Published: December 15th 2011October 31st 2011
The 20hr journey to Italy for a four-day weekend was definitely worth the hardship of travel, but it was a little more difficult to overlook the mountain of cash I parted with to do so. The destination was Florence, to visit some friends from home who are studying abroad there through a different program at my college in Buffalo, NY. Since it is far beyond my budget to fly out of the small airport closest to where I live, in Oviedo, Spain, I have to take a 5-7 hour bus ride (5 hours during the day or a 7 hours overnight) to Madrid every time I want to travel internationally. After paying for the round trip bus ride, the round trip flight, and the taxi into the Florence city center from the airport (which could have be avoided by bothering to figure out bus schedule), I am starting to realize that European travel is nowhere near as cheap as I have been told by people who clearly didn’t travel on the tight schedule I am kept on by my classes.
Having your first-time Italian experience in Florence is a whirlwind of Italian stereotypes. Gelato, pizza, pasta, cobblestone streets,
marble sculptures, gondolas, and vending machine-espresso- all in the first day. I was thrown into the ‘touristy’ Italy, a fantasy ideal that we in the U.S. are force-fed via Hollywood movies such as ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ and ‘My House in Umbria’. Florence is known to hard-core travelers as a theme park city; far too overrun with camera-laden gawkers to be enjoyed by a proper globetrotter seeking a cultural epiphany.
Fortunately I let no such arrogance stop me from having fun. From the first step off the plane, the smile never left my face (except when stuffing delicious food and plentiful drink into my mouth). The first night was blurry but unforgettable, as my hosts took me from pubs to clubs until the small hours of the morning. We started at an Irish pub named The Lion’s Fountain, which housed a surprisingly large amount of Americans, but as I was only in Florence for the weekend and speak no Italian, this was just fine with me. We ended the night at a crowded club, which I later found out was owned by an ex-pat originally from Chicago. My single complaint of the night was the high prices
of drinks. I thought 5 euro for a pint of mediocre lager was excessive, especially compared to the 2 euro tochas
(1.5L) that I get at a go-to café in Oviedo.
The rest of the weekend was spent wandering the streets of Florence or relaxing in the cozy apartment that had immediately felt extremely homey. Overall, Florence was a beautiful city full of Italian things where even the most under traveled American can feel comfortable. The food is familiar, the Italians are friendly, and there are fellow English speakers around every corner. There is even an American football bar serving wings and fries where we got to watch the Bills stomp the Washington Redskins. Although the surrounding Tuscan countryside is a must-see, for someone looking to stay off the beaten path, Florence could probably be left off the itinerary. I enjoyed my stay all the same.
There are more photos below