Alright, so I was going to do this “going to Florence alone thing”. Flight booked-check. Apartment rented-check. Money set aside-check. Time scheduled off work (what work?)-check.
Then came the damned doubts– “I cannot do this. I am a scatterbrain! I will miss a flight, lose my passport, get lost, find myself unable to find the apartment, and if I do-it will be a disaster when I arrive.” The doubt demons descended upon me.
I had to cast them off. I was going to do this. If any of these things were to happen, I would still be alright somehow. This is one of the tricks that I have learned in these, my mid-life years; to play things all the way out in my mind. In particular those things that frighten me or that the doubt demons attempt to instill into my brain. Once I do that, I realize that I will be alright. As long as nothing threatens my health or well-being, I will be alright.
I was committed and so I hopped on a plane in Austin five days before my 50th, headed to Florence via a few stops and layovers (Austin and Florence are not exactly major hubs!)
I found my way to Florence. I made my flights, I held onto my passport, I found the apartment (thanks to a phone call to the apartment owner placed upon the ear of the taxi driver), met my landlord and handled the money for keys exchange smoothly.
Travel gods-you rock!
When my florentine Laura, the apartment owner, finished showing me the place and left, I just found myself standing there in the middle of the beautiful apartment and thinking to myself, “Now what?”
Knowing that I had to stay up until at least 9 or 10pm Florence time to avoid jet lag, I splashed some cold water on my face and hit the streets! The apartment was on the second floor which is actually the third floor in American terms. The steps were uneven and of very old worn stone, the edges smooth from centuries of treading feet. I made certain to note where the light switches were and just hoped that I would find my way back and safely into my apartment that first evening despite the disorientation that comes with so many hours of travel and time difference.
I just began to wander. The Oltrarno neighborhood truly was not deluged with tourists. It felt like home to me almost immediately. I headed in the direction of the Ponte Vecchio. The shops on the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) were once filled with butchers and tanners, but they were replaced with goldsmiths in the 16th century because of the stench. Interesting. Today is is swarmed with tourists and shops attempting to sell them gold that most of us could never afford these days. Despite all that, the bridge and its’ shops still have a charm and a feel of the medieval that they once were.
Before I walked as far as the Ponte Vecchio, however, I spotted a lovely, tiny wine bar just across from the Palazzi Pitti-the old Medici Palace. There was a warm glow falling on the pavement through the windows of this place and I could see that there was just a handful of souls inside. I stepped in and my Florence adventure began…