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Report 454: Florence On My Own: Three Weeks of Studying Italian and Very Slow Travel

By Marian from New Jersey, Spring 2004

Trip Description: May 5-26 2004. Three weeks in Florence, staying in an apartment in the Oltr'arno and studying Italian at the Centro Koine.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Florence

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Attended GTG; Language Classes; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; Single Traveler

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Page 1 of 21: Before I begin talking about my time in Florence, Iíll say a few words

Wednesday 5 May: Today is the day I begin my long-awaited ďFlorence for Three Weeks in May.Ē Iím particularly excited because this vacation promises to be different for me. I love to travel but since my husband Frank died in March 1997, I've been trying to figure out the best way to do it.

My instinct is always to go it alone, and this is what I do, mostly. In October 1997, I spend ten days in Paris on my own, just to get away from all that is weighing me down. My French is quite good, and Iíve been there at least four times before and so donít care if I spend the whole time sitting on a bench and crying. I stay at a lovely hotel, see the Paris Opera Ballet, and have a fairly decent time.

I twice try traveling to Europe with friends. First I go with a good friend from school. We get along fine, and she is an interesting travel companion. But she does not really enjoy some of the same things I do, among them people watching, or having an early-evening drink. So for me, something is missing from this vacation. And I have the luxury of being able to travel in the late spring and early fall, which she does not. (Iím happy to say we remain friends.)

About a year later, I travel with a woman Iíve known for ages, who has been on her own much longer than I have. But she is dependent beyond my wildest imagination! Although I am quite clear in advance that we will not be spending all our time together, she will not even go down to breakfast by herself! So I canít wait for the vacation to be over.

So I plan on my own. One summer, I volunteer on an archaeological dig at Megiddo in Israel (the site of many biblical battles, and also the site of Armageddon in Revelations). This is fun, and there is a great feeling of camaraderie. But we work very hard, outdoors in near 100į F temperatures. And you really only want to do this once!

Twice I join organized walking tours in Italy, which has become my favorite country. The first tour, in Tuscany through a US company, was wonderful --- great scenery, food, hotels and (especially important to me) friendly people. But these trips are very expensive. So I try a slightly less costly trip with a British group. Less said about my travel companions the better!

Then last May, after a walking tour to the Maremma that Iíve signed on for is cancelled, I decide that, rather than cancelling the vacation I will try Florence on my own. (I've been to Florence three times previously, in 1964 (solo), 1968 (honeymoon) and October 2000 (solo). I spend a pleasant 10 days at a charming hotel. And I am not too lonely, but this business of always eating alone gets to be a drag.

Meanwhile, I discover the SlowTrav message board and website! Can this be the best of both worlds? With advice from people on the board, this time I book my tickets, rent an apartment and sign up for two weeks of Italian class. Best of all, I have the promise of dinners and lunches with SlowTrav friends, people to share my travel experiences!

So the adventure is to start today. (And this year, unlike last year, I have not started by losing my passport!) My daughter drives me to Newark Airport, less than a half-hour from home. We kiss goodbye, I check my luggage, my flight leaves on time. I do not spill too much food on myself. I make my connecting flight in Paris. Itís beginning!

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