Admittedly, I am not the world’s most organized traveller. This semester’s causalities have ranged from booking an apartment much farther than anticipated from Amsterdam’s city center (I got a little overeager looking at Airbnb photos…) to leaving behind my only European converter, my wallet (twice) and laptop (once, and both valuables were promptly recovered. Sadly, the converter was not. I like to think it served some other traveller well). Too lazy to research my destinations or plan itineraries in advance, I “adventured” around Bruges and Amsterdam, which resulted in me wandering to McDonalds every few hours so I could use Free WiFi to figure out where to go next. But, it also let me stumble upon all the stuff that’s in the guidebooks on my own and feel like I’d discovered it myself, which was pretty thrilling.
Despite this questionable method of trip planning—if you can even call it that—everything has seemed to work itself out for me so far (knock on wood). This was the logic that led me to believe I could book a ticket to Florence, Italy, and not bother looking into accommodations. My parents were set to arrive there the Saturday morning of my Spring Break and our hotel would be ready by that afternoon, but it was significantly cheaper for me to fly out Friday morning instead.
“I have, like, six friends studying abroad in Florence, Mom,” I insisted. “Don’t worry about it, I’m sure I can stay with one of them Friday night.” This line placated both her and myself, so much so that it took me until two days before my flight to actually ask any of said friends if they could house me. Naturally, everyone was off to the South of France or Croatia or Cinque Terre for the weekend. Classic study abroad students.
I nonchalantly appealed to my mom in an email: “Homeless in Florence tomorrow night. Help?”
By some miracle, one of my mom’s friends generously offered to let me stay with his son, who is studying in Florence. Hesitant to impose but eager not to wander the streets until my parents arrived the next day, I took him up on the offer. This was figured out between the hours of 7pm Thursday and 2am Friday, when I simultaneously attempted to pack and arrange the meet-up (before my 6am departure for Orly…do you see what I mean about the whole not-so-organized thing?).
When I eventually found my way to the Santa Maria Novella Train Station in Florence, the son (aka my savior, aka Damon) was waiting for me in an orange t-shirt, just like he’d promised. Much to my mother’s dismay, it was not love at first sight, but it was definitely relief and I could tell immediately that everything had worked out better than I could’ve expected.
After crossing the entire city on foot to get to his apartment (which took approximately the same amount of time as my commute on the metro does), we set out to get me some pizza and gelato. En route, we ran into a group of his friends on their way to lunch (it quickly became apparent that in Florence, one regularly runs into all sorts of acquaintances/friends/colleagues etc.,) and decided to forgo pizza to grab food with them instead. Ten minutes later, I’d made five new friends and was happily seated on a curb sipping on two euro house wine (TWO EUROS) and eating a caprese and prosciutto sandwich on focaccia bread that was twice the size of my face (and only FIVE EUROS. The quality and cost of Italy’s food is definitely something France should work to emulate. Soon. Especially the cost part).
The sunshine and the wine left me buzzing with happiness. When the temperature neared 80 degrees, we left to meet up with another group of his friends at the Boboli Gardens. Hidden and unassuming from the entrance, the gardens stretch for nearly eleven acres behind the walls of the Palazzo di Pitti. We walked through them unhurriedly, me laughing each time one of Damon’s friends asked how we knew each other: “We don’t!” Eventually, we got tired of explaining the situation, and began to tell increasingly elaborate tales of how we’d met. As we tried to explain straight-faced that he’d rescued me when my parachute broke while skydiving, I nearly lost it because of the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. My procrastination, while not always productive, had led me to being toured around a garden in Florence by ten American boys that I’d just met. I’m not exactly sure if I should advocate being as irresponsible as I occasionally am, but spontaneity and an open mind can lead to a host of experiences that itineraries and guidebooks can’t. Just my deux centimes.
The gorgeous Boboli Gardens:
Ciao for now,