With the first half of the semester spent traveling to different countries almost every weekend, I was especially looking forward to my upcoming plans to stay in Italy for awhile. After a fun weekend in Venice and exploring the intriguing rocks of Italy, my roommate from Madison, Michelle, finally arrived in Florence. It was her spring break and lucky for me, she decided to spend it exploring Italy. I was bummed out that I never made it to Barcelona to see her, so I was thrilled that she decided to make the trip to me instead. Michelle arrived early Tuesday morning, and we wasted no time exploring Florence. I really love playing tour guide and showing off my favorite city, so we ended up walking the streets of Florence for a couple hours making pit stops at the leather market, Ponte Vecchio, Gelateria dei Neri, Mercato Centrale, and other various attractions. The busy day ended with a sitting along the Arno watching a beautiful sunset unfold before our eyes. I'm so thankful and lucky to be here!

On Wednesday, Michelle decided to meet some friends in Cinque Terre for the day. This ended up to be perfect, because I had a six page research paper to start and finish by the end of the day. While she spent the day in the sun hiking the hills, I sat by butt in a chair and typed away...boring. By 11pm, my paper was finished and Michelle arrived back at my apartment ready to celebrate!

My second guest of the week, Allie, arrived in Florence Thursday morning. I met her at the train station ready to get the weekend started! While I was at class, Michelle and Allie bought tickets to the Duomo Museum. Before they explored the museum and climbed the 414 steps of the bell tower, I filled them in on all things Duomo with my newly acquired knowledge all thanks to Renaissance Art and Architecture. This is my favorite museum so I was thrilled to hear about how much they loved it. After making our way back to the leather market for Allie to purchase a couple leather goods for family and friends, we headed back to my apartment to figure out plans for the rest of the night. We decided the best way to spend the evening was to head up to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset. We definitely made the right decision because it ended up to be one of the best sunsets i've seen all semester. Having Michelle and Allie by my side was wonderful, its always nice to have a little piece of home with me in Florence. After soaking in the beauty of Florence at night, we headed to one of my favorite restaurants for pear ravioli. The first time I ate this pasta, I couldn't shut up about how delicious it was- Allie and Michelle followed suit. I heard about this meal constantly for the rest of the week.

FRIDAY!! Today ended up to be one of the best days of the semester. Michelle, Allie, and I decided to go on a vespa wine tour! We were picked up at 9:30 in front of a local cafe in Florence, bused to the Chianti country side, and started fun-filled tour day. There were a couple other girls our age in our group, so our tour guides had us practice driving the vespas before leaving to explore the hills of Tuscany. Turns out, the only girls that were allowed to drive their own vespas were Michelle, Allie, and I. Coincidence that we were the only three girls from the midwest? We didn't think so. I was so happy that my driving skills came through for the day because the other girls in our group had to have a tour guide on their vespa with them, basically driving it for them. SCORE! We spent three hours whipping through the hills of Tuscany. I couldn't believe how beautiful the scenery was... even if I tried, I couldn't conjure up a scenery more beautiful. We stopped in an amazing medieval town, San Gimignano, for a panoramic view of the countryside as well as three time award winning gelato. My friends raved about the gelato, but honestly, it didn't compare to my favorite Gelateria dei Neri back in Florence. After vespa-ing (is that a word) for another hour, we ended at a winery for a tasting and a meal. I know a little bit about wine now that i've been studying in Italy for three months, so it was hilarious watching Allie and Michelle try to impress the owner of the vineyard. I didn't want the tour to end, but unfortunately, we were forced to board the van and head back to Florence. We all agreed that we need to buy mopeds to ride through the streets of Madison. Somehow, I don't think my parents would agree to this idea...

Saturday was Michelle's last day in Florence (sad) so after allowing ourselves to sleep in a little, we spent the day hitting up the final hot spots of the city. We ended the night with another amazing sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo and a dinner at my favorite restaurant, Osteria Santo Spirito. Yum... truffle gnocchi. It was so much fun having Michelle here for a long weekend! Ciao Michelle! Thanks for visiting

Unfortunately, Michelle's flight was early in the morning so she was long gone by the time Allie and I got up to celebrate Easter! It was weird not being home for Easter, but spending it in Florence with one of my best friend was definitely the next best thing. A tradition in Florence dating back to 1097AD called the "Scoppio del Carro", Explosion of the Cart, was truly an extremely unique and exciting way to celebrate Easter. The cart, pulled by large ox decorated in flowers, was paraded around the city of Florence before ending its route between the Cathedral and the Baptistry. The cart was also lead by 100+ soldiers dressed in typical Renaissance outfits waving flags and marching to the loud beat of drums. Mass was held inside the Cathedral and at the end of the homily, the Bishop shot a flaming bow and arrow from the alter, down the aisle, out the door, which finally hit the cart making it sparkle and explode. When I say explode, I truly mean EXPLODE. Fireworks, sparklers, loud bells, and much much more went on for about 20 minutes. It is said that a successful display from the cart is supposed to guarantee a good harvest, life, and business in Florence for the following year. The Bishop even walked around blessing the crowd with holy water shouting prayers and blessings. Allie and I waited for about 2 hours in the blazing sun, packed like sardines, waiting for this celebration to begin, but it was definitely worth it. I'll never forget this Easter... that's for sure!

After the explosion was over, we escaped the crowd and headed to a restaurant that was serving a tradition American breakfast. Everyone chuckled at the fact that all ten of us were wearing a dress, sandals, and a jean jacket. Classic. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the sun on a beach in Florence. I even got to Facetime my family in time to sing Happy Birthday to Finnegan. One year old!! Since we had Easter Monday off of school, a group of us decided to head to the outskirts of Florence for an afternoon of hiking the hills of Fiesole. The hike was about 5 miles through an absolutely breathtaking terrain. We walked through woods, a vineyard complete with horses, an olive tree field, and a national park which had gorgeous views of the city of Florence from a distance. It was a perfect Monday spent in the sun. I can't get enough of this city. Allie and I decided to keep it casual for dinner with a quick aperitivo at a local bar, Moyo, a ride on the carousel in Piazza della Republica (another item off my Florence bucket list!!), and another beautiful sunset. It was suck a perfect day!

Tuesday was Allie's last day on her long visit to Florence. After a whole week of having guests, admittedly, I was getting a little worn out. I had class in the morning, so Allie was able to sleep in and catch up on some rest. As soon as class was over, we headed BACK to the leather market, for the third time, for Allie to buy a couple more items for herself. I'm holding out on my leather purchases until I know exactly what I want. It started to rain just as we were done at the leather market, so we headed back to my apartment and had a relaxing day of watching Netflix... just what the doctor ordered. After one last dinner with Allie, I walked her to the train station and we said our goodbyes. I absolutely loved hosting Allie for the past several days! She makes me laugh harder than anyone I know and we made so many amazing memories that will last a lifetime! I can't wait to reunite back in Madison this summer! Ciao Allie!!

Wednesday was recovery day! It was the first day I didn't have a guest to entertain in over a week. As great as it is to have a sidekick for awhile, it was nice to be alone. I had to catch up on some homework, pack for the weekend, and mentally prepare for my last trip of the semester! I cannot wrap my head around how fast these past three-ish months have gone. Time truly does fly when you're having fun...

Created By
Morgan Collins

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