Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 679: A Student in Florence
By colleenk from MA, Spring 2004
Trip Description: I spent 17 days in Florence studying Italian at the Koine school for two weeks and then soaking up the beauty and culture of this fabulous city. This trip report has been edited from my blog.
Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Florence, Tuscany
Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Attended GTG; Day Tours; Foodie Trip; Garden Visits; Language Classes; Shopping; Sightseeing; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; Single Traveler
Page 1 of 16: Background
Florence from Piazza Michelangelo
Warning: This trip report is long as it was originally written as a blog and is also a personal journey of my adventure. The tenses also change from present to past, depending on whether it was written from Florence or from home in Cambridge, MA.
On April 22, 2004 I began my solo adventure in Florence to study Italian at the Koine school for 2 weeks and soak up the beauty and culture of this fabulous city. It was my first trip to Europe by myself and I was nervous and excited at the same time. Truthfully, my biggest concern was my very poor map reading skills and my propensity for getting lost. That's one of the reasons I chose Florence, I mean with the Duomo as a landmark how lost can I get? Fortunately, my B&B, the Tourist House Ghiberti, and the Koine school were near the Duomo.
My love affair with Italy began in earnest in April of 2000 when I went to Rome, Florence and Venice with my husband and 2 teenagers during April vacation week. We had been to Italy 23 years before as a very small part of a budget 6-week honeymoon trip, but it wasn’t until this family trip that I became truly hooked. After that amazing trip, I was determined to return to see more of Tuscany and any other part of Italy that I could convince my husband to see. I had done a fair amount of research for that 2000 trip to Italy but now I became obsessive. I managed to convince 3 other couples to rent a villa in Tuscany to celebrate my 50th birthday and 25th wedding anniversary in September of 2002. We rented a beautiful villa outside of Siena called Il Casello, rented through Homebase Abroad. It was spectacular (see my review on Slow Travel) and had another fabulous vacation in Bella Italia.
Back in the States, I found myself pining for Italy and plotting a return as soon as I could. My villa housemates had such a great time that we tentatively planned a trip to Umbria the following fall. I didn't think I could wait until then. So when a great Auto Europe package to Rome popped up for an early June trip (2003), I was chomping at the bit. My husband takes a windsurfing trip every May so he couldn't take more time off from work. I literally leafed through my address book until I found a friend who would go with me on those dates! So it was off to Rome for 5 nights and Orvieto for 2 nights. We rented an OK apartment, Reginella 2, from the company Underground Viaggi, and in Orvieto stayed at the wonderful Locanda Rosati. It was a fabulous trip, dampened a bit by the heat wave.
When I returned to regale my friends with the wonders of this trip to Italy, they were appreciative but all think I am over the top about Italy. At any rate, 2 of the couples decided that they couldn't afford another trip to Italy in the fall of 2004 - so there goes the Umbria trip until 2005. Wait until 2005?! I would have to find a way to feed my Italy habit before then!
So the germ of an idea begins. My husband had stated in the past that if I could learn enough of the Italian language to do all of the communicating and sign reading, then he might be inclined to go to Italy more often. So, I began researching Italian language schools in Italy. If I am going to go through the pain of trying to learn a new language, which by the way I have absolutely no talent for, then it might as well be in my beloved Italy right? Also being well immersed in the Catholic guilt thing, I needed to think of a way to go to Italy that had a purpose other than pleasure to diffuse any family/friends tongue wagging of going to Italy for 17 days without my husband! Actually, he would have been more than welcome to come and I knew I would really miss sharing the delights of Florence with him - but a girl's gotta do what she's gotta do. I did plan the trip to coincide with his windsurfing trip for part of the time so it didn't seem quite so selfish. And truly if he was with me, it would have been too easy to slip back into English all the time. I hoped that being by myself would force me to use the language more.
Whew! That was a lot of background! So in preparation for this trip I took an Italian course at a community adult education center. The second semester, the class was all in Italian and it was one the most difficult things I had done to date. OK, maybe not the most difficult, testifying at the State House for a nurse practioner reimbursement bill was pretty terrifying, and taking a course in statistics to gain entrance to graduate school was right up there! But I really did feel dumb. I could catch the essence of what's being said but it was tough.
This would also be also first time I would be in one place in Italy for an extended period of time and I was really so looking forward to really getting to "know" Florence in a slow travel mode. Another reason I chose Florence was the extraordinary amount of art, museums, shops, ceramics, fabulous restaurants and it's accessibility to other towns in Tuscany. Some of my friends thought I was brave to travel by myself for over 2 weeks and sometimes I was a little nervous. But the thought of not having to consider anyone else’s desires but mine in a city I love sounded pretty appealing to me! Especially the shopping without a bored spouse or child making you feel rushed.
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