Florence, the birthplace of the renaissance, was my first taste of Italy and I was starry eyed from the moment we arrived. As with France, I came to the country with preconceived ideas of what to expect.
I knew that we were heading into a warm culture, and I expected to be surrounded by people who would be the equivalent of a warm grandmotherly hug. While some of my ideas were on, I hadn't factored in that I would need time to acclimate to this culture. So, we hit the streets to walk, quietly observe, and get to know this beautiful city and it's people.
In France, if we asked a bystander where the nearest patisserie or fromagerie was, they'd be most inclined to give us an address and let us decide how to get there. In Italy, the same type of question would be welcomed with an animated set of directions (loooots of pointing) and either the bystander walking us there, or insisting that we go his specific way. It was so different but deeply endearing.
One thing I was terrified of was the food. I tend to have stomach problems related to carbs and sugar, so naturally a diet based on pasta, pizza, and cappuccini is my deepest love and worst nightmare. For some reason, I didn't have a single stomach issue! My regular headaches also vanished-I don't know what kind of magic this country holds, but I need it. It's healthy for me. (got that, Stephen??)
We had the amazing opportunity to connect with several friends while in Florence, so when I think of this stay, I think of relaxed and hearty outdoor meals, laughter, and meaningful conversations with people we cared about (so Florence basically gets all the credit for meeting my relational needs.). We were never rushed out of our seats at restaurants, so as we met with old and new friends over shared meals, we talked for hours into the night, strolled the cobbled streets together, and ate plenty of gelato. (because, walking. duh.)
Come wander the cobbled streets, grab gelato, and stroll the Ponto Vecchio with us!