An American Girl in London

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Emily Chudzik, Staff Writer

Last week, I left off on my time in Rome, Italy for fall break. Since then, I have taken a train to the gorgeous city of Florence to spend three days of fun and adventure.

It took an extra day for me to truly fall in love with Florence, because the first day was incredibly hectic. For starters, I was on a different train car than my four companions, so I really had to be aware of when our stop was. When we arrived at the station, I was able to get off right away, so I waited for my friends on the platform. After five minutes passed and they didn’t show up, I started to panic. Did they not know we had to get off here? I ran the length of the entire platform with my baggage in tow to try and find them. When I finally spotted them, they were trying desperately to get off the train while other people were trying to shove their way on. Thankfully, they got off before it left for Venice. We definitely avoided a major crisis there.

The second pain of the day was trying to find where our Airbnb was. It took us over an hour to find it. Walking around with rolling luggage on uneven cobblestones while trying to navigate our way around a city we’ve only been in for a few hours was not easy. We did eventually find it, and it was such a cute place. Our host was also very nice.

After getting settled, we went back into the city center to explore and get dinner. We were having a great time and were out for a few hours. We finally got to a bus station around 9:15 p.m. and waited for it to come… But it never did. We asked some people walking down the street if they knew anything about the buses and discovered that the public transport in Florence stopped at 8:00 p.m. I could hardly believe it. So, that’s when the third trial began, and we had to find our way home. Naturally, it started to downpour on our walk back. We walked along the Arno River, which was really pretty at night with all the glowing street lamps. After finally embracing the rain instead of avoiding it, this last annoyance actually became quite fun.

It’s amazing how an opinion or experience can change almost instantly. After that first day, I thought I wasn’t going to like Florence as much as I liked Rome. That all changed the next day when we went to the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, or Il Duomo di Firenze. I was especially excited to see the cathedral, because this was one of the sites that Professor Robert Langdon visited in Inferno, the latest installment of the Da Vinci Code series. This church had the most beautiful exterior I have ever seen, and the red dome was stunning. We climbed up both the bell tower and up to the dome of the church. There were over 400 stairs in each, and they were steep, narrow staircases with no hand rails. There was also only one stairway, so people were going up and down on the same one. It certainly added an element of anxiety and adrenaline to the experience.

I can hardly describe the feeling I got when I made it to the top of the bell tower. The view was incredible! The entire city of Florence was visible, as well as the mountains in the distance. We were also at the same level as the dome, which was really cool. I felt so at peace above the noise of the city, and it was nice to just observe the buildings. Climbing to the top of the dome was really neat, too. It didn’t have any safety grates like the bell tower, so I was able to look out at the city without any obstructions. It was certainly a moment I will never forget.

The next day, we had more experiences with spectacular views. We visited the Boboli Gardens and saw the picturesque hillsides of Florence. Even the clouds looked like they came from a painting. We also hiked up to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset. It overlooked the city from a distance, and I could see Il Duomo in the center. The sunset was magical. The colors were so vibrant and the view was unbeatable.

I started off skeptical of Florence, but I truly grew to love it. I was sad to leave, but excited to get to our final stop: Venice. But that’s a story for another day.