2012 has been pretty incredible for me travel wise. I worked at the Final Four in New Orleans, went on a solo stay-cation in New England and New York City, and just, you know, went to Vegas with 59 former strangers for a long weekend. But I’ll always judge every weekend, every trip, every vacation by the London Standard.
During my junior year of college, I spent my spring semester in London. 3.5 months with some of my best friends, super cheap flights and three-day weekends. It was not a vacation by any means…I studied my tail off the last two weeks of the semester, dealt with epic homesickness and was a hot mess due to said homesickness at least once a week. But I learned so much about myself and my place in this giant, amazing world through traveling those weekends. One trip in particular stands out.
Just like our American counterparts, we had a one week spring break in March. My Notting Hill flatmates and I decided on highly ambitious itinerary of Barcelona, Venice and Florence (one country? BORRRRIIIIING). Three days in Barca, two days in the city of canals and three in Firenze. Flights from London to Barcelona, Barcelona to Venice via Rome (that got us to Venice after midnight…more on that later), train from Venice to Florence, and a final flight back to London. This does not include the multiple-bus-and-train odyssey that is the journey to Stansted Airport. Somehow, we managed to book all of these methods of transport and hostels in a few hours. Traveling teamwork FTW.
The three sun-splashed days in Spain remain etched in my brain as the most light-hearted and adventurous I’ve ever felt. Maybe it was being able to vaguely communicate in the native language (“De donde eres…el Museo de Arte? A la derecha! GRACIAS!”), or meandering through the streets stacked with inspiring architecture, or the sangria. The overall buzz I felt hasn’t been replicated in the four years since.
Our visit was capped off by staying out at a five-floor nightclub until five in the morning with some very attractive American strangers (visiting from their study abroad home in Florence, go figure). We had an afternoon flight to Venice, so NBD. Or so we thought.
Venice made me feel incredibly satisfied and tough-minded. One of the most unique destinations in the world threw us curveball after curveball, and we fouled off every single one until we got a pitch to hit. After sprinting to catch our connection in Rome, we landed without our bags, natch. Disheartened, we sauntered into a just-steady-enough-to-be-really-annoying rain, onto the “shuttle” to the city, which is actually a small, decrepit boat. It’s after midnight, and we stayed out till five the night before. YOLO, right? The boat ride is slightly haunting, swaying back and forth on water I can’t see; I’m freezing and unsure of how to get to the hotel once we get to the city. We get there, three female American tourists who don’t speak a lick of Italian, just after 1:30a, left to go to one hotel to get the key to go to our actual hostel. Without our bags. But we had RESOLVE. We retrieved the key, found the hostel, and eventually collapsed into bed. The rest of our time was pretty standard…church visiting, window shopping, gondola riding, the usual.
The highlight was getting our bags…I have never been so happy to have a duffel. I was ready to chug along to the next phase of our Euro adventure.
The hostel owners in Venice could not have been more lovely. They had packed us breakfast of packets of toast, to-go containers of Nutella, and other goodies, and sent us on our way to the boat, which would take us to the train, which would take us to Florence. The train ride through the countryside to Florence was spectacular…mountains and valleys and fields sped by as we half-slept in awe aboard the train car. Three-ish hours later, we found ourselves surrounded by sidewalks (hallelujah!) and steady traffic.
I had never been to Italy, but I had a vivid image in my head of what it would look like. Magnificent churches, stunning green hills, white stucco houses with red roofs, wooden tables in enormous kitchens surrounded by people laughing and drinking.
Florence is all of this and more.
It’s getting lost in the Boboli Gardens, pretending you’re in a storybook and the gardens are actually enchanted. It’s walking the Ponte Vecchio at a snail’s pace to look at the all the jewelry. It’s climbing to the top of the Piazzale Michaelangelo for one of the most stunning views you’ll ever see.
It’s pizza with the perfect crust, with wine first and espresso shots later. It’s a gelato sandwich at 2:30 in the morning, standing by the river, laughing at the sky, and marveling at how absurd your life is right now.
Nine days. Three cities. Countless moments. No trip has come close since.
This post was inspired by a prompt from Doniree Walker. Want to be inspired, too? Click here to for more details. Note: I’m an affiliate of Doniree’s, because I think she’s fantastic. I wouldn’t vouch for something that I didn’t think would help you, too