My first weekend trip after arriving in my new home of Geneva was Florence. As per usual, I had very little to do with the planning of this expenditure. I am pretty sure some people were planning on going and then some more people jumped on the idea and the next thing you know, almost the entire crew was heading to Northern Italy. Three of the five guys headed to have a romantic weekend in Milan and Venice (I so desperately wanted them to take a canal ride together, but unfortunately they didn’t); two other girls went to Florence to visit a girl in their so-rawr-ity. And me? Well, I was in a crew rolling seven deep that was also heading to Florence.
I am not quite sure why, but Florence has never been on the top of my priority lists for Italy. When I was younger, I stayed in Rome for six weeks for an Opera and fell in love. I’ve always wanted to go to Milan for Fashion Week (which was the same weekend as this trip to Florence, but no one wanted to go to). Venice has been on my bucket list to see before it sinks. But Florence had never even crossed my mind until two of my friends studied abroad there. Both of them had loved it, and one of them had come back after having gorged herself on amazing Italian food a little plumper, inspiring her mother to starve her last summer.
Noting that last comment, one of the major highlights for both of them was the food. So I obviously had to get some recommendations. The first place I headed to after getting off the train from Geneva (well technically my train journey was Geneva>>Milan>>Florence) was to get some lunch. My friend told me about this sandwich shop that called All’Antico Vinaio. Sandwich place where you tell them what you want, AMAZING. huge line but so worth it, but also no seating, but still worth it. Cheap-around 7 euros for a huge sandwich and theres wine!
When we stumbled on this small hole-in-the-wall sandwich spot, it was packed with people. Going up to order, I realized I spoke absolutely no Italian and neither did anyone with me. I desperately asked them if they spoke English, and they said very little. So I just yelled, make me whatever is good! ANYTHING. Now, I’m still not quite sure what I was given that day. I think there might have been eggplant? Proscuitto? Some sort of sauce? I don’t know but it was AMAZING and served on this delicious and gigantic piece of foccacia bread. The four of us sat there, stuffing our mouths with the deliciousness. I was so in love with it, I kept eating far past being full and had to take a couple breaks so I wouldn’t vomit. I just couldn’t stop eating; it was so good! The one strange thing I noticed about this small hole-in-the-wall sandwich spot was that everyone around me was American. The family next to us was visiting their daughter who was studying abroad in Florence. And as we left, the entire line was comprised of American students around our age who didn’t seem to speak any more Italian than we did.
That night, we decided to go out. Our hostel hosted sangria pre-games, so we met up with the rest of our crew at that lovely social event. In case you aren’t aware, I am not the most social of people, especially when meeting random strangers. My theory is that I merely absorbed the phrase “Stranger Danger” a little too well. So I was not expecting good things from this sangria party, but I actually had fun. About half of the group was my crew (we were rolling eight deep that night after all) and the rest were primarily English speakers who knew how to play drinking games. Although the sangria probably had no alcohol, we also added some hard liqueur to the mix. All the Europeans were beyond impressed by Keith’s ability to take it to the face (even though I’m pretty sure I’m the only person from Colgate who can’t do that). Unfortunately, Keith might have been a little too aggressive because he poured rum all over the only pair of jeans I brought for the weekend.
When we made it out, we had no idea where we were going. We ended up finding the Ponte Vecchio and had a spitting contest, which I lost to such a horrible degree that I vowed right there and then never to spit again in my life (at least competitively). At this point it was 12o’clock, and the crew was pretty beat and wanted to go home. I was not down for this plan. The GSG crew had been pretty weak on the nightlife, especially for a study abroad semester, and I had been getting a little frustrated. So I proceeded to throw a small drunken tantrum at the two remaining players: Zoe and Keith. But we all decided that the three of us were determined to go out that night.
Unfortunately, we had no idea where we were and without 3G had no hope of finding anything. After wandering around for some time and almost giving up, we heard hope. We heard American college students. We knew that these kids were going exactly where we wanted to go (obviously a club, what else would they be wandering around looking like that at that time of night?), so we followed them. I was so worried they would see us that I was ducking behind cars and trying to keep at least a half block distance. Zoe and Keith didn’t find that spy tactic necessary.
Now, you are probably reading this and thinking that I am a straight crazy person. It was 1o’clock in the morning, and I was essentially stalking a group of American study abroad students. But before you go judging, it worked amazingly. It brought us to the club “21,” which my friend had even listed on her nightlife recommendations. The whole scene was pretty much like an American frat party with less alcohol on the floor, but even provided me with my elevated platform to dance on (it’s not a good party without elevated platforms after all). I had fun and Keith and Zoe apparently had an absolutely fucking mindblowing night because the next morning they dubbed it “the best club they had ever been to,” which I still find to be a hyperbolic statement.
I am still uncertain about how the three of us managed to find our hostel that night, since we are almost always the blind-followers in our travel groups. But somehow we stumbled onto the plaza right by our hostel. Of course, just finding our hostel and getting to bed would be too easy of a story. While in the plaza, these guys starting heckling us, and drunk Keith needed to fight them. There were five of them, one of him; let’s just say that was not a good idea. I literally had to attack him and bear hug him for a while so that he wouldn’t get the shit beat out of him. After we finally convinced him to go home, we got up to our hostel and couldn’t figure out how to open the door. We tried for like 20 minutes, until we went downstairs to call the hostel manager. He finally walked down the stairs, clearly having just woken up, and opened the door with ease. The next day, Alice also opened the door within 3 seconds. Clearly, the three of us cannot function by ourselves….but we did find a club!