Touring Western Europe in three weeks taught me how to travel. When Sarah and I planned our trip, neither of us had been on the Continent before. Operating under the premise that neither of us would be returning to Europe any time soon (little did we know…), we chose our destinations based on the museums and sites that we had learned about in our Western Civ and Fine Arts classes at university.
It was a whirlwind tour, and there are some places that I don’t remember much of–except for the museums. Florence is one of those places. Our purpose was to see Michelangelo’s David and Il Duomo di Firenze, both of which we saw and marvelled at the privilege of seeing them in person rather than in photographs in textbooks. I also remember the hostel we stayed in, a repurposed villa outside of the city, along with two German women, a mother and daughter duo the same age as my mother and grandmother at the time, who were backpacking across Italy; and the group of French schoolchildren that followed us from Venice to Florence to Rome, with their tell-tale orange scarves and penchant for pulling the fire alarm.
I don’t pack as much into my trips when I travel now. One of the things I have learned is how to take pleasure in simply being somewhere. As much as I enjoy visiting museums, I don’t want to spend so much of my time indoors that I don’t remember the actual place I was visiting. Though, it might be that because I have already seen the main touristy sites that I feel I can more deliberately experience the place as itself, rather than keeping to some list of best sites to see.
Even so, the next time I go to Florence, if I am so fortunate as to visit it again, I would very much like to take packed lunch down to those benches by the river, and sit and chat with my companions within view of the Ponte Vecchio bridge.
Photo: The Ponte Vecchio Bridge in Florence, Italy.