Two things I have to thank this week: God’s timing and my taste buds.
Guide to Florence
My tastebuds will forever be disappointed for the rest of their lives. I did them an injustice. The food in Italy is not real. It is unreal. It can not be real. I feel as though pasta has been a lie my whole life. I know I sound like that girl, but guys, eating pasta in Italy changed me. LOL.
Ryanair seems to be the advertised way to go for a broke bitch, so this weekend I lost my Ryanair virginity to fly into Pisa. PRO TIP: Check-in within 48 hours of your flight or risk the loss of 55 euros at the gate. These cheap airlines get you with the stupidest things. Was not a hot way to start my trip, but a mistake that will never be made again.
Upon arrival, my globally unaware self did not know the Coronavirus was tiptoeing its way into Italy. Me and Katie were welcomed to Pisa by medics in hazmat suits and latex gloves, taking our temperature. Again, little did we know we were about to walk into the HUB of Coronavirus. We were just confused tourists.
I wish I had more to say about Pisa. It is a cute town in the north of Italy. We were only here for about an hour, enough time to go see the Leaning Tower and all that surrounds it. Italy has probably the worst public transportation to navigate and even worse, NO UBERS. Getting to the tower from the airport was a pain, but the views and pictures buried the frustration.
Florence Things to Do:
Gucci Garden: Gucci gang gucci gang gucci gang. Free for students! Really trendy exhibit in the heart of Florence. The museum is dedicated to more iconic, Gucci pieces. Interesting to see the evolution of the brand and the artwork it coincides with. Fashion is an art of its own. If you are a Gucci lover, welcome to your paradise.
Ponte Vecchio: The oldest bridge in Florence that decorates the Arno river. I wish I knew more about Italian history because this bridge undoubtedly had more of a role than just being beautiful. The bridge connects two parts of the city together and is lined by river-side shops, many selling authentic leather. Great for photos, lounging and taking in the views of Florence.
Off of Ponte Vecchio, there is a line of high-end jewelry shops native to the area. I fell in love with an emerald ring (my birthstone) surrounded by diamonds. Once I learned it was 10k, I had to walk away. A fun area to check out and manifest a life of making money and treating yourself. This is where my future husband WILL buy my engagement ring—or Tiffany’s.
Duomo: My home girl Ciara loves this baby, and rightfully so. The Duomo is the first thing you’ll walk by when you arrive to Italy and it is the first thing to really hype you up. This bad boy sparked the Renaissance and influenced painters and engineers all across Italy. The plaza also had a chocolate fair this weekend. Cannolis and chocolate covered strawberries for the win.
Mandani: A leather shop. The woman who owns this store could not be cuter if she tried. She makes these custom leather bracelets that I could not leave without.
Rooftop Bars: For an amazing view of Ponte Vecchio, go enjoy an incredibly expensive drink at the Westin. You will definitely see God’s beauty. It’s in the sunset and the aperol spritz.
For Duomo rooftop views, check out either View on Art or La Terrazza.
Mercato San Lorenzo: A leather market! So many cute bags to choose from many different vendors who have their own personal shops in Florence. It is an open street market so it is not an enclosed edifice. Bags are hung and propped on stands for your viewing pleasure. Definitely leave with a piece of leather from Florence.
Florence has just about any luxury brand designer you could envision. Yes, I left this country with the tiffany heart-tag necklace. Just a little piece of empowerment. Buy yourself the jewelry, always have your own back.
Places to Eat
MAMMA FREAKIN MIA.
La Buchetta: Service amazing. I had the best meal of my life here, called the Angel and Devil gnocchi. Holy amazeballs. My mouth is watering. Also, two-words: MOZZARELLA TASTING. Get this appetizer and try the four types of mozzarella native to Italy. Bufala is my new favorite.
Gusto Pizza: The highest rated pizza you can get in Florence. Only 8 euros for a pie!! The line is always bumpin. Each pizza is made to order and you can watch the whole brick-oven, dough-tossin experience while you wait.
Trattoria Zá Zá: Make a reservation for here pronto, but just know that it will not be honored. Everyone and their mother wants to eat here. I swear I thought I was in the middle of a boxing ring standing outside. Everyone screaming about how many people they need. It lives up to the hype. The menu is extensive, the food is wow and the house wine is only 6 euros for a whole bottle. So, I had a field day. I got the ravioli in truffle sauce. 10/10.
Pino’s Sandwich Shop: The guy who owns this place is just the man. The sandwiches are incredible, too. All I wanted in italy was a prosciutto, pesto, mozzarella and tomato panini. It hit the spot.
La Ménagére: A really trendy, large café. The menus were newspapers. Looked like it used to be a factory of some-sort. Really highly recommended by other students studying in Italy.
Vivoli: BEST GELATO EVER. That is all. Ask for the recommended. It’s this chocolate hazelnut piece-of-heaven in a cup.
Venchi: Another amazing chocolate and gelato shop. I got a crépe that tasted exactly like my nana’s. Yet to find anything else that has come close.
Florence Dance for Kids
Every year, Penn State runs the largest student-ran philanthropy to fight childhood cancer. This year, a THON-related abroad event was created for the first time in school history and was set in Florence. Me and Katie had to be there. Was definitely hard being away for THON, but seeing the outreach of the citizens in Florence who wanted to help was both so humbling and moving. I really want to be more involved next year with THON and really give this organization all I have senior year. Manifesting a captain position!!
I left Florence with a full heart, full stomach and a sore throat. Unrelated to the coronavirus, but has my program director freaking out. I feel especially horrible for all the programs being cancelled in this city. Sending love.