By: Zoe Bernardi, Columnist
Ciao! Welcome to the last reflection from Italy. By this time I have been sitting in my bedroom in New York for 12 days in quarantine. But, before this, I was soaking up my last few days in Florence. This is what happened.
The first step was to create a bucket list, Mica, Taylor, Gill and I all had things we wanted to do before leaving. This is what we came up with.
- Take the bus to Fiesole
- Go to a museum
- Play cards and have a picnic
- See the countryside
- Get mojitos from Foody Farm
- Use the rest of our food credits at the school cafe
- Go to Boboli Gardens
- Watch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo
- Have one last night out
- Enjoy being together
Brings us to where the week begins. Bri, Kassi, Lindsey, and Yuping had now left. It was the first weekend without them. The girls left were Gill, Taylor, Mica, Nicole, and I.
A good thing was that the past week the weather was grey and gloomy, raining and not very nice out. However this week the sun was out and it was warm. Walking around and being with my friends was the plan, to go to all the places in Florence that were on our list.
The easiest one on the list was #6 trying to use up the food credit at the school cafe. So while you are reading this article know that every day we went to the cafe and each got a coffee and a pastry. By the third day, the barista behind the counter recognized us and was able to know exactly what we wanted. Each day the cafe would be less and less busy. Fewer students coming in, and more going home.
#9 was what we tacked first, our one last hurrah as a group. It was Taylor, Gill, and I. Yet this night it was extremely different. As the majority of people had left the following week, the nightlife scene was dead. I think this was the first time I truly noticed how many study abroad students were in Florence. I didn’t know how many people lived in the city until they were gone. Plus those who were left all had flights home in the upcoming week.
Although we still had fun dancing around and enjoying the night. Something I always loved whenever my friends and I walked home after going out was how used to the city we were. Even our second state selves have memorized the city, we weren’t daunted by it anymore. Using the street lights and monuments to guide us home. Plus the normally heavily populated monuments were always so eerie in the night. Santa Croce is quiet, as its large piazza is empty and open. All around the Duomo is quiet too. The building seems so much bigger too.
A repeating thought throughout this week was how much more empty Florence became. Each day people left, fewer people walking around and more stores decided to not even open. It’s as if the magic of the city was gone. Although the sun was out, the people were not. The Duomo lacked its artist and tourist with their selfie sticks. The restaurants didn’t have the buzz of chatter when you walked by.
Taylor, Gill and I needed to explore, to visit the outskirts of Florence. So we did, we combined #1 and #4 and hopped on the bus and went to a suburb of Florence, called Fiesole. It’s about a 15-minute bus ride up into the mountains of Tuscany. From there we entered the lush, quiet countryside. Filled with gardens and flowers and not large buildings or crowded streets. We bought our tickets into the ancient Roman-inspired gardens. Spending the day laughing, snapping pictures, and reminiscing about the adventures we had. The day was light and fun, we didn’t dwell on leaving but just enjoying the present moments.
We ended the day sitting with other locals looking out watching the sunset. In Fiesole the houses are bigger, similar to a duplex, rather than tall apartments and little shops, the streets of Fiesole are residential. They have small public parks and a common downtown area. They also have beautiful outlooks. Looking out and up all you see is the pink and blue sky that is merging while the orange sunsets beyond the clear sky and behind the other set of mountains that surround Florence.
This day was special, it was just the three of us, enjoying being together and making our own stories. We went home after that and made dinner together. I always loved doing it with my roommates and listening to music and making dinner. Being able to share our days and what we did make the apartment feel like a home and my roommates and family. (not completing checking off #10, we still have more to do.)
Next was #7 Boboli Gardens. It is a very historic and famous garden in Florence, it’s a huge open park right in the middle of a city. It is connected to the Uffizi gallery, which is another very popular destination, as it is another famous museum. This also happened to be the furthest walk. Having to walk over the bridge and explore, on this adventure was Gill, Taylor, Mica.
However, to pause and fill in what was happening in Italy, all restaurants, bars, and public areas had to close at 6 pm. As well as all national museums, parks, and monuments were closed until April 3. Of course, we didn’t know that and walked the 45 minutes to Boboli Gardens and the Uffizi gallery to find it was closed.
So after finding that news, rather than being sad and walking home, we still had our picnic necessities. A large blanket, a speaker, a deck of cards and each other. So we decided to sit among others outside of the entrance. Laughing, listening to throwback music, playing cards, drinking Aperol spritz and begging the waiter from the cafe to give us more bar peanuts to snack on. So #7 kinda, we were on the property, but #3 was completed.
We sat there for a couple of hours, laughing and playing Go-Fish. After sunset, we packed up our belongings and started our trek home. Passing over the Ponte Vecchio looking over the Arno river. All of us are giddy and tipsy. We stopped and got one last picture from the day. I am still in awe of how deep blue and gorgeous the sky was. It balanced well with the golden lights that surrounded the city, and the moon was the brightest light.
We couldn’t help but smile as we all hugged each other. This is our Florence, and we get to share it, the final four.
Since the majority of the museums and major public areas in Florence and all of Italy were off-limits and closed until further notice, #2 was a tricky one to tackle. However, Taylor and I were able to find the loophole. The majority of fashion designers from Florence have their exhibits at their store locations. So after Taylor and I were able to stop by the school and grab a coffee we walked to the Salvador Ferragamo “sustainable fashion exhibit”. Crossing off #2 on the list.
On Taylor and Gill’s last day we decided to have a last supper of sorts. Since most places close at 6 we had a late lunch. Foody Farms is the best place to do so as well. Located by the river, and has wonderful outdoor seating. Plus we had to get mojitos, hello #5. The table was packed too, Mica, Stephany, Taylor, Gill, and Nicole. It was warm too, no jacket needed. We were there for a while too, laughing, sharing meals, ordering extra fries and sipping on our drinks.
Which brings us to one of the last days in Italy, and one last item to cross off the list. #8 go to the Piazza Michelangelo and watch the sunset. The suspects, Mica, Stephany and I. What we had: two bottles of wine and a perfect spot on the steps that separate the upper and lower levels of the piazza.
That night Coronavirus was declared a pandemic, and Italy shut down all public areas and only kept open grocery stores, pharmacies and the hospital. Mica and I spent the day packing up, watching movies and chatting together. The following morning I woke up at 3 am and took a taxi to the airport. My flight left at 7 am. By noon the same day, the Florence airport closed and didn’t allow any flights to enter or depart. I arrived home in New York at 6 pm on Friday.
Thank you, Florence for being my home for 8 weeks. Thank you to apartment 53 for all of the dancing, cooking, laughing, singing, late nights, early morning and everything in between. Thank you Yuping, Kassie, Lindsey, Bri, Gill, Taylor, Mica and Nicole for being the best people to spend my time with. I am so fortunate to have met all of you and have this experience to share with you. I adore all of you and I cannot wait for our reunion. Cheers to us and all of our lifetime friendships and shared moments.
I have no regrets from my trip, I am so lucky to have done what I did and so grateful for the people I got to share my days with. I am also very happy to be home in my house with my family. The past two weeks have been filled with so much reflection and processing. In the end, I said Ciao to Florence and hello to America.