Five weeks of hanging out in Florence and relaxing has been an amazing reprieve from the crazy traveling I did at the beginning of the semester and that I am picking back up on this weekend as the semester comes to a close. Florence holds hundreds of treasures that can easily be overlooked when you are eager to travel to other countries and cities. Similar to New York City, if you get used to living there and into the routine of every day life, you forget sometimes to go out and see what is offered. One would think that being in Florence would alter that mindset, but there’s still schoolwork that needs to be done, days when you oversleep, or rainy weather to keep you inside, rather than out and discovering. Even living in a foreign country, life still becomes semi-routined.
A few weeks ago I trekked over to Palazzo Pitti to go to the Boboli Gardens. We have been to the costume gallery in Palazzo Pitti in class, but I had yet to travel into the expanse of lands beyond the palace that was once occupied by a wealthy family living there many years ago. It was a sunny day and a burst of extra warm weather, so I went with friends to see what the Boboli Gardens had to offer. We get in for free with our museum cards, which makes it easy to pop into places for just an hour or two if you don’t have the full day. The Boboli Gardens astounded me in just a few hours.
The expanse of well-manicured land complete with fountains, statues, and trails is gorgeous. Along the more traveled paths, it is elegant and incredibly maintained. It’s easy to imagine the Renaissance wealth that this family had who occupied this space. As you wander to the left or right, you come across small dirt paths, shielded by branches creating an awning over your head and shading you from the sun. It seems like a setting that you would find in a Taylor Swift music video as she treks through wooded areas with a gorgeous boy in tow—I mean I can imagine the guy will pop up, right? As we winded through the trails, simply picking left or right to determine which we direction we would go, I wish we had come a bit more prepared. Couples, friends, and families were laying on blankets, enjoying picnic lunches or reading while they relaxed in patches of sun or shade depending on preference. It was a setting you can barely come up with in your imagination, with views of Florence’s city center in one direction and the rolling hills beyond the city in another direction. A gem that’s well-known to tourists, yet amazingly hidden and not crowded even on a sunny Saturday, it was the perfect place to let my wanderlust ridden self explore.
Since setting foot in the Boboli Gardens, there has been about a week of rain and cloudy skies to keep me from heading back. Last weekend, we made the most of a cloudy day by first attended a tour of a hat factory set up by the school. For only ten euro, we met at the tram stop and traveled to a factory that has been family owned for four generations. We toured the factory and then made out own hats. An adorable man and business owner informed us that designers such as Chanel, Pucci, and Stella McCartney contact them first to inquire about high-end hats. He even told us that they created the well-known and now famous hat worn by the singer whose name he couldn’t remember… as we guessed who it might be with no luck, he finally pointed to a picture. Ohhhh. They made the Pharrell hat and this little Italian man didn’t even know Pharrell’s name. Only in Florence.
As we sat on the tram donning our newly made hats, we tried to come up with what we should do with the rest of our day, since the rain was holding up. With spontaneity that my usual, planned self didn’t even know existed, we headed to the train station and bought tickets for the next train to Lucca, a city within walls, just an hour and fifteen minutes outside of Florence. We missed the first train, had to wait in an exceptionally long line for train tickets, and then got fined for not validating the ticket prior to getting on the train (I thought you only had to validate bus tickets… talk about the feeling of misinformed American). By the time we pulled into Lucca we were literally running away from the train in relief that we actually made it to the destination. We rented bikes from the first shop we saw for just four euro and then rode on top of the city walls that enclose Lucca. The sun was setting and the sky was pink as we pedaled through yellow leaves that had fallen from the fall-colored trees. Florence has so few trees that we reveled in a fall atmosphere that reminded us of home. It was a beautiful evening with just the slightest chill in the air.
We biked and then spent a few hours walking around, before getting gelato, and enjoying a much more relaxed ride home (validation of tickets = no fine). It was a perfect day spent making perfect memories, similar to many of my days here in Italy. You don’t have to travel far, or at all, to see beauty here. As long as you’re open to looking, you’ll find it everywhere you go.