Florence is, at once, the land of some of the world’s best art museums and a tourist trap. Unfortunately, I was sick the day that Katherine and I took the train from Rome to Florence to stay there for a night, and thus spent most of my day in our bizarre hostel trying to recuperate. When I say that our hostel was bizarre, it is because it was in a very old building in which every single door needed a key that barely worked, Katherine and I seemed to be the only people staying there, the owner was smoking spliffs the whole time and therefore was not very helpful, and, later that night, I would find about fifteen people all sleeping in the lobby and outdoor patio…
Anyhow, I was finally feeling better later that night. Though all of the museums were closed by this point, I decided to go on a walk around the city. I found the main part of town, and one of the first monuments that I saw was the Duomo. It was huge, magnificent, and breathtaking!
Strolling around the streets of Firenze, I did, indeed, find them to feel inauthentic and filled with non-Italians. However, I did locate Florence’s famous river and bridges, which were very pretty. The night turned out to be very relaxing and restorative.
The next day, Katherine and I took a train up to Bologna. This time around, our plan was to Couch Surf! We arrived at the apartment of our host, Tonio, and were immediately impressed by his cool place. He cooked for us a fabulous pasta lunch, which we also shared with his new Hungarian roommate, Agnes. Tonio is a grad student at the University of Bologna, and Agnes had just moved to Bologna in order to do an exchange program there as well. After lunch, Tonio directed Katherine and me to the central part of the city near the University. It was a really pretty, thousand year old square with lots of shops nearby. We walked around for a few hours, exploring a very old and gigantic church, the University’s historical library, and all of the shops and cafés. We both realized then how much we loved Bologna; it is very much a college town with a huge population of young people, and there were zero tourists and not many English speakers there. It is also a very pretty and historical city- the University of Bologna is the oldest university in the western world!
Later that night, Tonio informed us of a cool bar down the block that we should check out. Actually, Tonio lives right on a street that is filled with poppin’ bars and restaurants. Therefore, we went to it, but we did not stay for very long; Katherine was really exhausted, and everyone seemed like they came there only with their friends and not with the intent of meeting new people. When we came back, we shared a very small pull-out couch bed with each other, and there was only one pillow… somehow Katherine snatched the pillow and subsequently passed out, and when I asked Agnes if she knew where the other pillow was, she did not know. She therefore gave me a sleeping bag to use as a pillow. With all of the makings of a rough night of sleep, I surprisingly slept very deeply.
The following day, Katherine and I explored more of the city, which involved doing some more shopping and leisurely lounging at a café. In an attempt to order a latté at the café, I was served a glass of steamed milk. It was then that I realized that “latté” simply means milk in Italian! I thus ordered a shot of espresso and barista’d my own drink.
That night, Tonio had several of his friends come over. All of his friends were really cool, and we had a hilarious time exchanging crazy stories- one about a friend of theirs who spent three days in jail in Zimbabwe, and another where one of the guys described his horrific experience going to the hospital in Ukraine. Eventually, we all went out on the town. On our way to a bar, we stopped at this area that had hundreds and hundreds of students all just hanging out in the street. Everyone had a friend that they had to say hi to and chat with, and thus the bar was closing by the time we actually made our way there. However, there was a club that was still open but a bit further away. Thus, Tonio, Agnes, their friend Giovanni (AKA Meña), and I decided to make the trek there. The club was in some random building next to a parks and rec center; we had to walk through a tennis court to get there. By this point, it was around 3:00 AM, and foreigners had to buy a membership card in order to enter. Unsure, Tonio and Meña went into the club to check it out, and when they returned they told us, “There’s hardly anyone there but we can just go in and have the place to ourselves!” Thus, we all decided to just go, and Tonio and Meña were right- there were maybe seven other people in the room! Realizing that no one was there and thus we had no one to impress, the four of us all started dancing like total dorks, doing every move from the disco to “The Alise.” Finally, the club closed and we had to leave.
We were all frolicking around in the parking lot afterward; Tonio started singing, and Meña was riding me around on the handlebars of his bike. Our walk home then became a bit of a karaoke night, switching back and forth from American songs to Italian operas. We eventually made it home around 5:00 AM, and Tonio, Agnes, and I ate some leftover cold pizza before going to bed.
A couple hours later, I had to catch a train to go back to Rome. I had not allowed myself enough time to get lost on the way to the train station, however, and thus when I did get lost I was pretty much screwed. I could not just catch the next train, because I was flying out of Rome to Paris that afternoon. I realized that I needed to just hail a taxi, but then I realized that I didn’t have any money. So, I went to the ATM and subsequently could not find a taxi. With ten minutes until my train’s departure, I decided to just try to follow the signs to the train station and hopefully figure out how to get there. Somehow, I did! I arrived exactly on time, and my train ended up arriving a few minutes late anyway. It was quite miraculous.
And then I went to Paris!
P.S. I did not take a single picture in Bologna because I realized how much I hate taking pictures… I was having so much fun that I didn’t want to take time out to try to “capture” it. I wanted to just live it.