Then again as soon as I got back to Ferrara I felt at home.
Over the last week I’ve seen some really interesting things about Italian culture. This country lives in a constant and open state of contradiction and juxtaposition, and I appreciate and hate it in the exact same moment.
-On Friday, I saw one of the most pregnant women I have ever seen in my life load her one year old son into a bike seat and take off across the cobblestones on her bici. I am terrified of riding on main streets here sometimes (though I am slowly losing my fear of cars and getting more confident on my bike, which by the way literally has no brakes anymore because they broke off in my hand yesterday morning. I use my right foot to stop. Have you ever seen a “hot foot” in a cartoon where someone is dragging their feet along the ground? Yeah, that actually happens.)
-About two hours after Fearless Pregnant Woman, I saw a grown man walking arm in arm with his girlfriend and wearing UGG BOOTS tucked with his jeans tucked into them. They were exactly like the ones girls wear in the States, and they matched his fur-lined jacket. This is why Gay-Dar (Gay Radar) does not work in Italy.
-On the sides of the highways there are pit stops with trashcans. These are empty, and the trash is all around them, not in them. Italy isn’t exactly a “green” country yet.
-There are a million stores in Ferrara that would never make it in the States. For example, a specialty lightbulb store.
-Italy drinks more bottled water per capita than any nation in the world, and yet they do not recycle plastic. Bottles are everywhere!!
I like that Italy is a constant, open contradiction. Thank you for all the letters everyone!! I an happy to have you all!